BALTIMORE--Off to its best conference start in eight seasons, the UMBC women's basketball team (11-9, 5-2 AE) visits America East rival Albany (11-8, 4-2 AE) Wednesday afternoon in search of its third straight victory. Tipoff from the Great Danes' SEFCU Arena is set for 12 p.m.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: UMBC is 11-9 on the season and 5-2 in America East play following Sunday's 69-51 victory over America East rival New Hampshire. The Retrievers have now won 10 of their last 14 games. Junior center Topé Obajoluscored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting. The Retrievers committed just five turnovers in the game while recording 20 assists, led by senior guard Michele Brokans' seven helpers. UMBC's three juniors - Objolu, guard Michelle Kurowski and forward Erin Brown - have accounted for 68.2 percent of the Retrievers' offense this season, led by Kurowski's league-best 15.8 ppg. She also leads the America East with an .878 free throw percentage, which ranks 21st in the NCAA, while Obajolu is tops in the conference with 1.9 blocks per game. Kurowski ranks 10th all-time at UMBC with 1,111 points; she is averaging 18.6 ppg in seven league contests. UMBC ranks among the America East's defensive leaders, holding opponents to a .365 shooting percentage, which ranks second, while allowing just 57.7 points per game, which ranks third.
GREAT DANE UPDATE: Albany is 11-8 on the season and 4-2 in America East play after falling to Binghamton, 50-44, on Thursday. Guard Felicia Johnson led the Great Danes with 13 points, while forward Julie Forster pulled down a team-best 10 rebounds. Guard Ebone Henry is averaging a team-best 13.3 points per game, while Forster leads the America East with 10.4 rebounds per contest. Henry also ranks second in the league with 2.6 steals per game. Albany, which was picked to finish seventh in the America East preseason poll, ranks second in the league in scoring defense, allowing 56.5 points per game, but is eighth in scoring at 53.9 ppg.
Who's Up Next: The Retrievers begin the second of of their America East schedule when they host Stony Brook on Sunday, Jan. 29. The Seawolves are 4-15 overall and 1-6 in league play and will visit Hartford before traveling to UMBC. The Retrievers defeated the Seawolves, 65-52, in the conference opener in Stony Brook on Jan. 3, but Stony Brook leads the all-time series, 10-6. Stony Brook was picked to finish fourth in the America East preseason poll, just ahead of the Retrievers.
Inside the Series...
Wednesday's game marks the 15th all-time meeting between UMBC and Albany, and the series is tied, 7-7. The first meeting occurred on Feb. 4, 2004, a 75-58 victory for visiting Albany. The Great Danes took the first three contests, including both games in 2004, but the teams have split the season series in each of the next five years before the Retrievers swept Albany in 2010. 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 2-5 all-time at SEFCU Arena. UMBC junior guard Michelle Kurowski is averaging a team-best 14.8 ppg in four career contests agains the Great Danes.
In the last meeting between the two teams, Feb. 18, 2010, UMBC defeated Albany, 51-40, at Lundholm Gym. Kurowski scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Albany guard Charity Iromuanya led the Great Danes with 15 points. Trailing by two at halftime, UMBC shot 50 percent in the second half and outscored Albany, 29-16.
News And Notes...
For Starters: At 11-9, UMBC opens the season with at least 11 wins in its first 20 games for the third time in the last six seasons. The Retrievers have been hot over the last two months with 10 wins in their last 14 contests, and they are two games over .500 for the first time since Dec. 2, 2009.
For Starters, Part II: UMBC's 65-52 win over Stony Brook on Jan. 3 was its second-ever in an America East opener and first since defeating Boston University in 2007, the year the Retrievers won the conference title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. UMBC starts league play 5-2 for the first time ever in its eight seasons in the America East.
Silver Anniversary: UMBC is celebrating its 25th season at the Division I level. Since 1986-97, the Retrievers have posted a 279-417 record.
Home Sweet Home: UMBC is 8-1 at the RAC Arena this season with seven straight home wins. UMBC's only home loss this season occurred on Nov. 20 to Saint Joseph's. Dating to Feb. 7, 2010, the Retrievers have won 10 of their last 11 home games. UMBC won a school Division I-record 11 games at home in 1990-91.
Join the Club: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski became the 17th member of UMBC's 1,000-point club with a layup late in the second half at Stony Brook on Jan. 3. She reached the milestone in her 74th career game, making her the third-fastest Retriever to accomplish the feat, as only Tammy McCarthy and Felice Pinkney needed less games. In addition, she is only the fourth Retriever ever to score her 1,000th point during her junior season, joining McCarthy, Kori Kindbom and former teammate Carlee Cassidy. Kurowski now ranks 10th all-time with 1,111 career points.
Junior Circuit: UMBC's three juniors have accounted for 68.2 percent of the team's scoring this season (781 of 1,145 points). Guard Michelle Kurowski leads the Retrievers with 15.8 points per game, followed by forward Erin Brown (12.5 ppg) and center Topé Obajolu (10.8 ppg). UMBC is the only team with three of the America East's top 15 scorers and the only squad with three players averaging double figures, as Kurowski leads the leauge, while Brown ranks eighth and Obajolu is 11th. 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.
Board Games: Senior forward Meghan Colabella became the 14th Retriever ever to record 500 career rebounds on Jan. 12 against Binghamton, and she is the first Retriever to join the club since Sharri Rohde in 2006.
Helping Hand: Senior point guard Michele Brokans became the ninth player in school history to dish out 300 assists on Jan. 12 against Binghamton, and she is the first Retriever to join the club since Sharri Rohde in 2007. She currently ranks eighth all-time with 315 helpers. In addition, she leads the America East with an outstanding 3.8 assist-to-turnover ratio (30-to-8) in league contests.
Special K: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski leads the America East with 15.8 points per game on the season, and she is averaging a conference-best 18.6 ppg in seven league contests. She has averaged 13.9 points per game in her career, the third-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. Kurowski is the second-leading active scorer in the America East with 1,111 career points, behind Stony Brook's Kirsten Jeter (1,339). Kurowski has scored 20 or more points six times this season, including three straight from Nov. 27-Dec. 4.
Special K, Part II: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski was named America East and ECAC Player of the Week last week after averaging 29.0 ppg and shooting 67.6 percent (23-for-34) in wins over Binghamton and Vermont. It was her second America East award of the season, as she also earned it on Nov. 29 after averaging 19.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game in three contests, and it was the fourth award of her career after winning it twice last season. Her four America East Player of the Week awards match former teammate Carlee Cassidy for the most ever by a Retriever in UMBC's eight seasons in the conference.
Raining Three's: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski became the eighth player in school history to sink 100 three-pointers in her career on Jan. 12 against Binghamton.
Tenacious D: UMBC ranks second in the America East in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a .365 clip, and ranks third in scoring defense, allowing 57.7 points per game. Opponents have shot less than 40 percent against UMBC in 15 of 20 contests this season, including less than 30 percent four times, and they have scored 60 points or less in all 11 wins, including a season-low 38 points by Binghamton on Jan. 12. It was the first time UMBC has allowed less than 40 points in a game since defeating the Bearcats, 63-37, on Feb. 1, 2006.
Double Your Pleasure: So far this season, seven Retrievers have combined for 47 double-digit efforts, led by junior forward Erin Brown, who has scored at least 10 points in 15 of 20 games, though her career-high six-game streak was snapped on Dec. 21 at Navy. Junior guard Michelle Kurowski has scored in double figures in 53 of her 80 career games, but her career-best eight-game streak was snapped on Saturday against UNH. Four Retrievers reached double figures in the same game on Dec. 29 against Loyola for the first time since Jan. 18, 2010, against Binghamton.
Ball Control: UMBC committed just five turnovers on Saturday against New Hampshire, the fewest since at least the 1996-97 season. The Retrievers, who did not turn the ball over in the second half, forced 18 Wildcat miscues with 13 steals and scored 27 points off turnovers. In addition, UMBC dished out 20 assists on 25 total field goals in the game.
Extra, Extra: Last Thursday's 67-60 double-overtime victory over Hartford was UMBC's first win in a game lasting more than 40 minutes since Jan. 16, 1993, against Charleston Southern (91-89); the Retrievers had lost nine straight overtime contests since then. However, it was the first time UMBC played more than 40 minutes in a game since the 2006 America East quarterfinals against Binghamton, a 72-66 loss on March 10 - a span of 142 contests - and it was the first contest lasting more than one extra period since the Retrievers fell to Robert Morris, 85-82, in triple overtime on Jan. 11, 2003.
20/20: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski scored 28 points and junior forward Erin Browntallied 21 on Jan. 15 against Vermont, giving the Retrievers two players with 20 points in the same game for the first time since March 4, 2009, against Boston University, when Katie Brooks (28) and Carlee Cassidy (24) each reached the plateau. Kurowski and Brown accounted for 71 percent of UMBC's 69 points against the Catamounts. It was the 19th 20-point performance of Kurowski's career and the second for Brown.
30 Rock: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski posted the 20th 30-point performance in UMBC history when she scored 30 against Binghamton on Jan. 12. She scored nearly as many points as the entire Bearcat team (38) and she had more points than the rest of her teammates combined (25). She is the fourth player in school history to score 30 points more than once in her career, as she also netted 30 against Navy on Dec. 5, 2008. In addition, it was the first 30-point effort by a Retriever since Carlee Cassidy tallied 33 against Boston University on Jan. 28, 2009.
Block Party: Junior center Topé Obajolu became the fifth Retriever ever to record 100 career blocks on Saturday against New Hampshire, and she now has 101. She leads the America East with 1.9 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 rejected 40 shots in 2009-10, tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in school history, and she has 37 this season, tied for the eighth-most.
Tip Top Topé: Junior center Topé Obajolu had a career game against Hartford last Thursday with a career-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, four blocks and a career-best five assists. It was her first double-digit scoring effort since Dec. 29, as she has averaged just 6.2 ppg through the first five America East contests. Obajolu then topped that performance with a new career best of 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting against New Hampshire on Saturday.
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 then posted her second double-double of the season on Jan. 9 at Maine with 14 points and a season-high 12 caroms. Kurowski leads the Retrievers with eight career double-doubles, while Colabella has six and junior forwardErin Brown has five. In all, four Retrievers have combined for 20 career double-doubles.
Pack the RAC: Last Thursday's game against Hartford was UMBC's sixth annual Midday Madness, an event that has averaged 1,560 fans since its inception in 2006. The Retrievers welcomed 2,367 fans to the RAC on Thursday, the arena's biggest crowd ever for a women's basketball game, surpassing the 2,023 at last year's Midday Madness. Included in Thursday's crowd were more than 1,600 students from local elementary and middle schools.
Ol' Reliable: Junior forward Erin Brown has been the Retrievers' most consistent player this season. She has scored in double figures in 15 of the first 20 games, though her career-high six-game double-figure streak was snapped on Dec. 21 at Navy. Brown ranks eighth in the America East with 12.5 ppg.
Century Mark: UMBC's 65-52 victory over Stony Brook on Jan. 3 was head coach Phil Stern's 100th win at the Retriever helm, making him just the second head coach in UMBC women's basketball history to reach the century mark. Sue Furnary posted a 152-193 record in 13 seasons from 1980-93; Stern is 104-153 in nine seasons since the 2002-03 campaign. He is now two wins shy of 200 for his career (198-225).
Charity Case: For the second year in a row, junior guard Michelle Kurowski leads the America East in free throw percentage, and her .878 clip from the foul line ranks 21st in the NCAA and would be a UMBC record. 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 .836 mark at the charity stripe, and her .822 clip in 2009-10 and .817 in 2008-09 are the third- and fourth-best single-season marks in school history. As a team, UMBC leads the America East with a .722 free throw percentage, as well. The Retrievers made 20 of 26 foul shots against Loyola on Dec. 29, making the most free throws as a team since March 13, 2009, against Binghamton in the America East quarterfinals.
Slump buster: Senior forward Meghan Colabella averaged just 3.2 points per game in six December contests, but when January started, she broke out of her month-long slump with a season-high 15 points at Stony Brook on Jan. 3. She scored 13 points in the second half and came up especially clutch down the stretch, making five of six free throws in the final 1:15. Colabella then posted her second consecutive double-digit scoring effort with 10 points at Maine on Jan. 9.
Lighting the Coles: Sophomore guard Kristin Coles made 11 of 12 field goal attempts in two games Dec. 18-21, including all six at Navy, when she tallied a career-high 13 points. She also recorded 13 rebounds and five steals in that span, including a huge offensive rebound off her own missed free throw with 2:21 to go at Navy and the Retrievers trailing by three, which set up the game-winning play.
Stolen Goods: UMBC recorded 14 steals on Dec. 18 at Virginia, the most in a game since also tallying 14 on Feb. 28, 2009, at Binghamton. Five different Retrievers had multiple steals, led by junior forward Erin Brown's career-high four takeaways. Sophomore guardKristin Coles matched her career best with three, while senior forward Meghan Colabellaalso recorded three, a season high. The Retrievers are averaging 8.1 steals per game this season.
Streaking: UMBC won three straight games from Dec. 21-Jan. 3, the Retrievers' second three-game winning streak this season, as they also won three in a row from Nov. 28-Dec. 7. Prior to this season, the Retrievers' last three-game winning streak was Nov. 24-Dec. 2, 2009.
Rally Time: Trailing Bucknell by 11 points, 54-43, with 9:16 left in the game, UMBC went on a 20-3 run over the final 8:09 to defeat the Bision, 63-57, on Dec. 4. The last 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 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 on the 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 while draining seven of 11 attempts from beyond the arc. Kurowski and junior forwardErin Brown were both selected to the All-Tournament Team, as Brown averaged 14.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg on the weekend.
Against the America East: UMBC joined the America East in 2003-04, and the Retrievers are 43-80 in seven-plus years of America East play. All-time, UMBC is 45-83 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.
Three's Company: UMBC has made at least one 3-pointer in 40 straight games dating to Dec. 28, 2009, against East Carolina. The Retrievers' 140-game streak, which had dated to Feb. 5, 2005, was snapped the previous game, Dec. 22, at West Virginia, when they went 0-for-10 from long distance.
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.
Bragging Rights: UMBC took on six of the other eight Division I schools in the state of Maryland this season. The Retrievers hosted Coppin State (Nov. 16), Towson (Dec. 7) and Loyola (Dec. 29) and traveled to UMES (Nov. 14), Maryland (Dec. 10) and Navy (Dec. 21). UMBC posted a 4-2 record against its in-state opponents with losses at UMES and Maryland and victories over Coppin State, Towson and Navy. 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 76-124 all-time against the other eight Division I schools in Maryland.
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.
Cassidy Continues Career: Former UMBC standout Carlee Cassidy last week signed a professional contract with Forssan Alku Basketball Club in Finland. Forssan Alku is currently 10-7 on the season and in third place in D1, the top division in Finland. Cassidy is averaging 6.3 ppg through her first three contests, all wins. A three-time America East All-Conference selection and two-time America East All-Academic honoree, Cassidy graduated last May after putting together one of the best four-year careers in UMBC women's basketball history in which she averaged 13.7 points per game. The 5-9 guard 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).
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.
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, 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.