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UMBC to host Liberty in CIT quarterfinals

With victories over Fairfield and Saint Francis (Pa.), the UMBC Retrievers men’s basketball team will remain at home for the quarterfinals of the College Tournament. On Sunday, the Retrievers will host the Liberty Flames at 2 pm.

Liberty advanced to the quarterfinals after earning home victories over Norfolk State (73-64) and Samford (66-58).

In their win over Saint Francis (Pa.) the Retrievers secured their 20th win of the season, becoming just the third team in the program’s 30-year Division I history to reach that mark. UMBC is the third-most improved team in the country with 13 more victories than last year’s 7-25 campaign. The key behind UMBC’s turnaround has been their fast-paced and high-scoring offense. The Retrievers are ranked 22nd in the country with 81.8 points per game. They are 18th in the nation in made 3-pointers per game.

Jairus Lyles leads UMBC with 18.8 points per game and in the CIT he’s averaged 16 points per game. Senior Will Darley isn’t too far behind him and has set multiple 3-point records for UMBC this year as he’s shot 45.7-percent from behind the arc with 2.6 made triples per game. He has averaged 23.5 points per game and made five 3-pointers in a 30-point effort against the Red Flash in the second round of the CIT.

Liberty finished third in the Big South this season with a 14-4 league record and 21-13 overall record. They have gone 7-7 in 14 road games this season. While UMBC’s success has been because of their offense, Liberty thrived on their defense. This year they ranked 17th in the nation with only 62.9 points allowed per game. In their two CIT games they’ve allowed only 61 points per game.

Offensively, the Flames have a very balanced unit with five players averaging over seven points per game. Ryan Kemrite leads the team with 13.6 points per game and 80 3-pointers at a 42.6-percent clip. Kemrite had six 3-pointers and 30 points against Norfolk State while Lovell Cabbil made four triples and scored 25 points.

UMBC and Liberty have one common opponent this year, UMass Lowell. The Retrievers swept their America East opponent and scored over 100 points in both games. The Flames beat UMass Lowell 84-77 in November. However, that game was before top big man Caleb Homesley was lost for the season. The Flames have succeeded with a smaller lineup since then.

The Flames are coached by Ritchie McKay. He is in the second year of his second stint with Liberty. He coached the Flames for the 2007-08 and 08-09 seasons. In 2009 he guided Liberty to the CIT quarterfinals. Between his stints with the Flames McKay served as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett and has effectively brought the slow-paced and defensive style back to Lynchburg, Virginia. In his four overall seasons with Liberty McKay has gone 73-60. He also coached Portland State, Colorado State, Oregon State and New Mexico. Overall in 15 seasons he has a 52.2-percent winning percentage.

UMBC has not played Liberty since 1998 season and trailed the all-time series 4-18. The Retrievers and Flames were conference opponents twice. First at the Division II level in the Mason Dixon Conference for three seasons from 1983 to 1996 and then for six seasons in the Big South from 1992 to 1998.

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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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