BALTIMORE--Fresh off a dominating 72-50 season-opening win over Morgan State, the UMBC women's basketball team hits the road for the first time on Sunday afternoon when it visits former Northeast Conference rival Monmouth for a 3 p.m. tipoff.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: UMBC is coming off a 72-50 victory over cross-town rival Morgan State in the season opener on Friday. Four Retrievers scored in double figures, led by junior guard Brittany Crowell's 17 points and senior forward Erin Brown's double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Michelle Kurowski recorded her 500th career rebound in the game, becoming the 11th Retriever ever with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in her career. She scored 13 points against the Lady Bears to move into sixth place all-time at UMBC with 1,276 points, the most among active players in the America East. The second-best defensive team in the league last season, the Retrievers held Morgan State to just 29.5 percent shooting in the game and also dominated the boards, 45-30. 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.
HAWK UPDATE: Monmouth opens its 2011-12 season against UMBC on Sunday. The Hawks are coming off a 23-10 season in which they earned a WNIT bid after falling in the Northeast Conference title game as the second seed. Junior guard Alysha Womack was tabbed to the Preseason All-NEC Team after leading the Hawks with 12.5 ppg last season and earning All-NEC Second Team honors. Forward Abby Martin was Monmouth's top rebounder with 7.0 rpg a year ago.
WHO'S UP NEXT: The Retrievers visit cross-town rival Coppin State on Wednesday. UMBC is 11-9 all-time against the Eagles. Coppin State, which was picked to finish sixth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, dropped its season opener to Robert Morris, 62-47, on Saturday.
Inside the Series...
Sunday's game marks the 12th all-time meeting between UMBC and Monmouth, and the Hawks hold an 8-3 series lead, but the teams have not met since 2003 in the Northeast Conference semifinals, when the Retrievers won, 48-50. Prior to that, Monmouth had won seven straight against UMBC as NEC rivals. The first meeting occurred on Dec. 29, 1991, a 76-75 victory for the Retrievers in the La Salle Tournament.
In the last meeting between the two teams, the 2003 Northeast Conference semifinals, the Retrievers defeated the Hawks, 48-40. Shalayna Johnson poured in a game-high 23 points to help seventh-seeded UMBC knock off No. 3 Monmouth.
News And Notes...
For Starters: UMBC won its season opener for the first time since 2005, which coincidentally was also a 72-50 victory over Morgan State.
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, 2010-11).
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.
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 1-0 against those teams following a 72-50 season-opening victory over Morgan State.
Home Sweet Home: UMBC's 72-50 victory over Morgan State in Friday's season opener was its school-record 12th straight win at the RAC dating to Dec. 4, 2010. The previous mark of 11 was set from Jan. 28, 1986-Jan. 22, 1987. The Retrievers went 12-1 at the RAC last season, a new school Division I record for home wins. Since Feb. 7, 2010, the Retrievers have won 16 of their las 17 home games.
Join the Club: Senior guard Michelle Kurowski recorded her 500th career rebound on Friday against Morgan State, making her the 11th Retriever ever with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. Kurowski also moved into sixth place all-time at UMBC with 1,276 career points, the most among all active players in the America East. She became the 17th member of UMBC's 1,000-point club on Jan. 3, 2011, at Stony Brook. 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 the 15th member of the 500-rebound club.
Balanced Attack: Four Retrievers scored in double figures in the season opener agaisnt Morgan State on Friday. 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: Seven of the Retrievers' 10 returning players have scored in double figures at least once in their careers, led by senior guard Michelle Kurowski, who has reached double digits in 62 of her 93 career games, including a career-best eight straight from Dec. 21, 2010-Jan. 20, 2011. In addition, senior forward Erin Brown scored at least 10 points in 26 of 32 games last season and is currently riding a 10-game double-figure streak which dates to Feb. 5 against Maine.
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.
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). Last season, UMBC posted a 4-2 record against its in-state rivals, defeating Coppin State, Loyola, Towson and Navy but falling to Maryland and UMES. The Retrievers are 76-124 all-time against the other eight Division I schools in the state.
In the Polls: The Retrievers are ranked 21st in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 preseason poll. UMBC received 150 points to crack the top 25 for the first time after consistently receiving votes during the final six weeks of the 2010-11 campaign. Two of UMBC's 2011-12 opponents - Princeton (No. 4) and Hampton (No. 11) - are also ranked in the top 25, while Navy, Hartford, Boston University and Loyola all received votes.
Against the NEC: Former Northeast Conference member UMBC is 63-79 all-time against current members of the NEC. The Retrievers have a winning record against Central Connecticut State (11-8), Long Island (5-4), Robert Morris (6-5), St. Francis-N.Y. (8-1) and St. Francis-Pa. (5-4), with the most wins (11) coming against Central Connecticut State and the most losses (28) against in-state rival Mount St. Mary's.
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.
Junior Circuit: UMBC's three juniors accounted for 69.5 percent of the team's scoring last season (1,263 of 1,817 points). Guard Michelle Kurowski led the Retrievers with 14.6 points per game, followed by forward Erin Brown (14.3 ppg) and center Topé Obajolu (10.6 ppg). Kurowski ranked second the America East, while Brown was fourth and Obajolu 12th; UMBC was the only team with three players ranking in the top 15 in scoring in the America East.
Special K: Senior guard Michelle Kurowski ranked second in the America East with 14.6 points per game last season. She 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. Kurowski is the America East's active scoring leader with 1,263 career points.
Charity Case: Guard Michelle Kurowski led the America East in free throw percentage for the second year in a row in 2010-11, and her .894 clip from the foul line was a UMBC record and ranked sixth in the NCAA. Kurowski ranks second all-time at UMBC to current assistant coach Kristin Drabyn with a career .848 mark at the charity stripe. As a team, UMBC led the America East with a .735 free throw percentage, as well.
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.
Tenacious D: UMBC ranked second in the America East and 16th in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense last season, holding opponents to a .352 clip, and also ranked second in the league and 33rd in the country in scoring defense, allowing 56.0 ppg. Opponents shot less than 40 percent against UMBC in 25 of 32 contests last season, including less than 30 percent seven times.
Three's Company: UMBC has made at least one 3-pointer in 52 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.
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 and YouTube. 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.