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UMBC men’s basketball leans on defense to pull away for 66-49 victory at Coppin State

The accomplishments of Anthony and Nendah Tarke preceded the shooting guards for the Coppin State men’s basketball team, and that played right into UMBC’s defensive strategy.

The Retrievers quieted the high-scoring brothers, limiting them to a combined seven points. They then used double-digit production from three of their own players to close out a 66-49 win against the Eagles at the Physical Education Complex in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.

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Three days ago, Anthony Tarke, a redshirt senior transfer from the University of Texas at El Paso, racked up 33 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and four blocks in Coppin State’s 85-80 victory over UNC Greensboro, becoming the first Division I player to reach those benchmarks in a single games since at the least the 2010-11 season. In that game, Nendah Tarke, a freshman, added 20 points and four rebounds.

On Sunday, UMBC (4-1) assigned junior R.J. Eytle-Rock to shadow the elder Tarke, who finished with seven points on 2-for-13 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. The younger Tarke did not score a point, missing all three of his shots, while chipping in six rebounds, three steals and two assists.

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Senior forward Brandon Horvath acknowledged that the Tarke brothers’ performances Thursday night had drawn their attention.

“We were keying on [the elder] Tarke and trying to make him take some tough shots and get out on rebounding and then push the ball,” he said. “… We just tried to make it tough on Tarke and send as many bodies at him as we could. The younger one, we just tried to force him into the lane to take tough shots over bodies.”

Coppin State coach Juan Dixon said he did not see the Retrievers do anything special in their matchups with the Tarkes.

“They did a good job of showing bodies when AT had the ball versus the switch,” said Dixon, the former Maryland star. “But we’ve got to do a better job initially, when we set pick-and-rolls, we’ve got to do a better job setting pick-and-rolls and stop allowing guys to go under. Those are things we take pride in as a staff and focus on in practice, but the attention to detail has to be there every game.”

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UMBC’s fourth consecutive victory since a season-opening 70-62 setback at Georgetown on Nov. 25 did not seem likely after a brutal start during which the offense missed 13 of 15 field-goal attempts. The Eagles took a 17-4 lead before the Retrievers scored 14 unanswered points to claw back into contention.

When freshman point guard Dwaine Jones Jr. hit a driving layup with 4:17 left in the first half, that marked Coppin State’s first points in a 5:02 span.

“We just settled in a little bit,” UMBC coach Ryan Odom said of the slow start. “Our defense is what allowed us to get out of it. We picked it up. We had some deflections, they had just one shot, and then we were able to get out into transition a little bit. We had a couple good plays happen for us that gave us some positive energy.”

Trailing 24-22 at halftime, the Retrievers broke open the game by scoring the second half’s first nine points and then 15 of the first 18 to take a 37-27 advantage. The Eagles never got closer than five points, and UMBC cemented the win by scoring the game’s final nine points.

The 6-foot-10 Horvath, a West River resident and Southern-AA graduate, set game highs in both points (18) and rebounds (14). Junior shooting guards L.J. Owens (Severn School) and Keondre Kennedy chipped in 12 points each to give the Retrievers at least three double-digit point scorers in each of their first five games.

“That’s one of the positives that we have,” Odom said of the team’s offensive diversity. “We have a pretty versatile team. We’ve got a lot of different lineups that we can play out there. Some are better shooting, some are better around the rim, some are better ball handling, some are better on defense. So I think as the game wears on, we have to figure out what is the best match for us and what’s going to give them the most problems. I think that is something that we’ve got to continue to grow and improve.”

Senior guard Koby Thomas paced Coppin State (1-5) with 14 points, six rebounds and three steals, but was slowed by foul trouble. He scored 10 of the team’s first 17 points before drawing his third personal foul with 6:23 left in the first half and sitting out the rest of the period.

He picked up his fourth foul just 12 seconds into the second half before returning with 10:59 left in the frame and contributing just four more points.

Foul trouble also hurt the Eagles’ most productive 3-pointer shooter, Kyle Cardaci. The redshirt sophomore shooting guard, who entered the game with a team-high nine 3′s, went 3-for-7 from behind the arc and finished with 13 points, but fouled out with 1:35 left in the game.

Coppin State was outrebounded 53-32 and surrendered 14 offensive boards to UMBC. Noting that 6-10 freshman forward Kenan Sarvan is the only player taller than 6-7 on the roster, Dixon said the team must better utilize some of its bigger guards.

“We’ve got guys that are big on the perimeter, but not very big in the paint,” he said. “When you get guys on the opposing team that are 6-8, 6-9 and 240, that can cause a lot of problems.”

COPPIN STATE@NO. 15 VIRGINIA TECH

Saturday, 5:30 p.m.

UMBC@ALBANY

Saturday, 3 p.m.

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