BALTIMORE- For the third time in the last four games, UMBC had a halftime lead, but again could not put two solid halves together and fell to visiting New Hampshire, 66-60, at the RAC Arena.
UMBC junior guard Ryan Cook (Laurel, Md./Pallotti) scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, but fouled out after a game-tying attempt went awry with 90 seconds left. Wildcat senior forward Brian Benson scored all 16 of his points and grabbed seven of his 10 rebounds in the final 20 minutes and joined Cook as America East Players of the Game.
After giving up the first field goal of the game, UMBC scored the game's next 11 points and led, 11-3, at the 13:30 mark. They extended the margin to a game high 26-15 after Cook hit one of two free throws at the 5:59 mark of the half, but the Wildcats countered with a 9-0 run and cut the gap to 26-24 on a Jordan Bronnor layup with 2:47 to play in the half.
The Retreivers did not converted a field goal for nearly eight minutes, but took a 28-24 lead at intermission when senior post Jake Wasco (Philadelphia, Pa.) had a rebound and stick-back with 13 seconds to go in the half.
There were 11 lead changes in the first 10 minutes of the second stanza and UMBC took its last advantage at 44-43 on a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Quentin Jones (Ellicott City, Md./Mt. St. Joseph).
The Wildcats (10-14, 5-8 America East) took the lead for good on a layup by Benson with 9:51 remaining, a field goal which started a critical 11-2 surge for the visitors. Benson (6 pts.) and senior guard Alvin Abreu (5 pts.) scored all the points in that run which gave UNH a 54-46 advantage with 6:19 remaining.
But Cook hit a three from the left baseline and knocked down four consecutive free throws to bring UMBC to within 54-53 with plenty of time (4:32) to play. But on back-to-back UNH possessions, UMBC forced an initial miss, only to have Benson get the rebound and put-back bucket.
UMBC, which dropped its seventh straight and fell to 3-22, 2-11, would get one opportunity with a chance to tie or take the lead. Trailing 60-58, the Retrievers forced an airball by Abreu with 1:47 to play. But Cook, playing for most of the second half with four fouls, came up short on a nine-foot contested jumper and fouled UNH's Patrick Konan on the rebound.
Konan hit both ends of the one-and-one to put the Wildcats up 62-58. UMBC had two chances to get the game to within one possession, but freshman Joey Getz' (Philadelphia, Pa.) runner was off at the 1:23 mark and classmate Jarell Lane (Rahway,N.J.) came up short on a drive with 25 seconds to play.
UMBC sophomore forward Chase Plummer (Plainfield, N.J.) extended his double-figure scoring streak to eight straight with 11 points, but he missed seven of nine shots from the floor.
UMBC, which had shot 45.1 percent from the floor in February, was just 20 of 55 (36.4 percent) in the contest, while UNH just hit the 40 percent mark at 22 of 55.
Abreu and Konan scored 15 points each for UNH, which has won three of four.
The Retrievers visit Binghamton on Wed., Feb. 15 before traveling to Canisus for a Sears BracketBusters contest next Saturday.