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UMBC holds on

The Baltimore Sun

When sharpshooter Brian Hodges crumbled to the court with 11:25 left, UMBC had a 13-point lead and control of a key America East Conference matchup with defending champion Albany.

By the time their gritty 69-65 victory was complete, the Retrievers had been pushed to the wall, surviving a flurry of Albany three-pointers and poor foul shooting in front of an announced RAC Arena crowd of 3,381, the fourth largest in school history.

A dominant performance off the bench by Cavell Johnson, two clutch free throws by reserve Matt Spadafora, and the steady hand of point guard Jay Greene powered UMBC (14-7, 6-2) back into a tie for first place with Binghamton and Vermont.

Johnson scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half and had a career-high five blocks to help offset the loss of Hodges (nine points) with a sprained ankle.

Spadafora dropped in two big free throws after Albany had cut a 17-point deficit to four.

"Did we feel like we were in a bad situation? We knew 'Spad' would come in and take care of business," Johnson said about the loss of Hodges and Albany's 27-14 run over the final seven minutes. Hodges' injury makes him questionable for Saturday's game at Vermont.

Johnson, a starter until last week, decided to change his role when he asked coach Randy Monroe to let him come off the bench.

"That's to Cavell's credit," Monroe said. "Not many players would do that."

The Retrievers rolled to a 17-point lead with just over seven minutes left behind Darryl Proctor (15 points, eight rebounds) and Ray Barbosa (14 points). UMBC was able to negate Albany's height advantage and bulk inside, much of which fell on Proctor.

Albany's Brian Lillis, the leading scorer in the conference, scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, when the Great Danes attacked UMBC's matchup zone with ferocity.

The Retrievers hit 11 of 19 free throws in the final two minutes but managed to escape because Greene was able to protect the ball against Albany's pressing defense.

ALBANY-Hastings 1-2 0-0 2, Connelly 4-10 2-2 10, Wilson 3-8 0-0 8, Covington 0-1 2-2 2, Lillis 9-16 0-0 19, Martin 0-2 0-0 0, Iati 4-10 2-2 14, Ambrose 3-5 1-3 8, Gifford 0-2 0-0 0, Turley 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 25-59 7-9 65. UMBC-Fry 1-3 0-0 3, Proctor 6-12 3-5 15, Greene 2-3 0-0 6, Hodges 3-11 2-2 9, Barbosa 5-11 3-8 14, Spadafora 1-4 2-2 4, Johnson 7-10 4-7 18. Totals 25-54 14-24 69. Half: UMBC, 33-25. 3-point goals: A 8-14 (Iati 4-6, Wilson 2-5, Ambrose 1-1, Lillis 1-1, Martin 0-1); UMBC 5-15 (Greene 2-3, Fry 1-1, Hodges 1-4, Barbosa 1-6, Spadafora 0-1). Fouled out: Connelly. Rebounds: A 35 (Connelly 7); UMBC 31 (Proctor 8). Assists: A 10 (Iati 4); UMBC 15 (Greene 5). Total fouls: A 20, UMBC 13. A: 3,381.

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