BALTIMORE—The UMBC women's basketball team (19-10, 13-3 AE) defeated Albany (15-13, 8-7 AE) by a score of 62-55 Wednesday evening at the RAC Arena to claim its first-ever America East regular-season title. The win is the sixth straight for the Retrievers, who will be the top seed in next weekend's America East Championship in West Hartford, Conn., and will face the winner of the first-round game between Stony Brook and Maine on Friday, March 4.
UMBC will host the conference title game on Saturday, March 12, should they reach that contest. In addition, Wednesday's victory guarantees UMBC a postseason appearance in either the NCAA Tournament or Women's National Invitation Tournament.
Senior forward Meghan Colabella (Upper Montclair, N.J./Montclair) scored a season-high 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc, and was named America East Player of the Game. Junior forward Erin Brown (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while junior guard Michelle Kurowski (Hicksville, N.Y./Hicksville) added 10 points and eight boards.
Despite struggling for the first five minutes, the Retrievers were only down 4-0 when Colabella sank back-to-back 3-pointers, sparking a 17-2 run that put UMBC on top, 17-6, at the 9:16 mark of the first half. The Retrievers made seven of eight field goal attempts in that stretch, including a 3-pointer by Kurowski to cap the spurt.
After the Great Danes pulled within seven with just under three minutes remaining, UMBC scored eight of the final nine points of the period to take a 30-16 halftime lead.
The Retrievers took a game-high 16-point advantage, 44-28, with 12:58 remaining on a 3-point play by sophomore guard Kristin Coles (Charles Town, W.Va./Notre Dame Academy/American), but Albany went on an 18-8 run over the next 11 minutes and pulled within five points, 52-47, with less than two minutes to play.
But the Retrievers made 10 of 12 foul shots in the final 1:36 to hold on for the victory. Colabella sank all four of her attempts in that stretch.
Albany guard Ebone Henry earned her team's Player of the Game honors with 21 points and nine rebounds, but she was just 5-for-21 from the field, as she scored 11 points at the foul line. Forward Julie Forster added nine points and nine boards.
After shooting 50 percent in the first half and draining five 3-pointers in eight attempts, the Retrievers made just seven of 21 field goals in the second half and one triple to finish at 41.5 percent (17-for-41) from the floor for the game. Albany, however, shot just 28.3 percent (17-for-60) from the field.
UMBC outrebounded the Great Danes, 45-31. Albany forced 24 Retriever turnovers but could only capitalize for 12 points. UMBC made a season-high 22 of 29 free throws.
Before the game, the Retrievers honored seniors Colabella, Chelsea Barker (Waterville, Maine/Messalonskee) and Michele Brokans (Lansdale, Pa./Lansdale Catholic), who were playing their final regular-season game at the RAC Arena.
Notes: UMBC's 19 wins are a school Division I record and one shy of the overall mark of 20, set in the 1985-86 season… The Retrievers have won six straight for the first time since Jan. 26-Feb. 12, 2006… UMBC is 12-1 at the RAC this season, a school record for home victories in a season… The Retrievers have won 11 in a row at the RAC, matching the school record set Jan. 28, 1986-Jan. 22, 1987… After starting the season 1-5, UMBC has won 18 of its last 23 contests… The Retrievers are nine games over .500 for the first time since Feb. 28, 1986, when they were 20-9.