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Women's Basketball Tips Off America East Play at Preseason Favorite Vermont Wednesday
Tope Obajolu ranks eighth in the America East in blocked shots.
BALTIMORE--The UMBC women's basketball team (8-5) opens America East Conference action at preseason league favorite Vermont (6-7) Wednesday evening at Patrick Gymnasium. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: UMBC is coming off a 76-55 victory over Rider on the second day of the Marriott Cavalier Classic in Charlottesville, Va., but has not played since Dec. 29. Sophomore forward Meghan Colabella was named to the All-Tournament Team after averaging 12.5 ppg and 14.0 rpg while adding five assists, five steals and four blocks in two games. The Retrievers’ eight non-conference victories tie the school’s Division I record, and at 8-5 on the season, UMBC has matched its best 13-game start in the program’s DI history, as well. Junior guard Carlee Cassidy has scored at least 20 points in 10 of UMBC’s 13 games this season. She leads the America East and ranks fifth in the NCAA with 23.0 ppg on the year. She ranks third all-time at UMBC with 136 career three-pointers.
CATAMOUNT UPDATE: The preseason favorite to win the America East, Vermont is 6-7 on the season and coming off a 63-49 victory over North Dakota that snapped a five-game losing streak. Senior forward Andrea Cihal posted her second career double-double in the game with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Junior guard May Kotsopoulos, the defending America East Defensive Player of the Year, leads the Catamounts with 14.6 ppg, while junior guard Courtnay Pilypaitis, the defending America East Player of the Year, averages 14.5 ppg to go along with a team-best 8.6 rpg and 4.8 apg.
Who’s Up Next: The Retrievers open their home league slate against New Hampshire on Jan. 10. UMBC is 5-5 all-time against the Wildcats, including 2-3 at the RAC Arena.
Inside the Series...
Wednesday's game marks the 12th all-time meeting between UMBC and Vermont, and the Catamounts hold a 7-4 series advantage. The first meeting occurred on Jan. 31, 2004, a 65-55 victory for the host Retrievers. Vermont took the next four contests, but UMBC then won three of the next four, including the America East semifinals matchup in 2007. The Catamounts swept the 2008 series. As America East rivals, the teams have met twice a year since the 2003-04 season, but had never faced off prior to the Retrievers joining the conference. UMBC is 1-4 all-time at Patrick Gym.
In the teams’ last meeting, March 1, 2008, four Retrievers scored in double figures, but Vermont came away with a 71-62 victory at the RAC Arena. Vermont took a game-high 18-point lead with 11 minutes to play, but a 25-8 UMBC run cut the hosts’ deficit to just four points with 1:36 left. Seniors Kristin Drabyn and Amanda Robinson led the Retrievers with 14 points apiece, while Vermont’s Courtnay Pilypaitis posted a double-double with 29 points and 11 rebounds.
News and Notes...
For Starters: At 8-5, UMBC has matched its best 13-game start in the program’s Division I history. The 2005-06 also started the season 8-5, then dropped its 14th game en route to finishing 15-13 on the year. The 1985-86 team was 11-2 after 13 games at the Division II level. In addition, the Retrievers’ eight non-conferenc wins ties the school DI record.
Opening Act: The Retrievers are 1-4 in America East openers, with their only win occurring in 2007, a 66-58 victory over Boston University.
Rookie Ramblings: Freshman forward Erin Brown became the latest first-year Retriever to take home America East Rookie of the Week honors when she averaged 14.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg while shooting 52.2 percent at the Marriott Cavalier Classic. She joins guards Katie Brooks (Weeks 2-3) and Michelle Kurowski (Weeks 4-6), giving UMBC six straight top rookie accolades. Dating to last season, the Retrievers actually won eight of nine awards, as forward Meghan Colabella was selected in each of the last two weeks of the 2007-08 campaign. Kurowski is the first America East freshman to win three straight Rookie of the Week awards since Vermont’s Courtnay Pilypaitis did it five weeks in a row from Dec. 24, 2006-Jan. 22, 2007. In addition, the last time one team has dominated the Rookie of the Week award was in 2006-07 when Pilypaitis and teammates May Kotsopoulos and Sofia Iwobi took home 10 honors, including nine of 10 from Nov. 19, 2006-Jan. 22, 2007. However, the six straight for UMBC marks the most consecutive rookie honors for one school in America East history.
20/20: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy has scored 20 points or more in 10 of UMBC’s first 13 games of the season. Her season-opening five-game streak of 20-point performances was snapped on Nov. 30 with 18 points against UMES, but she put together another five-game streak from Dec. 3-21 before being held to 14 points against Louisiana Tech. Cassidy is the first Retriever to score at least 20 points in at least five consecutive games since Shalayna Johnson accomplished the feat in six straight games from Jan. 11-30, 2003. Cassidy leads the America East and ranks fifth in the nation with 23.0 ppg this season. The Retrievers have recorded 17 20-point performances as a team this season, already surpassing last year’s total of 15 during the entire 2007-08 campaign, while Cassidy has surpassed her total of eight from last season, as well. In addition to Cassidy’s 10 20-point performances, freshman guard Michelle Kurowski has posted four, freshman guard Katie Brooks has tallied two and freshman forward Erin Brown has added one.
Cleaning the Glass: Sophomore forward Meghan Colabella grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds on Dec. 29 against Rider, the most boards by a Retriever since Monica Logan pulled down 23 against Mount St. Mary’s on Jan. 28, 1999. It was the 14th 20-rebound effort in UMBC history and tied the program’s 10th-highest single-game total. The last 20-rebound performance in the America East occurred on March 11, 2006, by Boston University’s Jesyka Burks-Wiley. Colabella is averaging a team-best 7.8 rpg on the season, including 14.7 rpg in her last three games.
Cleaning the Glass, Part II: The Retrievers posted a season-high 56 rebounds on Dec. 29 against Rider, their first 50-carom game in recent memory. The 56 boards are conference-high this season, as well. UMBC has recorded at least 40 rebounds six times this season after doing it just three times all last year.
If it Ain’t Broke: Head coach Phil Stern has used the same starting lineup in all 13 games this season, the most common starting five since 2006-07, when Stern used the same lineup in 25 games, including 21 in a row. Last year, Stern employed seven different lineups, with the most common lasting nine games.
30 Rock: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy (32) and freshman guard Michelle Kurowski (30) became the first pair of UMBC teammates to tally 30 or more points in the same game on Dec. 3 against Navy. It is believed to be the fifth time in Division I history that that two teammates scored at least 30 points in the same game and the first time since Prudue’s Shereka Wright (34) and Katie Geralds (32) did so at at Iowa on Feb. 10, 2004.
30 Rock, Part II: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy’s 33 points against Loyola on Dec. 21 were the most by a Retriever since Ana Goncharova also tallied 33 against New Hampshire on Jan. 29, 2005, and ties the sixth-highest single-game total in school history. With her 31-point performance in the season opener at George Washington and her 32 points against Navy on Dec. 3, Cassidy also became just the second Retriever to score 30 points three times in the same season, joining Tammy McCarthy in 1985-86. Shalayna Johnson (2002-03) is the only other Retriever to tally 30 points twice in a season. Prior to the GW game, no Retriever had scored 30 points since Goncharova in 2005. Freshman guard Michelle Kurowski is just the third Retriever rookie to score as many as 30 points in a game, joining McCarthy and Jami Lange.
Cassidy for Three: The second of junior guard Carlee Cassidy’s career-high six 3-pointers in the season opener at George Washington was the 100th of her career, making her just the seventh player in UMBC history to reach that milestone. In addition, she is the third-fastest Retriever ever to hit the century mark, as she did it in her 60th career game. Jami Lange (39 games) and Ana Goncharova (56 games) are the only other Retrievers to need less than 70 contests to achieve the mark. Cassidy now ranks third all-time at UMBC with 136 career triples, while her .331 career three-point percentage ranks fourth. In addition, she ranks second in the America East and 15th in the NCAA with 2.9 three-pointers made per game.
Three’s Company: The Retrievers have made at least one 3-pointer in 114 straight games dating to Feb. 5, 2005, and they have made at least four in 59 games in a row dating to Jan. 17, 2007, at Hartford. The Retrievers lead the America East and rank 33rd in the NCAA with 6.7 three-pointers per game this season. The Retrievers’ 223 three-pointers as a team last year broke the school and America East Conference record; it was just the second time in school history that a team has reached the 200 plateau and the first time ever for the conference (the Retrievers were in the Northeast Conference when they made 217 three-pointers in 2002-03). Each of the top six season totals have occurred during head coach Phil Stern’s tenure.
Double Vision: Freshman forward Erin Brown posted career highs with 22 points and 11 rebounds against UMES on Nov. 30. One game later, sophomore forward Meghan Colabella notched her first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Navy on Dec. 3, and the next game Brown posted another with 10 points and 10 boards against Towson. Colabella then added another with 14 points and 16 rebounds against Loyola on Dec. 21, then added her third two games later with 14 points and a career-high 20 rebounds on Dec. 29 against Rider. However, prior to the UMES game, no Retriever had recorded a double-double since Sharri Rohde tallied 27 points and 10 rebounds on Feb. 20, 2007, at Vermont, a stretch of 41 straight games.
New Kids on the Block: Nine newcomers join the Retrievers this season, including eight freshmen and one junior college transfer. The group makes up the largest recruiting class in head coach Phil Stern’s tenure, surpassing the six new players from 2007-08. Among the group are two 2,000-point scorers and two 1,000-point scorers, as well as a junior college Honorable Mention All-American. Based on responses from sports information directors throughout the country, the freshman class is tied with Northeastern for the second-largest in the nation. Only Elon (9) has more freshmen on its current roster.
New Kids on the Block, Part II: UMBC’s eight freshmen have accounted for 51.5 percent (507 of 983 points) of UMBC’s total offense and 45.7 percent (236 of 516) of its total rebounds, led by guards Michelle Kurowski (15.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Katie Brooks (10.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Kurowski and forward Erin Brown (8.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) have started all 13 games this season, and Brown ranks second on the team with 30.3 mpg. As a class, the freshmen have played more than half (1,310) of the Retrievers’ 2,600 total minutes.
Fresh Faces: With a roster that includes eight freshmen and five sophomores, UMBC also boasts the second-most underclassmen (13) of any Division I school in the country. Only Brigham Young (14) has more. In addition, with just eight years of returning Division I experience (based on a formula in which seniors represent a value of 3, juniors 2 and sophomores 1), UMBC is the sixth-least-experienced team in the country.
Double Your Pleasure: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy has scored in double figures in 20 straight games dating to Feb. 9, 2008, against Maine, surpassing her 13-game streak of last season, when she reached double digits in 25 out of 28 games. Cassidy’s 20-game streak is the longest by a Retriever since Shalayna Johnson’s 23-gamer during the 2002-03 campaign. Five Retrievers have posted 43 double-digit perforances this season, including freshman guard Michelle Kurowski, who has reached double figures in all but two games this season. In addition, four Retrievers have scored in double figures in each of the last two games.
Hot Shot: The America East’s top shooting team at 40.6 percent, UMBC boasts four players among the conference’s top 15 in field goal percentage. Freshman forward Erin Brown (.473) ranks fourth, followed by freshma guard Michelle Kurowski (6th, .452), junior guard Carlee Cassidy (12th, .404) and freshman guard Katie Brooks (13th, .403). Players must average three field goals per game to qualify.
High-Soaring, High-Scoring: UMBC leads the America East and ranks 21st in the nation in scoring at 75.6 points per game. The Retrievers are the only team in the conference to average more than 70.0 ppg. Junior guard Carlee Cassidy leads the America East and ranks fifth in the NCAA with 23.0 ppg.
New York, New York: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy (Syracuse) and freshman guard Michelle Kurowski (Hicksville), both natives of New York, are providing a stellar one-two punch for the Retrievers, as they rank first and third among the America East’s leading scorers. Cassidy and Kurowski each scored more than 2,000 points in their prep careers, ranking among the best all-time in the state of New York. This season they have each tallied 20 or more points in the same game four times, including a pair of 30-point performances against Navy on Dec. 3. The pair has accounted for 51.5 percent of UMBC’s total offense this season (506 of 983 points).
Honor Roll: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy was tabbed America East Player of the Week on Dec. 8, making it a clean sweep for UMBC in Week 4, as freshman guard Michelle Kurowski earned the conference’s top rookie honor that week, as well. It was Cassidy’s fourth career Player of the Week award but first since January 2008.
Honor Roll, Part II: Sophomore forward Meghan Colabella was selected to the Marriott Cavalier Classic All-Tournament Team after averaging 12.5 ppg and 14.0 rpg in two games. A month earlier at the Iona Thanksgiving Classic, freshman guard Katie Brooks was named MVP, while junior guard Carlee Cassidy and freshman guard Michelle Kurowski both earned All-Tournament Team honors. Brooks averaged 18.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 5.0 apg and shot 56.5 percent. Cassidy scored a tournament-high 19.5 ppg on 44.4 percent shooting and added 3.0 apg and 2.0 spg. Kurowski posted 16.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg while shooting 50 percent from the floor. The previous week, Cassidy and Brooks were both selected to the Seton Hall Basketball Classic All-Tournament Team. Cassidy averaged 22.0 ppg and shot 41.4 percent in two games, while Brooks averaged 21.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.5 apg and 2.0 spg while shooting 50.0 percent.
Climbing the Ranks: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy has moved into UMBC’s all-time top-20 scoring list, as she currently ranks 18th with 914 career points. She is on pace to become the 16th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau on Jan. 17 against Maine.
Great 80: UMBC has scored at least 80 points in five of its eight wins this season. Prior to this year, the Retrievers had not scored 80 points in a game since Feb. 20, 2007, at Vermont and had not posted back-to-back 80-point performances since Feb. 14-17, 1990. The five 80-point performances are the most in a season since UMBC tallied at least 80 points six times in 1989-90.
Not Even Close: UMBC’s first six games of the season were decided by at least 11 points with an average margin of 18 points before an eight-point victory over Navy on Dec. 3. The Retrievers’ eight victories have come by an average of 16.4 points. UMBC defeated George Mason by 29 points (89-60) on Nov. 19, its largest margin of victory since Nov. 23, 2004, an 87-52 win over Morgan State (+35).
Helping Hand: Freshman guard Katie Brooks dished out nine assists against UMES on Nov. 30, the most by a Retriever since Brittnie Hughes recorded nine on Jan. 20, 2007, at New Hampshire. In addition, the Retrievers had 25 assists in the game, the most since posting 26 on Dec. 2, 2006, at Fairleigh Dickinson. Brooks ranks ninth in the America East with 2.8 apg, while sophomore guard Michele Brokans is sixth (3.4 apg). As a team, UMBC ranks second (13.0 apg). For the second year in a row, Brokans is proving it is better to give than to receive, as her 44 assists are more than twice her total field goal attempts on the season (21). Brokans leads the league and ranks fifth in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.59).
Nifty 90: With 92 points against UMES on Nov. 30, the Retrievers reached the 90-point plateau for the first time since a 91-89 overtime victory over Charleston Southern on Jan. 16, 1993. In addition, the 92 points are the most UMBC has scored in a game since Jan. 12, 1991, a 94-61 win over Salisbury State.
Tale of Two Halves: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy did not score in the first half against Western Michigan on Nov. 29, but she tallied 21 points in the second period to keep both her 20-point streak and her double-figure scoring streak alive. However, it was not the best-scoring half by a Retriever this season, as Cassidy posted 23 points in the first period in the season opener at George Washington en route to 31 points in the game. Freshman guard Michelle Kurowski is the only other Retriever to score 20 points in a half this season, as she tallied exactly 20 against Navy on Dec. 3 en route to a career-high 30 points in the game.
Foul Frenzy: UMBC and Northern Illinois combined to commit an NCAA record 64 fouls on the first day of the Seton Hall Basketball Classic Nov. 21. The previous record of 57 was set by IPFW and Detroit on Jan. 9, 2008. The Retrievers and Huskies combined to go 59-for-81 from the foul line. The Retrievers scored 49 points in the second half but made just nine field goals, as they made 28 free throws in the period.
Charity Case: The Retrievers made a school-record 41 free throws on Nov. 21 against Northern Illinois and shot 77.4 percent from the line in the game (41-for-53). The previous record of 35 was set on Feb. 1, 1988, against Coppin State. Freshman guard Katie Brooks also set a school record by making 16 (of 22) foul shots. The previous mark of 13 was set twice, by Kori Kindbom (March 1, 1985) and Tammy McCarthy (Jan. 7, 1986). Freshman guard Michelle Kurowski ranks third in the America East with an .804 free throw percentage, while junior guard Carlee Cassidy’s .798 ranks sixth. Cassidy’s career .790 free throw percentage ranks second all-time at UMBC. The Retrievers finished last season with a school-record .757 shooting percentage from the charity stripe.
Against the America East: UMBC joined the America East in 2003-04, and the Retrievers are 25-59 in five years of America East play. All-time, UMBC is 27-56 against its current America East opponents, including games played against them before they were conference rivals, as well as games played in the America East Championships, which do not count as league games. The Retrievers are also 1-5 alltime against former America East member Northeastern,
including 1-3 in conference play from 2004-05.
Retrievers Picked Fifth: The Retrievers were selected to finish fifth in the America East in a vote of the conference’s nine head coaches. The billing is the Retrievers’ highest since joining the America East in 2003, eclipsing the sixth-place predictions for each of the last two seasons.
Another Honor for Cassidy: Junior guard Carlee Cassidy was selected to the America East Preseason All-Conference Team by the league’s nine head coaches. She is the first Retriever ever to receive the honor in UMBC’s six seasons in the America East. Last year, Cassidy became UMBC’s first-ever All-Conference First Team selection since joining the league in 2003 after she led the league in scoring with 17.0 ppg.
Double Duty: Freshman forward Sarah Hill joined the Retrievers during the last week in November. Hill, 6-3, spent the fall season with UMBC’s volleyball team and averaged 1.79 kills and 1.01 blocks per game as a middle blocker and outside hitter. She is the second volleyball player to join the women’s basketball roster this season, as 6-3 freshman center Iman Kennedy will also pull double duty. Kennedy is a middle blocker who averaged 1.32 kpg and 0.97 bpg this season.
Bragging Rights: UMBC took on five of the nine Division I schools in the state of Maryland this season. The Retrievers hosted Navy (Dec. 3), Towson (Dec. 6), Coppin State (Dec. 8) and Loyola (Dec. 21) and faced UMES at the Iona Thanksgiving Classic (Nov. 30). UMBC also faced nearby George Washington (Nov. 15) and George Mason (Nov. 19) from the Washington, D.C., area. The Retrievers went 5-2 against those teams. UMBC defeated Towson for the first time since 2002, Coppin State for the first time since 1989 and George Mason for the first time ever.
Speed it Up: In his first six years at the helm, head coach Phil Stern has employed the Princeton Offense, a strategy which emphasizes tempo control, passing and backdoor cuts. However, Stern decided it was time for a change in 2008-09, and the Retrievers will now play up-tempo.
Shall We Dance: The Retrievers will face five teams that advanced to the 2008 postseason. George Washington (Nov. 15), Coppin State (Dec. 8) and Hartford (Jan. 13/Feb. 18) competed in the NCAA Tournament, while James Madison (Dec. 18) and Vermont (Jan. 7/Feb. 11) participated in the WNIT.
Retrievers Ink Two: Two players have signed National Letters of Intent to join the Retrievers for the 2009-10 season. Shamika Williams is a 5-8 guard from nearby Catonsville High School who was named the Baltimore County Player of the Year after averaging 17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 4.5 apg as a junior. Kim Browning is a 6-2 guard/forward from Hanover High School in Mechanicsville, Va., who was named one of the top 50 seniors in Virginia by Virginia Preps after averaging 10.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg last season.
Aye-Aye, Captain: Juniors Melissa Book and Carlee Cassidy and sophomore Michele Brokans have been named team captains for the 2008-09 season. Book is the first Retriever to repeat as team captain since Sharri Rohde and Heather Luttrell served as catpains in 2005-06 and 2006-07, while Brokans is the first sophomore in the position since Rohde in 2004-05.