BALTIMORE – UMBC graduate student guard Wayne Sparrow (Baltimore, Md./St. Frances) scored a career high 24 points and the Retrievers threw a major scare into Lehigh, but fell to the Mountain Hawks, 58-55, at the RAC Arena.
Lehigh (6-5) was coming off a triple overtime victory at Arizona State on Dec. 20, but the Retrievers used dynamic three-point shooting to take a 52-46 lead on a Sparrow trey with 8:45 remaining. But the Retrievers would not score again until another Sparrow trifecta with 35 seconds to play and the Mountain Hawks leading by four.
Trailing 56-55, UMBC would get two opportunities to take the lead in the final 23 seconds. Lehigh's Corey Schaefer missed the front end of a one-and-one with 23 seconds to play, but he redeemed himself by tying up Sparrow and giving LU possession with 7.9 seconds remaining. But UMBC got another opportunity when freshman guard Jourdan Grant (Bowie, Md./Archbishop Spalding) forced a turnover on Lehigh's inbounds play and the Retrievers got another chance with 5.9 seconds to play.
But UMBC (2-10) gave the ball right back as freshman guard Malcolm Brent (Silver Spring, Md./Northwood) stepped on the sideline after getting the inbounds pass. The Retrievers quickly fouled LU's Kahron Ross, who converted two free throw attempts. The Retrievers still had an opportunity to tie, but turned the ball over before they could attempt a shot.
There were seven ties and five lead changes in the first half as Lehigh took a 32-31 lead at intermission.
Sophomore Ben Grace (Baltimore, Md./The Gilman School) sparked UMBC with a pair of treys midway through the second half. His second trey tied the game at 44-all with 11:49 left. Then Sparrow went on an 8-2 run by himself, hitting two free throws and a pair of three's to give the hosts a six-point lead.
UMBC converted 10-of-20 shots from behind the arc and 13-of-15 from the free throw line, but was only 16-of-56 overall (28.6%) from the floor. Sparrow hit 4-of-6 from distance and all six free throw attempts. Senior wing Devarick Houston (Jonesboro, Ga./Mays) was the only other Retriever in double figures, nearly getting a double-double with 10 points and a team-best nine rebounds. He also added four assists, two blocked shots and a pair of steals.
Lehigh junior post Justin Goldsborough led the visitors with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Retrievers held three straight opponents to 58 points or less.
UMBC hosts NJIT in their final non-conference game on Jan. 2.