BALTIMORE – UMBC women's basketball's freshman forward Sara Tarbert (Delta, Pa./Kennard-Dale) became the first Retriever rookie in this decade to register a double-double in her collegiate debut, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds, as UMBC defeated Eastern (Pa.), 59-50, in its season-opener on Monday night at the RAC Arena.
Tarbert added three assists and two steals en route to America East Player of the Game honors. Sophomore center Bridget O'Donnell (Belle Mead, N.J./Montgomery) added career-highs in points (13), rebounds (five) and blocks (four), while freshman point guard Emily Russo (Woodbine, Md./Glenelg) did a little bit of everything for the Retrievers, chipping in 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
UMBC (1-0) moves to 10-18 in season-openers since joining the Division I ranks, while Division III Eastern designated the game as an exhibition contest.
The Retrievers shot 46.2 percent (12-for-26) in the first half and drained six of its nine three pointers in the game during the period. Tarbert exploded out of the gates, scoring 10 of UMBC's first 14 points. The black and gold opened up a 12-point lead with 11 minutes to go in the first, following back-to-back treys from Russo.
Tarbert would go on to connect on four of her seven three-point attempts and score 18 of her game-high 21 points in the opening half, but EU's junior guard Kaitlyn Dougherty helped to keep the Eagles within striking distance, responding with 12 points of her own to bring Eastern's first-half deficit to 35-29 at the break.
The Eagles took advantage of UMBC missing its first five opportunities of the second period, as junior forward Meghan Nowak connected on a layup and a jumper to cut EU's deficit to two, 35-33. O'Donnell helped the Retrievers to gain some breathing room twice in the second half. The second-year center knocked down three buckets over a 4:24 span, coupled with a trey from newcomer Taylor Mills (Oregon City, Ore./Oregon City/San Diego Mesa College) to extend UMBC's lead back up to seven points, 47-40.
Eastern would chip away at the Retrievers' lead one more time, bringing the contest within three, at 49-46, but Tarbert hit on her only bucket of the second half and O'Donnell followed by knocking down a jumper and adding an old-fashioned three-point play to push the lead back to double-digits, 57-46. UMBC would coast from there to its first victory of the season.
Nowak and junior guard Gina DiDomenico joined Dougherty in double-figure points for the Eagles, finishing with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Nowak chipped in seven rebounds, while sophomore forward Bethany Zimmerman pulled down a team-best eight boards.
Despite UMBC holding a 22-12 advantage in points in the paint, the Eagles outrebounded the Retrievers, 37-30, in the contest. Eastern turned the ball over 19 times, resulting in 21 points for the black and gold.
UMBC jumps right back into action on Wednesday, Nov. 13 when it travels to local rival Coppin State. Tip-off is scheduled for noon at the Physical Education Complex on the Coppin State campus.
-UMBC is 7-5 in home-openers under head coach Phil Stern. The Retrievers are 4-8 in season-openers under Stern.
-All five of UMBC's starters earned their first collegiate starts in the contest.
-Sara Tarbert is the first freshman in the America East to post a double-double in her debut since Binghamton's Jasbriell Swain tallied 18 points and 11 rebounds in her debut on Nov. 12, 2010 against St. Bonaventure.
-Liz McNaughton dished out a career-high four helpers. Her 27 minutes of action was also a career-best. Fellow-sophomore Bridget O'Donnell also played a career-high 30 minutes.