BALTIMORE--Following an eight-day break for the holidays, the UMBC women's basketball team (6-5) closes out 2011 at the Hilton Garden Inn Hokie Classic in Blacksburg, Va. The Retrievers will take on High Point (4-5) on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and either Cincinnati (7-5) or host Virginia Tech (3-8) on Thursday.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: UMBC is coming off a 54-46 victory over in-state rival Navy on Tuesday, its third win in the last four games. Senior forward Erin Brown scored 20 points on a career-high six 3-pointers. She has eclipsed the 20-point plateau in three of her last four games, all Retriever wins. Senior guard Michelle Kurowski ranks third all-time at UMBC with 1,403 career points, the most among active players in the America East, while Brown is 11th in school history with 1,088 and leads the league with 16.4 ppg on the season. They are two of just 12 Retrievers ever in the 1,000-point/500-rebound club. The Retrievers lead the America East with a .752 free throw percentage. 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.
PANTHER UPDATE: High Point is 4-5 on the season after a 69-56 loss to Central Arkansas at the Bahamas Sunshine Shootout on Tuesday, its third straight loss. Guard Lindsay Plunkett led the Panthers with 12 points. Forward Shamia Brown is scoring a team-best 15.7 ppg this season, while center Cheyenne Parker is averaging a double-double of 14.7 ppg and 10.7 rpg. The Panthers are averaging 67.2 ppg as a team, but allowing 69.1 ppg. High Point was picked to finish second in the Big South preseason poll, and Brown was tabbed to the preseason all-cconference team.
BEARCAT UPDATE: Cincinnati is 7-5 on the season after a 70-54 win over Longwood on Thursday ended a five-game losing streak. Guard Bjonee Reaves leads the Bearcats with 14.3 ppg on the year.
HOKIE UPDATE: Virginia Tech is 3-8 on the year after a 69-41 loss to Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday. Guard Monet Tellier is averaging a team-best 13.9 ppg this season.
WHO'S UP NEXT: The Retrievers open America East Conference play at home against New Hampshire on Monday, Jan. 2. The Wildcats are 6-4 on the season. UMBC has won three straight against UNH and leads the all-time series, 9-7.
Inside the Series...
Wednesday's game marks the first-ever meeting between UMBC and High Point, and should the Retrievers face Cincinnati on Thursday, it would be their first-ever meeting with the Bearcats. However, UMBC and Virginia Tech have two previous matchups, including a 74-44 loss in Blacksburg on Jan. 3, 2010. In that game, guard Michelle Kurowski led the Retrievers with 13 points.
News And Notes...
For Starters: UMBC has at least six wins in its first 11 games for the first time since 2008, when it was 7-4.
Against the Best: UMBC's non-conference schedule features games against seven teams that advanced to the 2011 postseason. 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 3-3 against those teams following victories over Morgan State, Monmouth and Loyola and losses to Maryland, Princeton and Hampton.
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.
In the Ranks: In the most recent RPI report on RPIRatings.com, UMBC comes in at No. 93, one of two America East teams to crack the top 100 behind Hartford (28). Three of the Retrievers' first seven opponents this season rank in the top 30, including Maryland (7), Princeton (11) and Towson (26). In addition, America East ranks 11th out of 33 conferences in the nation.
Brown Out: After ranking fourth in the league in scoring with 14.3 ppg a year ago, senior forward Erin Brown leads the America East with 16.4 ppg this season, nearly two full points ahead of the next closest scorer, Albany's Ebone Henry (14.5 ppg). Brown has scored in double figures in all 11 games this season, and she has led the Retrievers in scoring eight times on the year. She has eclipsed the 20-point plateau in three of her last four games (UMES, 24; George Mason, 21; Navy, 20), all Retriever wins. Her 20 points against the Mids on Tuesday included a career-high six 3-pointers, as she also leads the America East with 2.8 triples per game.
Join the Club: Senior forward Erin Brown scored her 1,000th career point on Dec. 3 against Princeton, the 18th Retriever ever to reach the milestone. She joins classmate Michelle Kurowski in the 1,000-point/500-rebound club, just the second set of teammates in UMBC's Division I era to achieve both marks, joining Angel Webb and Anne Wellington (1992), and they are two of just 12 Retrievers ever. Kurowski ranks third all-time at UMBC with 1,403 career points and 14th with 543 rebounds, while Brown is 11th with 1,088 pionts and 15th with 539 boards.
Special K: Senior guard Michelle Kurowski is the America East's active career scoring leader with 1,403 points, which ranks 37th all-time in conference history, and she is seventh in the league in scoring this season with 12.7 ppg after ranking second with 14.6 ppg last season. Kurowski has averaged 13.6 points per game in her career, the fourth-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 from 2006-09.
Block Party: With two blocks against George Mason on Dec. 8, senior center Topé Obajolumoved into second place all-time at UMBC with 125 in her career. Obajolu set a school record for blocks in a season with 56 in 2010-11; Monica Logan's previous mark of 47 had stood since 1996-97. 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, 2010. The previous mark of six was achieved three times.
SeeSaw: UMBC's game against George Mason on Dec. 8 saw eight ties and 22 lead changes before the Retrievers pulled away with a 17-4 run over the final 4:51 of action.
Bouncing Back: After struggling from the floor in the previous three games, shooting 28.3 percent with six combined 3-pointers, the Retrievers made 24 of 48 field goal attempts (50 percent) against UMES on Dec. 6, including 14 of 23 (60.9 percent) in the second half, and drained a season-high 10 of 23 (43.5 percent) attempts from long distance. Senior guardMichelle Kurowski (6-of-9) and junior guard Raven Harris (5-of-6) combined to go 11-of-15 from the field.
Charity Case: UMBC still leads the America East and ranks 32nd in the nation with a .752 free throw percentage, led by senior guard Michelle Kurowski's .909 mark (40-for-40), which ranks third in the conference and 18th in the NCAA. 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 .855 mark at the charity stripe.
Charity Case, Part II: UMBC made just four of 23 field goal attempts in the second half against Loyola on Nov. 22, 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 18 of their last 21 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.
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 point 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.
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 68 of her 103 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 20-game double-figure streak which dates to Feb. 5 against Maine and has scored at least 10 points 60 times in her career.
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.
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 Big South: A former member of the Big South, UMBC is 53-45 all-time against current Big South opponents. The Retrievers have a winning record against Charleston Southern (8-6), Liberty (16-9), UNC Asheville (8-4) and Winthrop (7-5), with the most wins (16) coming against Liberty. UMBC has never faced Gardner-Webb, High Point, Presbyterian or VMI, and the Retrievers have not faced any team from the Big South since Dec. 7, 2004, when they fell to Radford, 47-42.
Bragging Rights: UMBC took on seven of the other eight Division I schools in the state of Maryland in 2010-11. The Retrievers hosted Morgan State (Nov. 11), Maryland (Nov. 19) and UMES (Dec. 6) and traveled 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 was 4-3 this season, defeating Morgan State, Loyola, UMES and Navy and falling to Coppin State, Maryland and Towson. The Retrievers are 80-127 all-time against the other eight Division I schools in the state.
In the Polls: The Retrievers are receiving votes in the most recent CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. Four of UMBC's opponents - Princeton (No. 7), Hampton (No. 8), Hartford (No. 15) and Towson (No. 24) - are ranked in the poll.
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.
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.
Three's Company: UMBC has made at least one 3-pointer in 63 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.
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. Carlee Cassidy in 2008 is the only other Retriever ever to earn first-team honors in the America East. In addition, 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).
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.