Stern Looks to Guide No. 7 UMBC to Another Cinderella Run at the America East Championships
BALTIMORE – The seventh-seeded UMBC women's basketball team opens its 11th America East Championships on Friday, March 7 when it takes No. 2 Stony Brook in quarterfinal action. Tip-off is set for noon at SEFCU Arena, broadcast live on ESPN3, with Eric Frede and Vera Jones on the call.
UMBC is playing in its 11th America East Conference Championships since joining the league in 2003-04 and looks to once again make noise as the No. 7 seed of the tournament. The Retrievers had never won an America East Tournament game before 2007, when they made a Cinderella run through the league to win their first-ever conference title and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Seventh-seeded UMBC became the first team in America East history to defeat the top three seeds in the tournament (No. 2 Stony Brook 67-64/Quarterfinals, No. 3 Vermont 67-56/Semifinals, No. 1 Hartford 48-46/Finals) and were the lowest seed ever to win the league championship. The 16th-seeded Retrievers then fell to top-seed Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This was not the first time that head coach Phil Stern turned heads as the seven-seed. During his first season with the Retrievers, Stern led UMBC to the Northeast Conference Tournament finals, defeating second-seeded Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Monmouth in the semifinals, before falling to top-seeded and regular-season champion St. Francis (Pa.) in the title game. The Retrievers enter the tournament with a 5-1 record all-time as a No. 7 seed in conference tournaments.
SCOUTING THE NO. 7 RETRIEVERS (4-24, 3-13): The Retrievers, who were picked to finish seventh in the America East Coaches' Preseason poll, own the youngest roster in the America East, as the squad features nine newcomers, while returning one senior and a pair of sophomores. UMBC returned eight percent of its scoring from a year ago and had a combined 21 Division I starts on its roster coming into the season, all coming from senior captain Dana Lewis, who has been sidelined due to injury throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
UMBC won two of its last four games to enter its 11th America East Championships as the seventh-seed, but the black and gold enters the tournament without a player on the active roster with postseason playing experience. In his 12th season at the helm of the Retrievers, head coach Phil Stern is one of three active America East coaches that have won an AEC title and is nine victories away from becoming the program's all-time winningest coach. Stern is 5-1 with UMBC as the No. 7 seed in conference tournaments, having guided the Retrievers to a Northeast Conference Finals appearance in 2003 and an America East title in 2007.
The Retrievers are coming off a 66-60 double overtime victory at Binghamton in the regular-season finale that captured UMBC the seventh-seed. Freshman guard Taylor McCarley posted the first triple-double in program history in the victory, tallying 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists en route to capturing the final America East Rookie of the Week honor of the 2013-14 campaign. Junior guard Janelle Saling connected on five-of-eight shots from beyond the arc to add a collegiate-career best 16 points in the victory.
The Retrievers have been led offensively by a pair of freshman in forward Sara Tarbert and McCarley. Tarbert enters the tournament on a 12-game double-digit scoring streak, that has included four 20-point performances and two double-doubles. Tarbert leads all America East freshman in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (6.9), ranking fourth and sixth, respectively among all America East players. The forward has accumulated a program-record five America East Rookie of the Week honors on the season, while McCarley has chipped in three distinctions of her own. McCarley has upped her scoring average to 10.9 points per game during league play and has 12 double-digit scoring games on the year. The guard ranks in the top-10 in the conference in assists (3.3) and steals (2.0) during league play. McCarley has made a living by getting to the free throw line this season, attempting 10-or-more free throws on five separate occasions and standing one free throw attempt shy of entering into UMBC's single-season record list (135).
Sophomores Bridget O'Donnell and Liz McNaughton represent the lone active returners from a season ago, each having started 26-of-28 contests on the year. O'Donnell leads the league in blocked shots per game (1.6) and currently ranks third in UMBC's single-season block list. The center ranks second on the team in rebounding (5.1) and is adding 6.3 points per game. McNaughton has taken over as defensive specialist for the Retrievers throughout the 2013-14 season and is chipping in 5.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
SCOUTING THE NO. 2 SEAWOLVES (22-7, 13-3 aec): Stony Brook has won seven in a row and enters the tournament as the second seed. SBU is coming off its biggest win of the season with Saturday's 66-56 victory against top-seeded Albany in the regular-season finale. The Seawolves ended Albany's 38-game America East win streak and put a stop to the Great Danes second straight undefeated conference season. Senior guard Chikilra Goodman registered a double-double, finishing with 13 points and 14 rebounds, while junior guard Jessica Ogunnorin poured in a career-high 18 points to go with nine rebounds.
Junior Sabre Proctor leads the squad and ranks third in the league in scoring (14.9 ppg), while also adding 5.7 rebounds a game (14th in the AEC). Goodman has posted a team-best six double-doubles on the year and ranks in the top-10 in the conference in both scoring (11.8) and rebounding (7.8).
INSIDE THE SERIES: UMBC and Stony Brook are an even 12-12 after 24 all-time meetings. The Retrievers hold a 2-0 advantage in America East Tournament games, defeating the Seawolves in the 2007 and 2011 championships.
-UMBC has met Stony Brook in the quarterfinals of the America East Championships twice. In 2007, SBU swept the regular-season meetings, but the seventh-seeded Retrievers defeated the second-seeded Seawolves, 67-64, during the tournament. In 2011, top-seeded UMBC took all three matchups against Stony Brook, including a 74-65 victory versus No. 8 Stony Brook.
-The Retrievers had won seven straight meetings against Stony Brook coming into the 2013-14 season, but were swept by the Seawolves during the regular-season for the first time since 2010.
-UMBC is shooting 53.2 percent from the field this season against Stony Brook, but is minus 12.0 in the turnover battled against Stony Brook. The Seawolves are shooting 40.0 percent against the Retrievers, but have connecting on eight three-point field goals per game in the two meetings.