BALTIMORE--After more than a week off for final exams, the UMBC women's basketball team (4-6) returns to the court to take on its second straight ACC opponent when it visits Virginia Saturday evening. Tip-off from the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va., is set for 7 p.m.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: UMBC saw its three-game winning streak come to an end last Friday in a 71-45 loss at No. 23 Maryland. Junior forward Erin Brown led the Retrievers with 14 points and matched her career high with four 3-pointers. UMBC's three juniors - Brown, guard Michelle Kurowski and center Topé Obajolu - have accounted for 68.7 percent of the Retrievers' offense this season, and all three rank among the top 15 scorers in the America East, led by Kurowsk (14.1 ppg) and Brown (12.8), who are fourth and fifth, respectively. Kurowski also leads the league and ranks 12th in the nation with a .927 free throw percentage, while Obajolu is tops in the conference with 2.0 blocks per game. UMBC ranks among the America East's defensive leaders, holding opponents to a league-low .374 shooting percentage while allowing just 60.0 points per game, which ranks second.
CAVALIER UPDATE: Virginia is 6-4 on the season and a perfect 4-0 at home but has not played since defeating Radford, 76-52, on Dec. 6. Guard Lexie Gerson led four Cavaliers in double figures with 19 points in the game. Guard Ariana Moorer is Virginia's leading scorer with 11.5 points per game, while forward Chelsea Shine is averaging 10.2 ppg while leading the team with 6.7 rebounds per contest. Virginia was picked to finish 10th in the ACC preseason poll.
Who's Up Next: The Retrievers play one more game before breaking for the holiday, as they visit in-state rival Navy on Tuesday. The Mids are 5-4 on the season but have lost four of their last five outings. Navy leads the all-time series with UMBC, 14-11, but the Retrievers have won three in a row and five of the last six meetings between the two teams, dating to 2004.
Inside the Series...
Saturday's game is just the second all-time meeting between UMBC and Virginia. The Retrievers gave the 14th-ranked Cavaliers all they could handle in the 2009 season opener at the RAC, but Virginia came out on top, 68-57. UMBC led, 48-47, with 7:52 remaining, but Virginia scored 13 straight points over the next 3:35 to take the lead for good. UMBC guardMichelle Kurowski led all scorers with 21 points, while forward Meghan Colabella posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Despite missing her first 13 shots, Virginia guard Monica Wright led the Cavaliers with 15 points.
News And Notes...
Special K: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski was named America East Player of the Week on Nov. 29 after averaging 19.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game in three contests. It was the third such award of her career after earning it twice last season. Kurowski is averaging a team-best 14.1 points per game on the season, ranking fourth in the America East, but her three-game 20-point streak was snapped on Dec. 7 when she scored 17 points against Towson. She has averaged 13.4 points per game in her career, the fourth-best career scoring average in school history, and she has ranked in the top 10 in the America East in scoring each of her first three seasons, the first player to do so since Vermont's Courtnay Pilypaitis in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09.
Climbing the Charts: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski is just 63 points away from becoming the 17th member of UMBC's 1,000-point club. She currently ranks 19th all-time with 937 career points.
Junior Circuit: UMBC's three juniors have accounted for 68.7 percent of the team's scoring this season (380 of 553 points). Guard Michelle Kurowski leads the Retrievers with 14.1 points per game, followed by forward Erin Brown (12.8 ppg) and center Topé Obajolu (11.1 ppg). All three rank among the top 15 scorers in the America East, as Kurowski and Brown are fourth and fifth, respectively, while Obajolu is 14th. The trio combined to score all but eight of UMBC's 56 points on Dec. 7 against Towson, as Kurowski scored 17 points, Obajolu 16 and Brown 15.
Streaking: UMBC had won three straight games from Nov. 28-Dec. 7 before falling to No. 23 Maryland last Friday. It was the Retrievers' first three-game winning streak since Nov. 24-Dec. 2, 2009. Coincidentally, that streak also included victories against Towson and Bucknell.
Hit the Road, Jack: Five of the Retrievers' next six games will be played on the road. UMBC will visit Virginia (Dec. 18), Navy (Dec. 21), Stony Brook (Jan. 3) and Maine (Jan. 9) before hosting Binghamton and Vermont in back-to-back contests Jan. 12 and 15. The Retrievers' lone home game during that stretch is Dec. 29 against Loyola.
Block Party: Junior center Topé Obajolu leads the America East with 2.0 blocks per game this season. Obajolu set a school record with seven blocks against Coppin State on Nov. 16. She had five blocks in the first half alone. The previous mark of six was achieved three times, most recently by Amanda Robinson against Boston University on Feb. 4, 2007. Obajolu became the seventh player in school history to record 80 career blocks with three on Nov. 28 against Brown, and she currently has 84. She rejected 40 shots in 2009-10, tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in school history.
Board Games: Senior forward Meghan Colabella is 26 rebounds shy of becoming the 14th Retriever ever to reach 500 in her career and the first since Sharri Rohde joined the club in 2006-07. Colabella is averaging a team-best 5.3 rebounds per game this season and pulled down a season-high 11 boards against Brown on Nov. 28 while notching her first double-double of the season and the sixth of her career.
Ol' Reliable: Junior forward Erin Brown has been the Retrievers' most consistent player this season. She has scored in double figures in nine of the first 10 games this season and has scored either 14 or 15 points in each of the last five.
Rally Time: Trailing Bucknell by 11 points, 54-43, with 9:16 remaining in the game, UMBC went on a 20-3 run over the final 8:09 of play to defeat the Bision, 63-57, on Dec. 4. The final 3:15 was even more impressive, as the Retrievers outscored Bucknell, 16-2.
Thankful at Iona: The Retrievers turned a corner on their season at the Iona Thanksgiving Classic Nov. 27-28, scoring 70 points in both contests after averaging just 48.4 points per game through the first five games of the season. The 72 points scored against Toledo marked UMBC's first 70-point performance since scoring 74 at Loyola on Dec. 20, 2009, while the 75 points scored against Brown were the most since putting up 102 against UMES on Nov. 15, 2009. In addition, the weekend marked the first time the Retrievers have scored 70 points in back-to-back games since Jan. 21-28, 2009 in wins over America East rivals Albany and Binghamton. By averaging 73.5 points in the two games at Iona, UMBC raised its season scoring average by 7.2 points per game. In addition, after shooting a league-worst 30.7 percent from the floor through the first five games of the season, the Retrievers connected on 47.0 percent of their attempts last weekend. Similarly, UMBC nearly doubled its season total of 3-pointers, draining 16 of 30 (53.3 percent) against Toledo and Brown after making 18 of 70 (25.7 percent) through the first five games.
Thankful at Iona, Part II: Just like UMBC as a team, junior guard Michelle Kurowski got untracked at the Iona Thanksgiving Classic Nov. 27-28. Kurowski, who was the Retrievers' top returning scorer from a year ago, averaged just 8.4 points per game while shooting 25.5 percent from the floor and making just three of 17 three-point attempts through the first five games of the season. But in two contests at Iona, Kurowski scored 24.5 ppg and shot 56.7 percent from the floor while draining seven of 11 attempts from beyond the arc. Kurowski and junior forward Erin Brown were both selected to the All-Tournament Team, as Brown averaged 14.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg on the weekend.
Double-Double Vision: Senior forward Meghan Colabella notched UMBC's first double-double of the season on Nov. 28 against Brown when she posted 10 points and a season-best 11 rebounds, and junior guard Michelle Kurowski made it two in a row with 25 points and 11 boards on Dec. 4 against Bucknell. Kurowski leads the Retrievers with seven career double-doubles, while Colabella has six and junior forward Erin Brown has five. In all, four retrievers have combined for 20 career double-doubles.
Charity Case: For the second year in a row, junior guard Michelle Kurowski leads the America East in free throw percentage, and her .927 clip from the foul line ranks 12th in the NCAA. She made 22 consecutive free throws dating to Nov. 20 against St. Joseph's before missing her final attempt on Dec. 4 against Bucknell and finishing 11-for-12 in the game. The 11 free throws are the most by a Retriever in a single game since Carlee Cassidy drained 13 against Stony Brook on Feb. 21, 2009. Kurowski ranks second all-time at UMBC with a career .837 mark at the charity stripe, and her .822 clip in 2009-10 is the third-best single-season mark in school history.
Helping Hand: Senior point guard Michele Brokans became the 10th player in school history to dish out 250 assists in her career in the season opener at Delaware, and she now has 277.
Double Your Pleasure: Five of UMBC's six returning players have scored in double figures at least five times in their careers, led by junior guard Michelle Kurowski, who has achieved the feat in 45 of her 70 career games. So far this season, six Retrievers have combined for 24 double-digit efforts, led by junior forward Erin Brown, who has scored at least 10 points in nine of 10 games to start the year.
Atop the America East: A pair of Retrievers rank among the top 10 active scorers in the America East, including junior guard Michelle Kurowski, who is second with 937 career points. In addition, junior forward Erin Brown is ninth (578). Moreover, senior forwardMeghan Colabella ranks second among the conference's active rebounders with 474, while senior point guard Michele Brokans ranks second among the league's active assist leaders with 277.
Tenacious D: UMBC leads the America East in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a .373 clip, and ranks second in scoring defense, allowing just 60.0 points per game. The Retrievers held Towson to just 48 points on Dec. 7, a season low for a UMBC opponent in 2010-11.
Three's Company: The Retrievers' 140-game streak with at least one 3-pointer, which dated to Feb. 5, 2005, was snapped on Dec. 22 at West Virginia, when they went 0-for-10 from long distance. However, they began a new streak in the next game against East Carolina, when they drained nine triples, and have now hit at least one in 30 straight games.
Sparkplugs: Junior forward Erin Brown and freshman guard Raven Gerald provided a spark off the bench in the season opener at Delaware, combining to score 23 of UMBC's 44 points. Brown led the Retrievers with 12 points, while Gerald tallied 11 on three 3-pointers in her collegiate debut.
Against the ACC: UMBC has not had success against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents in the past. The Retrievers have never won in 18 previous meetings against current ACC teams, with 10 losses coming against in-state rival Maryland. Virginia is UMBC's second straight ACC opponent, as the Retrievers faced the Terps last Friday, falling 71-45 at Comcast Center.
Bragging Rights: UMBC will take on six of the other eight Division I schools in the state of Maryland this season. The Retrievers will host Coppin State (Nov. 16), Towson (Dec. 7) and Loyola (Dec. 29) and will travel to UMES (Nov. 14), Maryland (Dec. 10) and Navy (Dec. 21) and are 2-2 so far following losses at UMES Maryland and victories over Coppin State and Towson. Last season, UMBC posted a 3-2 record against its in-state rivals, defeating UMES, Towson and Navy but falling to Coppin State and Loyola. The Retrievers are 74-124 all-time against the other eight Division I schools in Maryland.
Retrievers Picked Fifth: The Retrievers were picked to finish fifth in the America East preseason coaches' poll, equaling the program's highest billing since joining the America East in 2003. UMBC was also tabbed fifth in 2008-09. Boston University was the unanimous favorite to win the conference.
Head of the Class: UMBC was recognized on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll for posting the third-highest grade-point average in the nation among NCAA Division I squads during the 2009-10 academic year. The Retrievers' 3.578 mark ranked third among Division I schools to only Utah Valley (3.630) and South Dakota State (3.622) and was the 13th-highest GPA in the country among all divisions. The No. 3 ranking is the highest ever by an America East school. The previous high of No. 7 was achieved by Maine in the 1999-2000 academic year and matched by Binghamton in 2001-02. UMBC's 3.578 cumulative team GPA is also the highest by a conference school since the WBCA began recognizing the top 25 in 1998, bettering the Bearcats' 3.412 in 2001-02. Moreover, the America East Conference recognized all 11 women's basketball student-athletes on the league's winter/spring academic honor roll for earning a GPA of 3.0 or better during the spring semester, with seven team members garnering commissioner's honor roll status for a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
The Graduate: Senior forward Meghan Colabella earned her bachelor's degree in history last May, graduating Magna Cum Laude after just three years. She is competing as a graduate student during the 2010-11 campaign while completing her collegiate eligibility.
Retrievers Ink Two: A pair of high school seniors recently signed National Letters of Intent to join the Retrievers in the fall of 2011. Lauren Chase, a 5-5 point guard from Bowie, Md., was rated as the No. 57 point guard in the nation by ESPN, and her high school, Riverdale Baptist, finished the 2009-10 season as the top-ranked team in the Washington, D.C., area by the Washington Post. Ashley Lambert is a versatile 5-11 player from Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg, Va., who is one of the top-ranked seniors in her region.
Thanks for the Memories: Guard Carlee Cassidy graduated last May after putting together one of the best four-year careers in UMBC women's basketball history. Cassidy holds UMBC's career records for 3-pointers (248), 3-point attempts (769) and games played (119). In addition, she ranks among UMBC's all-time leaders in many other categories, with school Division I records for points (1,627), free throws (347) and field goals attempted (1,441). Cassidy led the America East in scoring in back-to-back seasons as a sophomore and junior and was a three-time all-conference selection.
Follow the Retrievers: UMBC fans can now keep up with their favorite teams in a number of new ways, as UMBC Athletics is on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. Fans can also follow head coach Phil Stern on Twitter at twitter.com/umbcwbb, as well as in his blog, PHILosophy, and the team can also be found on Facebook.
Retrievers All-Access: All of the Retrievers' home games will be video streamed through UMBC's multimedia website, www.UMBCRetrievers.tv. An All-Access Pass, available for $59.95, gives fans the opportunity to watch not only all the live coverage of various UMBC home athletic events, but also premium content not available to view without the All-Access Pass. The premium content includes any and all UMBC player and coaches interviews, highlights and an in-depth archive section of all video available on UMBCRetrievers.TV. Single-game subscriptions for all live events will be available throughout the season for $4.95.