Bethlehem, Pa. – UMBC freshman guard Rodney Elliott (Baltimore, Md./John Carroll) and senior forward Chase Plummer (Plainfield, N.J./St. Patrick) sparked a furious second-half rally, but the effort fell just short, as the Retrievers fell at Lehigh, 70-68.
Elliott scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, including a steal with 12 seconds left that cut the deficit to 69-68. After Lehigh hit just one of two free throws two seconds later, Elliott drove to the lane, but his five-footer was too strong and Lehigh secured the rebound with 0.7 seconds to play.
Lehigh forward Jesse Chuku missed both free throws, but a court-long attempt by Plummer was wide of the mark.
Plummer led UMBC for the second consecutive game with 21 points.
Five Lehigh (5-5) players scored in double figures, as the Mountain Hawks won their third consecutive game.
UMBC (3-7) opened the second half on a 7-3 run to take its biggest lead at 33-28 with 16:57 remaining. But Lehigh countered with the key run of the game, scored 11 consecutive points to garner a 39-33 advantage at the 11:43 mark.
The Retrievers closed to a one-possession game on five occasions before getting their first opportunity to have the ball with a chance to tie. Trailing 60-57 with 1:16 remaining, Plummer drew a foul, but converted just one of two from the line to cut the deficit to two points.
After a Lehigh field goal, UMBC turnover and two free throws by the Mountain Hawks, Plummer banked in a trey from the top of the key to slice the margin to 64-61 with 39 seconds remaining.
Lehigh answered with four consecutive free throws made before UMBC senior guardQuentin Jones (Baltimore, Md./Mount St. Joseph) hit a left-wing trey with 20 seconds to. Two seconds later, Elliott stole the inbounds pass and converted a layup to bring the visitors to within two points, setting up the final game sequence.
The Retrievers recovered from poor shooting in the first half to hit 14-of-26 attempts in the final 20 minutes. But UMBC missed seven critical second half free throws, while the hosts hit key free throws down the stretch to improve to 26-4 at home since the 2011-12 season.
Neither team could get much offensive traction going in the first half as both squads shot below 40 percent. UMBC dominated the boards, outrebounding LU, 11-0, on the offensive glass, but could only get to the free throw line seven times. The Retrievers also committed 11 first-half turnovers.
The largest lead enjoyed by either side was four points. Lehigh grabbed a17-13 advantage with 6:56 to play in the half, but, after a 12-4 surge by UMBC, the visitors led, 25-21, with less than three minutes to play. UMBC took its second halftime lead of the season, at 26-25, into the locker room.
Jones scored 12 points for UMBC. Plummer led a balanced rebounding effort with seven, while Elliott stuffed the stat sheet with five assists and two steals.
The Retrievers return to action on Wednesday when they travel a short distance to face Coppin State.