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Retrievers CIT run ends in semifinals

Will Darley finished his career at UMBC with a remarkable turnaround campaign, taking UMBC from 20 total wins his first three seasons to 21 wins and a run to the semifinals of the CIT as a senior.

The only disappointing thing about the end to a great turnaround campaign for the UMBC Retrievers men’s basketball team is that they did not go down with their full team. There will always be a ‘what if’ involved about UMBC’s run in the College Insider.com Tournament that saw its end come in the form of a 79-61 loss to Texas A&M Corpus Christi at the UMBC RAC Arena on Wednesday night.

UMBC was without First Team All-Conference guard and leading scorer Jairus Lyles. He strained his knee in the quarterfinals game against Liberty and was in street clothes against the Islanders. UMBC was clearly bothered offensively by not having their top weapon, but while the season came to an end, maybe a sooner end than deserved, the Retrievers can have no ill feelings about this season.

It was a remarkable year for UMBC. After totaling only 41 victories in the previously seven seasons combined, UMBC won 21 games, the second most in program history only behind the 2007-08 AEC championship season. They won their first-ever national postseason tournament game and all under first-year head coach Ryan Odom. They’re had multiple record-setting performances. And they’ve appeared on ESPN‘s SportsCenter a number of times.

“It’s been a long journey,” UMBC senior Will Darley said. “It’s been a long four years and to have this senior season and go out the way Ben [Grace] and myself did has been great. Obviously, it’s tough not winning as much as we’d like and missing out on the postseason [the past three years]. Coach Odom and the staff came in and had a vision for where this program could be and worked extremely hard. Guys bought in and we had an amazing year. I’m just very fortunate and thankful to have been a part of it.”

This year’s team brought the excitement for basketball back to the school.

There were times early in Darley’s stint with the Retrievers that it seemed like the band and cheerleaders would out-number the fans sitting in the RAC watching the games. On Wednesday night the RAC had 1,388 people and earlier this year they had nearly 1,600 people at a game. Still maybe a far cry from the attendance during that championship run, but it was a tremendous atmosphere to watch a basketball game in, with the rowdy student section back in full swing, popping up out of their seats and yelling every time a shot swished the net or a block was smacked away or a ball was stolen and the Retrievers were on a fast break.

After the game and the completion of the playing of the UMBC alma mater, Odom grabbed a microphone to thank the fans for the support this year and stressed that this is only the beginning of something special coming to the school and something even more special should be coming next year when they open the new 5,000 seat UMBC Events Center next winter.

Without Lyles and against a physical and aggressive team, UMBC turned the ball over 21 times and saw their five-point halftime lead quickly evaporate as the Islanders shot 73.1-percent from the floor in the second half.

“I’d be crazy to say it didn’t impact our flow [not having Lyles] and you can see we were unsettled because he wasn’t out there and we just couldn’t get it back,” Odom said, but he continued to say that UMBC did not lose just because Lyles didn’t play.

But he also took time to praise his team.

“I want to congratulate our players, our staff. It was an amazing year, it was a lot of fun and a great ride,” Odom said. “I’m really proud of both will and Ben. Both gave us great senior leadership all year and [Will] finished it, went out with a bang. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to, but that’s going to happen. There is only one team that’s going to win the whole thing in this particular tournament and Corpus Christi is going to be tough to beat.”

Darley finished the game with 15 points, putting his season total at 552 points, the fifth-most in a single season in school history. He also had three 3-pointers made in the game to up his total to 90 this year, just one shy of Brian Neller’s record set in the 2012-13 season.

Rodney Elliott, who started in place for Lyles, finished the game with 15 points while freshman Arkel Lamar scored 10 points with six rebounds, two steals and a block off the bench.

Darley passed Lyles into 16th place on the all-time UMBC scoring list with 1,095 points in his career. Lyles, a junior, is 17th with 1,086 points in his career.

UMBC’s three CIT victories were their first in a postseason NCAA Division I Tournament and are the most ever recorded by an America East team.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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