Retrievers’ Dream Run Ends in Title Game at Albany

Topé Obajolu led UMBC with a team-high 16 points
Topé Obajolu led UMBC with a team-high 16 points

ALBANY, N.Y. – Looking to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in school history, the No. 5-seed UMBC women's basketball team came up one step short, falling to No.2-seed Albany, 69-61, in the America East Championship Game Saturday night at SEFCU Arena.

UMBC (17-15) will now wait to hear if the team as earned a spot in the WNIT Tournament.  The tournament committee will announce the 64-team field late Monday evening.  With the win, the Great Danes earn the America East automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Senior Topé Obajolu (Randallstown, Md./Archbishop Carroll) led the Retrievers with 16 points Saturday, while junior Kristin Coles added 12 points.  Seniors Erin Brown (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) and Michelle Kurowski (Hicksville, N.Y./Hicksville) each netted 10 points against Albany.

Following the game, Brown and Kurowski were both named to the All-Tournament team for their efforts in the Retrievers' run to the championship game.

After a cagey opening few minutes, Albany took the initiative in the game, using a quick 8-0 run to build a seven point lead, 11-4, following a three-point basket by Cassandra Callaway at the 15:04 mark.

The Retrievers edged their way back into the game however, and tied the game at 20 with a jumper from sophomore Dana Lewis (Brodhead, Wisc./Brodhead) with 6:35 remaining in the opening period.

The two teams traded buckets for a few minutes before the hosts were able to run to an eight point lead, 34-26, with just over a minute left.   Obajolu cut the lead to seven, 34-27, with a free throw with 27 seconds left to provide the halftime score.

Both teams shot well in the opening period, with the Great Danes making 52-percent (13-of-25) of their shots and the Retrievers netting 45-percent (13-of-29) of their attempts.

Coming out of the break, both teams got defensive, not allowing the opposition to score for nearly two minutes.  Albany Lindsey Lowrie finally broke the lull with a jumper, pushing the lead to a game-high nine points, 36-27.

The Retrievers charged back though, using a 12-5 run to cut the lead to just two, 41-39, on a three from Brown in the left corner at the 12:15 mark.  After pulling within two points three more times, UMBC tied the game at 48 with a jumper from Coles.

The Great Danes responded with a 13-5 run to build an insurmountable eight point lead, 61-53, on a bucket from Tournament MVP Ebone Henry with 2:54 remaining.  Henry finished tied for the scoring lead with teammate Cassandra Callaway, who also scored 23 points.

Kurowski brought UMBC to within five, 63-58, with a lay-in, but the Retrievers could get no closer as the Great Danes made 4-of-5 free throws in the final minute to close out the win.

GAME NOTES

-           UMBC was only the second No. 5-seed to ever make it to the championship game

-          Kristin Coles has scored in double figures in a career-high five straight games.

-          Michelle Kurowski has scored ten or more points in 16 of the Retrievers last 18 contests.

-          With her 10 points, Kurowski moved into 18th on the America East all-time scoring list.  She has scored 1,690 points in her four years at UMBC.

-          She also grabbed four rebounds against the Great Danes to move past Valerie Bowles (1984-88) and into 10th place on UMBC's all-time list.

-          Erin Brown played all forty minutes to become only the fourth Retriever to ever play over 3,800 minutes in a career.