BALTIMORE--The two hottest teams in the America East square off Sunday afternoon as the UMBC women's basketball team (17-10, 11-3 AE), winner of four straight, visits Hartford (12-14, 9-4 AE), winner of six straight. Tipoff from the Hawks' Chase Arena at the Reich Family Pavilion is set for 1 p.m. The game will be televised on MASN in the Mid-Atlantic region and on Comcast SportsNet in New England. The game can also be seen for free online at AmericaEast.com and ESPN3.com.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: UMBC is 17-10 on the season and 11-3 in America East play following Thursday's 62-52 victory over America East rival Boston University to overtake the Terriers for first place in the conference standings. After starting the season 1-5, the Retrievers have won 16 of their last 21 games, including four straight, and are ensured of their first-ever winning record in America East play. Junior forward Erin Brown posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while junior center Topé Obajolu netted 17 points. UMBC's three juniors - Brown, Obajolu and guard Michelle Kurowski - have accounted for 69.5 percent of the Retrievers' offense this season. All three rank in the top 15 in the America East - the only team who can make that claim - led by Kurowski's league-best 15.0 ppg. She also leads the America East with an .884 free throw percentage, which ranks 14th in the NCAA, while Obajolu is tops in the conference with 1.8 blocks per game. Kurowski ranks ninth all-time at UMBC with 1,200 points. UMBC ranks among the league's defensive leaders, holding opponents to a league-low .352 shooting percentage and allowing just 55.5 points per game, which ranks second.
HAWK UPDATE: Hartford is 12-14 on the season and 9-4 in America East play with six straight wins following Thursday's 55-37 win over Binghamton to pull into a tie for third place in the conference standings. Guard Mary Silvia led the Hawks with 13 points. She has averaged a team-best 9.6 ppg this season, while forward Ruthanne Doherty leads Hartford with 5.3 rpg. As a team, Hartford, which was picked to finish second in the America East preseason poll, is averaging 60.1 ppg and shooting .408 to the floor against Americ East opponents, both of which rank second in the conference.
Who's Up Next: The Retrievers close out the regular season by hosting Albany on Wednesday, Feb. 23. The Great Danes are 15-11 overall and 8-5 in league play and will host Binghamton on Sunday before visiting UMBC. The Retrievers defeated Albany, 59-53, on Jan. 26 at SEFCU Arena and lead the all-time series, 8-7. Albany was picked to finish seventh in the America East the preseason poll, but is currently in fifth place.
Inside the Series...
Sunday's game marks the 18th all-time meeting between UMBC and Hartford, and the Hawks hold a 14-3 series advantage. The first meeting occurred on Dec. 29, 2002, a 60-47 victory for Hartford at the Saint Joseph's Hawk Classic. The Hawks won the first contest as America East rivals in 2004, but the Retrievers won at home that season, 48-46. Hartford then won six straight, but UMBC got its revenge in the 2007 America East Tournament, stunning the top-seeded and two-time defending champion Hawks, 48-46, in the title game. Hartford then swept the season series in each of the next three years before the Retrievers took the first meeting in 2011. As America East rivals, the teams have met twice a year since the Retrievers joined the conference in 2003-04. UMBC has never won in seven all-time meetings at Chase Arena. Junior center Topé Obajolu has averaged 10.2 ppg on 52.9 percent shooting in five career games against the Hawks.
In the last meeting between the two teams, Jan. 20, 2011, UMBC defeated Hartford, 67-60, in double overtime at the RAC. Obajolu scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Junior guard Michelle Kurowskiadded 18 points, nine boards, three helpers and three steals. Hartford guard Daphne Elliottwas the only Hawk in double figures with 17 points on five 3-pointers. UMBC erased a 12-point deficit midway through the second half with a 21-3 run that lasted more than 10 minutes. Hartford guard Jackie Smith nailed a 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left in the first overtime period, but the Retrievers held the Hawks without a field goal over the final five minutes for the win. The Retrievers shot 48 percent in the game and held Hartford to just 29.9 percent from the floor.
News And Notes...
For Starters: UMBC's 17 wins match the school's Division I record, which was set by the 1990-91 team. The Retrievers have been hot over the last three months with 16 wins in their last 21 contests after starting the season 1-5. The Retrievers are seven games over .500 for the first time since Feb. 23, 1991, when they were also 17-10.
For Starters, Part II: UMBC starts league play 11-3 for the first time ever in its eight seasons in the America East and for the first time since 1993-94 in the Big South. 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. In addition, UMBC's 10 America East victories are its most ever.
Silver Anniversary: UMBC is celebrating its 25th season at the Division I level. Since 1986-97, the Retrievers have posted a 285-418 record.
Home Sweet Home: UMBC is 11-1 at the RAC Arena this season, matching the schoo's Division I record for home wins, which was set by the 1990-91 team. The Retrievers have won 10 straight at home, the longest home winning streak since also winning 10 straight from Dec. 17, 1993-Feb. 26, 1994. The school record is 11 straight from Jan. 28, 1986-Jan. 22, 1987. UMBC's only home loss this season occurred on Nov. 20 to Saint Joseph's. Dating to Feb. 7, 2010, the Retrievers have won 14 of their last 15 home games.
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 ninth all-time with 1,200 career points, and she eclipsed the 400-point mark for the season on Thursday against Boston U. for the second time in her career, as she scored 410 points as a rookie in 2008-09. She is the 16th player to score 400 points in a season and just the fourth to do so more than once.
Junior Circuit: UMBC's three juniors have accounted for 69.5 percent of the team's scoring this season (1,066 of 1,533 points). Guard Michelle Kurowski leads the Retrievers with 15.2 points per game, followed by forward Erin Brown (13.7 ppg) and center Topé Obajolu (10.4 ppg). Kurowski leads the America East, while Brown ranks sixth and Obajolu is 15th; UMBC is the only team with three players ranking in the top 15 in scoring in the America East. The trio combined to score all but two points during UMBC's second-half comeback at Albany on Jan. 26 and all but three points in the entire game against Maine on Feb. 5.
Block Party: Junior center Topé Obajolu broke UMBC's record for blocks in a season when she rejected two shots at Vermont on Feb. 9, giving her 48 on the season, and she now has 49; Monica Logan's previous mark of 47 had stood since 1996-97. Obajolu became the fifth Retriever ever to record 100 career blocks on Jan. 23 against New Hampshire, and she now has 113, which ranks fourth. She leads the America East with 1.8 blocks per game this season. Obajolu set a school record with seven blocks against Coppin State on Nov. 16. The previous mark of six was achieved three times, most recently by Amanda Robinson against Boston University on Feb. 4, 2007. Obajolu's 40 blocks last season are tied for the fifth-highest single-season total in school history.
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. She now ranks 13th all-time with 566 career caroms.
Century Mark, Times Two: UMBC's 65-57 victory over Stony Brook on Jan. 29 was the 200th win in head coach Phil Stern's 15-year coaching career (204-226). He joins Hartford's Jennifer Rizzotti and Boston University's Kelly Greenberg as the only America East coaches with 200 career victories. In addition, UMBC's 65-52 victory over Stony Brook on Jan. 3 was 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 110-154 in nine seasons since the 2002-03 campaign.
Special K: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski leads the America East with 15.0 points per game on the season. She has averaged 13.8 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 1,200 career points, behind Stony Brook's Kirsten Jeter (1,436). 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 on Jan. 17 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.
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 sixth all-time with 337 helpers. In addition, she leads the America East with an outstanding 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio (52-to-16) in league contests.
Honor Roll: Junior forward Erin Brown was named America East Player of the Week on Jan. 31 after averaging 18.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg in a pair of wins. It was the first such award for Brown, who was named the conference's Rookie of the Week twice in 2008-09. In addition, she is the first Retriever other than Michelle Kurowski or Carlee Cassidy to garner the accolade since Kristin Drabyn on Jan. 1, 2007.
Bookworm: Junior guard Michelle Kurowski was selected to the CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District II First Team on Thursday for her combined performance on the court and in the classroom. She is just the third women's basketball player to ever earn the honor, joining Kori Kindbom (1986) and Jennifer Whiteside (1988). Kurowski boasts a 3.82 grade-point average in psychology, and she plans to earn her bachelor's degree this spring and complete her eligibility next season as a graduate student pursuing a teaching certificate and a master's degree in early childhood education. The Academic All-District II teams in the university division consist of five players from Division I schools in Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
In the Polls: The nation is beginning to take notice of UMBC's play, as the Retrievers are receiving 14 votes in the most recent CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. In addition, UMBC is the highest-ranked America East team in the most recent NCAA RPI.
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, and junior forward Erin Brown became the ninth last Sunday at New Hampshire. They are just the second-ever set of Retriever teammates with 100 three-pointers apiece and the first since Shalayna Johnson and Jessie Brown in 2002-03.
Tenacious D: UMBC leads the America East and 20th in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a .352 clip, and also ranks second in the league in scoring defense, allowing 55.5 ppg. Opponents have shot less than 40 percent against UMBC in 21 of 27 contests this season, including less than 30 percent six times, and they have scored 60 points or less in all 17 wins.
Tenacious D, Part II: UMBC set a number of defensive records in its 43-32 victory at Vermont on Feb. 9. The Retrievers held the Catamounts to just 17.0 percent shooting (8-for-47), the lowest field goal percentage ever by a Retriever opponent; the previous low was 17.3 percent by Bowie State in 1985. In addition, Vermont's eight field goals in the game matched the fewest ever by the Catamounts, while their 32 points scored were the fewest UMBC has allowed in its Division I era and the least since Dec. 11, 1981, against Western Maryland, which also scored 32. Vermont made just one of 18 field goal attempts in the first half (5.6 percent).
Double Your Pleasure: So far this season, seven Retrievers have combined for 64 double-digit efforts, led by junior forward Erin Brown, who has scored at least 10 points in 21 of 27 games, including a career-high six straight from Nov. 27-Dec. 18. Junior guard Michelle Kurowski has scored in double figures in 57 of her 87 career games, including a career-best eight straight from Dec. 21-Jan. 20. Four Retrievers reached double figures in the same game on Dec. 29 against Loyola for the first time since Jan. 18, 2010, against Binghamton, and they matched that feat on Jan. 29 against Stony Brook.
TALE OF TWO HALVES: UMBC rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to defeat Albany, 59-53, on Jan. 26. The Retrievers made just five of 16 field goal attempts in the first half (31.3 percent) but shot 52 percent (13-for-25) in the second period. Conversely, the Great Danes made just six of 29 attempts (20.7 percent) in the second stanza after shooting 46.2 percent in the first. Trailing by 12 points, 29-17, at halftime, UMBC outscored Albany, 42-24, after the break, including 40-18 over the final 16:14.
Ball Control: UMBC committed just five turnovers on Jan. 23 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: UMBC's 67-60 double-overtime victory over Hartford on Jan. 20 was its 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 game 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 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 U. on Jan. 28, 2009.
Tip Top Topé: Junior center Topé Obajolu scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, four blocks and a career-best five assists against Hartford on Jan. 20. It was her first double-digit scoring effort since Dec. 29, as she had 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 Jan. 23.
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 and notched another on Feb. 2 at Binghamton with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and junior forward Erin Brown earned her first of the season in the next game, Feb. 5 against Maine, with 26 points and 11 boards. Kurowski leads the Retrievers with nine career double-doubles, while Brown has seven and Colabella has six. In all, four Retrievers have combined for 21 career double-doubles.
Pack the RAC: UMBC's game against Hartford on Jan. 20 was the 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.
Charity Case: For the second year in a row, junior guard Michelle Kurowski leads the America East in free throw percentage, and her .884 clip from the foul line ranks 14th in the NCAA and would be a UMBC record. She made 22 consecutive free throws from Nov. 20 -Dec. 4, when she missed her final attempt against Bucknell and finished 11-for-12 in the game. The 11 free throws are the most by a Retriever in a single game since Carlee Cassidydrained 13 against Stony Brook on Feb. 21, 2009. Kurowski ranks second all-time at UMBC with a career .841 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 .727 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. In addition, junior forwardErin Brown sank 30 straight free throws dating to Dec. 7 against Towson before missing her second attempt at Vermont on Feb. 9.
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.
Streaking: UMBC is currently riding a four-game winning streak, its second of the season. The Retrievers also won four straight from Jan. 20-29, its first four-game winning streak since winning five straight from Nov. 29-Dec. 8, 2008.
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. UMBC has one five times when trailing with 10 minutes left and has three wins when trailing with five minutes remaining.
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 75 points against Brown were the most since netting 102 against UMES on Nov. 15, 2009. By averaging 73.5 ppg in two games at Iona, UMBC raised its season scoring average by 7.2 ppg. 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.
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.
Three's Company: UMBC has made at least one 3-pointer in 47 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.
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.
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.
Against the America East: UMBC joined the America East in 2003-04, and the Retrievers are 49-81 in eight years of America East play. All-time, UMBC is 51-84 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.
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.
Retrievers Ink Two: A pair of high school seniors have signed National Letters of Intent to join the Retrievers next fall. 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 last 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 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.