BALTIMORE--The UMBC women's basketball team opens its 2010-11 season Friday evening at Delaware. Tip-off at Bob Carpenter Center is set for 7 p.m.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: UMBC returns four starters from last season's squad, which posted a 13-17 overall mark, including 7-9 in America East play. The seven conference victories equaled the most the Retrievers have recorded in seven years in the league, matching the 2005-06 team. UMBC finished the season in a tie with Binghamton and Stony Brook for fourth place in the America East standings, its highest finish since joining the conference. While the Retrievers lost three-time all-conference selection Carlee Cassidy, who finished her career with 1,627 career points - ranking second all-time in program history - they do return junior guard Michelle Kurowski, who has averaged 13.3 points per game in her first two collegiate seasons. Kurowski's career .819 free throw percentage in the second-best in school history, while her scoring average ranks fourth. Also back is junior center Topé Obajolu, who led the America East with 2.0 blocks per conference game last season. UMBC also adds three freshmen and eligible transfer Kristin Coles to the mix in 2010-11. The Retrievers were picked to finish fifth in the America East preseason poll.
Blue Hen Update: Delaware was picked to finish third in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll after posting a 21-12 overall mark last season and earning a berth in the WNIT. Sophomore forward Elena Delle Donne, the reigning CAA Rookie and Player of the Year after averaging 26.7 points per contest as a freshman, has earned a number of preseason distinctions, including CAA Preseason Co-Player of the Year and spots on preseason Wooden, Wade and Naismith Player of the Year watch lists.
Who's Up Next: The Retrievers travel to the Eastern Shore for the first time since 1987 to take on UMES on Sunday at 3 p.m., which will be the Hawks' opening game. UMBC is 6-1 all-time against its in-state rival and has won four in a row, including each of the last two seasons. In the 2009-10 matchup, the Retirevers shattered a number of school records in a 102-65 victory at the RAC.
Inside the Series...
Friday's game marks the 10th all-time meeting between UMBC and Delaware, and the Blue Hens hold a 6-3 series advantage. The first meeting occurred on Jan. 6, 1987, a 69-67 victory for host UMBC, but the Blue Hens won the next three contests between the two teams. UMBC and Delaware split a pair of games when the teams were East Coast Conference rivals in 1991. UMBC has never won in four contests in Newark, but the Retrievers have not visited the Blue Hens since 1993.
In the teams' last meeting, Dec. 5, 2009, the Blue Hens defeated the Retrievers, 70-61, at the RAC Arena. Guards Michelle Kurowski and Carlee Cassidy each scored 17 points for the Retrievers, while Delaware forward Elena Delle Donne led four Blue Hens in double figures with 20 points and added eight rebounds and four assists. Kurowski also finished just shy of a double-double with nine boards, and she tallied five helpers, as well. Delaware held UMBC to just 21.9 percent shooting in the first half and led, 35-23, at the intermission. After the Blue Hens extended their lead to 17 points midway through the second half, the Retrievers responded with an 18-6 run that cut their deficit to just five with 2:11 remaining, but they could not complete the comeback.
News And Notes...
For Starters: UMBC is 8-16 in season openers since 1986-87, its first season at the Division I level. Last year, the Retrievers fell to 14th-ranked Virginia, 68-57.
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.
Special K: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski has averaged 13.3 points per game in her first two collegiate seasons, the fourth-best career scoring average in school history. She has ranked in the top 10 in the America East in scoring both seasons, the first player to do so as a freshman and sophomore since Vermont's Courtnay Pilypaitis in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
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.
Against the CAA: UMBC is 29-74 all-time against current members of the Colonial Athletic Association. The Retrievers have a winning record against Hofstra (4-2), with the most wins (13) and losses (31) coming against cross-town rival Towson. UMBC has never faced Georgia State or Old Dominion, and the Retrievers have never beaten James Madison or UNC-Wilmington. UMBC will face three CAA opponents this season in Delaware (Nov. 12), George Mason (Nov. 23) and Towson (Dec. 7).
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). 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 72-122 all-time against the other eight Division I schools in Maryland.
Road Warriors: UMBC won seven road games last season, its most since winning a school Division I-record eight games on the road in 1998-99.
Block Party: Junior center Topé Obajolu led the America East with 2.0 blocks per game in 16 America East contests, and she ranked fifth with 1.3 bpg overall last season. She ranks 11th all-time at UMBC with 64 career blocks, while senior forward Meghan Colabella is 14th with 56 rejections. In addition, Obajolu's 40 blocks in 2009-10 tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in school history.
Charity Case: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski led the America East with an .822 free throw percentage (83-for-101) last season, the third-best single-season mark in school history. She ranks second all-time at UMBC with a career .819 mark at the charity stripe.
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 40 of her 60 career games.
Wrap Up: UMBC's seven league victories in 2010 matched its highest total in seven years in the America East, which was set in 2005-06. In addition, prior to last season, the Retrievers had never finished higher than fifth in the America East before finishing in a tie for fourth place in 2010.
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.
Second Helpings: UMBC trailed at halftime in seven of its 13 victories last season, including by 13 points at Fordham on Dec. 29 and by 19 against Boston U. on Feb. 24. The Retrievers averaged 32.6 points in the second half compared to 26.0 in the first half and outscored their opponents 15 times in the second stanza. UMBC has also scored more points in the second half than the first 20 times and has posted a higher shooting percentage 20 times, including 50 percent or better in 10 games.
Tip-Top Topé: Last season, center Topé Obajolu broke out when America East play began Jan. 6. In 16 league games, Obajolu averaged 9.8 ppg and shot a team-best 47.3 percent from the floor, ranking sixth in the America East. She also led the league with 2.0 blocks per game. In 13 non-conference games, she scored 67 points (5.2 ppg), but she more than doubled that total in 16 league contests with 157 points.
Tenacious D: UMBC held its opponents below 50 points in three of its last four victories of the 2009-10 season, including a season-low 40 in back-to-back wins over New Hampshire and Albany Feb. 13-18. Both teams connected on just 15 field goals, also a season low for a Retriever opponent.
Do You Believe in Miracles: The Retrievers pulled off the fourth-largest comeback in NCAA Division I history and the second-largest in regulation on Feb. 24 against Boston University. UMBC trailed by 19 at halftime, 35-16, and fell behind by 23 points early in the second half. But a 3-pointer by Meghan Colabella at the 17:00 marksparked a 19-0 Retriever run that pulled UMBC to within four points, 41-37, with 13:08 remaining. After the Terriers regained a nine-point lead, UMBC used another 17-3 spurt to take a 52-51 advantage with 5:59 to go, and the Retrievers went on top for good on a layup by Carlee Cassidy with 1:45 on the clock. It was truly a tale of two halves for hte Retrievers, who shot 55.6 percent in the second stanza, including 50 percent from long distance with seven 3's, and committed just three turnovers after making just five of 23 field goals (21.7 percent) and two of 11 from behind the arc in the first period with 12 miscues. UMBC outscored BU, 42-22, in the second half. The Terriers' downfall was just as drastic, as they shot 48.3 percent in the first half, including 54.5 percent (6-for-11) from 3-point range, but just 24.1 percent (7-for-29) in the second period.
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 20 straight games entering the 2010-11 campaign.
Raining Three's: The Retrievers tied a school record with 14 3-pointers on Nov. 15, 2009, against UMES, a mark originally set Jan. 17, 2004, at Northeastern. Carlee Cassidy,Michelle Kurowski and Meghan Colabella combined to make 12 of the 14 three-pointers, as each nailed four, marking career highs for both Colabella and Kurowski.
Cardiac Kids: Nine of UMBC's 13 wins last season were by single-digit margins, including five by five points or less.
Double-Double Vision: Four Retrievers have combined for 18 career double-doubles, including junior guard Michelle Kurowski, who posted a team-best five last season and also leads the squad with six in her career. Forwards Meghan Colabella and Erin Brown also have five apiece.
Century Mark: The Retrievers set a school Division I record for points scored against UMES on Nov. 15, 2009, with 102 points. The last time a UMBC team tallied at least 100 points was Nov. 29, 1985, in a 108-76 victory at Shippensburg, while an America East team had not scored 100 points in a game since Drexel posted 101 at Vermont on Feb. 8, 2001. The Retrievers also scored a school-record 59 points in the second half, eclipsing the 57 points scored in a period twice, both occurring during the 1985-86 season. In addition, UMBC's 37-point margin of victory was its largest since defeating Salisbury State, 94-46, on Jan. 12, 1991.
Dishing it Out: UMBC set a new school record for assists in a game with 28 against UMES on Nov. 15, 2009. Guard Michelle Kurowski led the way with a career-high seven helpers. In all, nine out of 10 players to see action tallied at least one assist.
High-Water Marks: The Retrievers set a number of America East single-game highs for the 2009-10 campaign in their contest against UMES on Nov. 15, including points (102), field goals (39), 3-pointers (14) and assists (28). In addition, UMBC's perfect 11-for-11 effort at the foul line against Maine on Feb. 7 was also the best mark in the conference this year.
To the Limit: UMBC gave 14th-ranked Virginia all it could handle in the season opener on Nov. 13 in front of a record crowd of 1,604 at the RAC. The game was tied, 34-34, at halftime, and the Retrievers led, 48-47, at the 7:52 mark before the Cavaliers used a 13-0 run to take the lead for good and eventually post a 68-57 victory.
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, as well as in his blog, PHILosophy, while the Retrievers also have the UMBC Dawg Blog.
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.