BALTIMORE--After nearly a week off, the UMBC women's basketball team (3-3) begins a busy stretch of four games in eight days Saturday when it hosts defending Ivy League champion Princeton (6-1) at 2 p.m. The game can be heard on V1370 AM and V1370.com, and, as always, it will be streamed live at UMBCRetrievers.tv. Prior to the main event, former Retrievers will put on their old uniforms in an alumni game beginning at 10:30 a.m., and they will also be honored at halftime.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: Playing without two starters due to injuries to freshman Lauren Chase and junior Kristin Coles, UMBC fell to cross-town rival Towson, 56-45, on Sunday. Seniors Erin Brown and Topé Obajolu led the Retrievers with 12 points each, but UMBC struggled from the floor, shooting just 26.8 percent. The Retrievers shot better than 80 percent from the charity stripe for the fourth straight game and lead the America East with an .818 free throw percentage. Brown, who recorded her 500th career rebound at Loyola last Tuesday, is six points shy of 1,000 for her career. She will join seniorMichelle Kurowski as two of just 12 Retrievers ever with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. Kurowski ranks fifth all-time at UMBC with 1,342 career points, the most among active players in the America East. UMBC is the preseason favorite to win the America East Conference after winning the 2011 regular-season title with a 13-3 record in league play. The Retrievers posted a 20-12 overall mark, matching the school record for victories in a season, and earned a berth in the WNIT after falling to Hartford in the conference semifinals.
TIGER UPDATE: Princeton is coming off its first loss of the season, 81-70, to Delaware on Thursday, falling to 6-1. Guard Lauren Edwards scored 23 points and forward Niveen Rasheed added 20 in the loss. Rasheed leads the Tigers with 18.0 ppg and 7.7 rpg this season, shooting 50 percent from the floor. The two-time defending Ivy League champion, Princeton is currently ranked third in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll and is the preseason favorite to win the Ivy League for the third consecutive season, despite losing 2011 Ivy League Player of the Year Addie Micir.
WHO'S UP NEXT: The Retrievers continue their three-game homestand on Tuesday against in-state rival UMES. The Retrievers are 6-2 all-time against the Hawks, who are 1-3 on the season and host Delaware State on Saturday before coming to Baltimore. UMES defeated UMBC, 64-52, last season in Princess Anne, breaking a streak of four straight Retriever wins. The Hawks were picked to finish eighth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference preseason poll.
Inside the Series...
Saturday's game marks just the second all-time meeting between UMBC and Princeton. The Retrievers won the only previous meeting with the Tigers, 74-61, at the Loyola Tournament on Dec. 2, 1988.
News And Notes...
For Starters: UMBC has at least three wins in its first six games for the third time in the last four seasons. In both 2008 and 2009, the Retrievers were 4-2 after six contests.
Dawg Days of December: Saturday's game marks the start of a very busy stretch for the Retrievers, who will play four games in the next eight days. Following Princeton today, UMBC will host UMES on Tuesday and George Mason on Thursday before traveling to Hampton next Saturday. The Retrievers will finally get to rest upon their return, as the team will take a 10-day break for finals before visiting Navy on Dec. 20.
Join the Club: Senior guard Michelle Kurowski recorded her 500th career rebound in the season opener against Morgan State, making her the 11th Retriever ever with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. Kurowski currently ranks fifth all-time at UMBC with 1,342 career points and 15th with 520 rebounds. Senior forward Erin Brown picked up her 500th career rebound last Tuesday at Loyola and needs just six points to join Kurowski in the 1,000-point club. They will be the second set of Retrievers teammates in UMBC's Division I era with both 1,000 points and 500 rebounds, joining Angel Webb and Anne Wellington in 1992.
Against the Best: UMBC's non-conference schedule features games against seven teams that advanced to the 2011 postseason, including four of its first five opponents. Of the seven, Maryland, Princeton, Hampton and Navy earned berths in the NCAA Tournament, while Morgan State, Monmouth and Loyola played in the WNIT. So far, UMBC is 3-1 against those teams following victories over Morgan State, Monmouth and Loyola and a loss to Maryland.
Lights, Camera, Action: Two UMBC women's basketball games will be nationally broadcast as part of the America East Conference's new TV packages with ESPN and CBS Sports Network. UMBC's Jan. 25 Midday Madness game against Boston University will air on ESPN3 in a mathcup of the league's top two preseason favorites. In addition, the Retrievers will square off against defending league champion Hartford on Feb. 19 on CBS Sports, the first-ever nationally televised women's game in America East history.
Charity Case: After making just 14 of 21 free throws (66.7 percent) in the first two games of the season, UMBC has shot better than 80 percent from the foul line in four straight games, connecting on 67 of 78 free throws (85.9 percent) during that stretch. The Retrievers lead the America East and rank ninth in the nation with an .818 free throw percentage this season, led by senior guard Michelle Kurowski's .917 mark (22-for-24), which ranks third in the conference. Kurowski has led the America East in free throw percentage in each of the last two seasons, and her .894 clip in 2010-11 was a UMBC record and ranked sixth in the NCAA. She ranks second all-time at UMBC to current assistant coach Kristin Drabyn with a career .852 mark at the charity stripe.
Charity Case, Part II: UMBC made just four of 23 field goal attempts in the second half against Loyola last Tuesday, but pulled out the win thanks to its free throw shooting, connecting on 22 of 26 foul shots in the period and 25 of 29 in the game.
Home Sweet Home: UMBC saw its school-record 12-game home-court winning streak snapped on Nov. 19 by No. 9 Maryland. The streak had dated to Dec. 4, 2010. However, the Retrievers have won 16 of their last 18 home games since Feb. 7, 2010, and they went 12-1 at the RAC last season, a new school Division I record for home wins.
So Close You could Taste It: UMBC gave No. 9 Maryland all it could handle in a 70-59 loss on Nov. 19. Each time the Terps appeared to pull away, the Retrievers made a run to get right back in the game and trailed by just four midway through the second half.
TALE OF TWO HALVES: UMBC looked like two different teams in each half against Coppin State on Nov. 16. In the first half, the Retrievers made only six of 21 field goal attempts (28.6 percent) and trailed the Eagles, 33-14, at halftime. But UMBC came to life in the second period, shooting 46.9 percent from the floor (15-for-32) and outscoring the hosts, 46-35. The Retrievers cut their deficit to as few as four points but could not complete the comeback, falling 68-60.
HONOR ROLL: Freshman point guard Lauren Chase earned the season's first America East Rookie of the Week Award on Nov. 14 after averaging 11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and a league-best 7.0 assists while shooting 50 percent from the floor in the first two games of the season. She is the first Retriever to earn America East Rookie of the Week honors sinceMichelle Kurowski on March 2, 2009.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE VISION: Three Retrievers recorded double-doubles at Monmouth on Nov. 13, led by senior center Topé Obajolu (20 points, 10 rebounds) and senior forward Erin Brown (18 points, 11 rebounds), while freshman point guard Lauren Chase finished one rebound shy of a triple-double with 10 points, 11 assists and nine boards. The last time even two Retrievers tallied double-doubles in the same game was Nov. 15, 2009, against UMES, when Michelle Kurowski and Meghan Colabella each accomplished the feat.
HELPING HAND: Freshman poing guard Lauren Chase set a Retriever rookie record with 11 assists at Monmouth on Nov. 13, tied for the fifth-most ever by a Retriever in a single game and the most since Brittnie Hughes had 12 on Dec. 29, 2006. In addition, it was the first time a UMBC player recorded double digits in assists since Michele Brokans had 10 on Jan. 24, 2009. Chase was leading the America East with 5.5 assists per game prior to her injury.
Balanced Attack: Four Retrievers scored in double figures in the season opener agaisnt Morgan State on Nov. 11. In her UMBC debut, junior guard Brittany Crowell scored a game-high 15 points off the bench, while senior forward Erin Brown notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Michelle Kurowski added 13 points, while freshman point guard Lauren Chase chipped in 12 points in her collegiate debut.
Double Your Pleasure: Eight Retrievers have scored in double figures at least once in their careers, led by senior guard Michelle Kurowski, who has reached double digits in 66 of her 98 career games, including a career-best eight straight from Dec. 21, 2010-Jan. 20, 2011. In addition, senior forward Erin Brown is currently riding a 15-game double-figure streak which dates to Feb. 5 against Maine and has scored at least 10 points 55 times in her career.
PLAYING FAVORITES: The Retrievers were chosen as the 2011-12 America East preseason favorites by the league's head coaches. The Retrievers received five first-place votes and 60 total points to edge Boston University. Prior to this season, UMBC had never been picked higher than fifth (2008-09, 10-11).
It Takes Two: Senior guards Michelle Kurowski and Erin Brown were selected to the America East preseason all-conference team by the league's nine head coaches. The duo represented the highest-scoring tandem in the America East last season, as each ranked in the top five in the league with 14.6 and 14.3 points per game, respectively, and both earned first-team all-conference honors.
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS: UMBC claimed its first-ever America East regular-season title on Feb. 23 when it defeated Albany, 62-55. The Retrievers took the league by surprise, posting a 13-3 record with 10 wins in their last 11 regular-season games after being picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. As the top seed in the America East Championship, the Retrievers automatically qualified for a berth in the WNIT when they dropped a 66-48 decision in the conference semifinals to fourth-seeded and host Hartford, the eventual conference champion.
Setting the Mark: UMBC's 20 wins in 2010-11 matched the school record, which was set by the 1985-86 squad, and were the most in the program's 25-year Division I history. The Retrievers were hot over the last three months of the season with 19 wins in their last 26 contests after starting the year 1-5. Prior to last season, UMBC had not finished above .500 since 2005-06, when it went 15-13. In addition, the Retrievers' 13 America East victories were their most ever in their eight seasons in the league; prior to last season, UMBC had not won more than seven America East contests (7-9 in 2006 and 2010) or finished higher than tied for fourth (2010).
All-Conference Trio: UMBC guards Michelle Kurowski and Erin Brown were both selected to the America East All-Conference First Team last season, while center Topé Obajolu was tabbed to the Third Team. Kurowski and Brown gave the Retrievers two players on the America East first team for the first time ever; Carlee Cassidy in 2008 is the only other Retriever ever to earn first-team honors in the America East. In addition, with Obajolu's inclusion on the third team, UMBC placed three players on all-conference squads for the first time in its eight seasons in the America East. Obajolu was also voted to the All-Defensive team, the first Retriever to earn that honor since Sharri Rohde in 2007 and just the second UMBC player ever.
Coach of the Year: UMBC head coach Phil Stern was named America East Coach of the Year in a vote of the league's nine head coaches. Stern guided the Retrievers, who were picked to finish fifth in the America East preseason poll, to their first-ever America East regular-season title. Stern oversaw a +6 turnaround from 2009-10, when the Retrievers posted a 13-17 overall record and 7-9 league mark. Stern is the first UMBC women's basketball coach to be named Coach of the Year since Kathy Solano in 1994 in the Big South. In addition, while it was his first Coach of the Year honor at the Division I level, Stern garnered the accolade twice in the Division II Peach Belt Conference while at USC Aiken (2000, 2002).
Head of the Class: Senior guard Michelle Kurowski was recently named one of 30 candidates nationwhide for the prestigious Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes senior student-athletes who exemplify excellence in the four C's of community, classroom, character and competition. The award is just another in Kurowski's long list of accolades, which include America East Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete, Capital One Academic All-District First Team and Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association Scholar-Athlete Team. Kurowski graduated Magna Cum Laude from UMBC in May, maintaining a 3.82 GPA as a psychology major, and is currently competing as a graduate student while pursuing a teaching certificate and a master's degree in early childhood education.
Making the Grade: UMBC was recognized on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 for the second year in a row, ranking 20th among NCAA Division I programs during the 2010-11 academic year with a 3.374 team grade-point average. In addition, the America East recognized 10 of UMBC's 13 women's basketball student-athletes on the league's academic honor roll for earning a GPA of 3.0 or better during the spring semester, with eight team members garnering commissioner's honor roll status for a GPA of 3.5 or higher. In 2009-10, the Retrievers' 3.578 team GPA was the third-best in the nation.
Against the Ivy League: UMBC is 6-5 all-time against Ivy League opponents, but has not played any team more than twice. The Retrievers are 2-0 againsg Brown and Columbia and 0-2 against Cornell and Penn, and they have never faced Dartmouth or Harvard.
Bragging Rights: UMBC will take on seven of the other eight Division I schools in the state of Maryland in 2010-11, facing five in the first six games of the season. The Retrievers will host Morgan State (Nov. 11), Maryland (Nov. 19) and UMES (Dec. 6) and will travel to Coppin State (Nov. 16), Loyola (Nov. 22), Towson (Nov. 27) and Navy (Dec. 20). After going 4-2 against its in-state rivals last season, UMBC is 2-3 so far this season, defeating Morgan State and Loyola and falling to Coppin State, Maryland and Towson. The Retrievers are 78-127 all-time against the other eight Division I schools in the state.
In the Polls: The Retrievers are ranked 23rd in the most recent CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. Three of UMBC's opponents - Princeton (No. 3), Hampton (No. 9) and Hartford (No. 22) - are also ranked in the poll.
Special K: Senior guard Michelle Kurowski is the America East's active career scoring leader with 1,342 points, which ranks 46th all-time in conference history. She ranked second in the America East with 14.6 points per game last season. Kurowski has averaged 13.7 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.
Three's Company: UMBC has made at least one 3-pointer in 57 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.
Raining Three's: Senior guards Michelle Kurowski and Erin Brown are the eighth and ninth Retrievers ever to sink 100 career 3-pointers. 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.
Block Party: Center Topé Obajolu set a new school record for blocks in a season with 56 in 2010-11; 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 121, which ranks third. She led the America East with 1.8 blocks per game last season. Obajolu set a school record with seven blocks against Coppin State on Nov. 16. The previous mark of six was achieved three times.
Welcome Home: Former Retriever standout Kristin Drabyn returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach this offseason. Drabyn was a four-year letterwinner from 2004-08, helping to lead the Retrievers to the 2007 America East title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. She is UMBC's career record-holder in free throw percentage (.887) and currently ranks second all-time in 3-pointers made (168) and third in 3-point percentage (.348). Drabyn was named to the America East All-Conference Third Team as a senior in 2008.
Follow the Retrievers: UMBC fans can now keep up with their favorite teams in a number of ways, as UMBC Athletics is on social media sites Twitter (@UMBCAthletics), Facebook andYouTube. Fans can also follow head coach Phil Stern on Twitter (@UMBCwbb), and the team can also be found on Facebook.
Retrievers All-Access: All of the Retrievers' home games will be video streamed live through UMBC's multimedia website, UMBCRetrievers.tv. An All-Access pass, available for $59.95, gives fans the opportunity to watch all the live coverage of various UMBC home athletic events. Single-game subscriptions for all live events will also be available throughout the season for $5.95.