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UMBC tops Red Flash, move to CIT quarters

By: Chris Jeter

UMBC was in a fast-paced offensive battle filled with 3-point shots, and that is exactly the kind of battle they love.

Throughout the season, the UMBC Retrievers magic number was 80. When the team scored at least that many points in a game, they went 14-1. In their second round CIT tournament matchup against the Saint Francis Red Flash, they reached that threshold and secured an 87-79 victory in front of 904 fans in the Retriever Activities Center and another 200-plus watching on Facebook Live.

Senior forward Will Darley led the charge for the Retrievers (20-12, 9-7 in America East), scoring a game-high 30 points. Darley made his first six baskets, five of them 3-pointers. The Timonium native went 9-for-16 from the field and scored in a variety of ways. Open looks, 3-pointers while falling down, layups off of give-and-go’s, Darley found many ways to put the biscuit in the basket. His performance was emblematic of the team’s success on offense.

“I think we did a really good job of sharing [the ball] and finding the open man,” Darley said.

Much like their first round game against Fairfield, the Retrievers led for most of the game, but their opponents never went away.

“I thought it was a good overall test for us,” UMBC head coach Ryan Odom said. “Our guys did their best to answer each charge.”

Both teams swapped the lead a couple of times in the first three minutes of the game. Sophomore forward Josh Nebo nailed a 3-pointer to give the Red Flash (17-17, 11-7 NEC) a 7-5 lead with 17:16 remaining in the first half. Sixteen seconds later, junior guard Jairus Lyles quickly answered back with a three of his own to give the Retrievers an 8-7 edge. UMBC never relinquished the lead after that, but it was not for a lack of trying on the Red Flash’s part.

UMBC held a 16-point lead with 12:04 remaining in the second half after a 3-pointer from redshirt junior guard Rodney Elliott. For the next six minutes, the Red Flash went on a 20-6 run to cut the Retrievers lead to 68-66 with 5:51 left in regulation. Forty-five seconds later, junior guard K.J. Maura hit a forward leaning three on the right wing to extend the Retriever lead to five and quell the Saint Francis threat.

“It speaks a lot to this team’s ability to play through adversity and withstand the runs and punch back when we need to,” Darley said.

The game had a pretty brisk pace to it. Both UMBC and Saint Francis entered the game ranked in the upper third in the country in pace, and the game lived up to their rankings. The two programs also shared an affinity for taking and a proficiency in making 3-pointers, taking a combined 57 shots from long distance. Both teams shot the ball well from downtown, 43-percent for UMBC and 41-percent for Saint Francis.

With the shooting about even between the two teams, UMBC controlled the offensive glass en route to the victory. The Retrievers outrebounded the Red Flash 12-3 on offense. This lended itself to their 14-3 edge in second chance points. The Retrievers were also more aggressive getting to the free throw line, going 14-for-17 from the stripe. Conversely, Saint Francis went 4-for-9 from the foul line.

Outside of Darley, three Retrievers scored double figures. Maura finished with 14 points and a team-leading five assists. Lyles recorded his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 boards. Elliott came off the bench and scored 11 points in 18 minutes, shooting 4-for-7 from the field and 3-for-5 from long distance.

For the Red Flash, sophomore guard Isaiah Blackmon led the team with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting along with six boards. Nebo and fellow sophomore Jamaal King scored 14 apiece. Nebo also collected seven rebounds while King dropped five dimes for Saint Francis.

Aside from advancing the Retrievers to the quarterfinals of the College Insider.com tournament, the victory was UMBC’s 20th of the year, making a 13-game improvement over last year with more game to go. It is just the third time in the program’s 30-year history at the Division I level that they’ve earned 20 victories and first since they went to the NCAA Tournament in 2008. The 2001-02 team also won 20 games.

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Chris Jeter

Staff Writer
Chris has always had a love for sports. He inherited his affinity for them from his New York Yankees-loving dad and grandad, even if they gave his beloved Orioles a hard time during their 14 years of futility. Chis grew up an Orioles, Ravens, Maryland Terrapins and Chicago Bulls fan. His love for the local teams can from his mother. His love for the Bulls came from Michael Jordan and his favorite color being red. As a youth, Chris played basketball, baseball, and soccer with varying degrees of success. He always wanted to play for a team in one of those sports when he grew up, but once he quickly realized that, that was probably not going to happen, Chris wanted to be a part of sports in some other way. Eventually, Chris settled on becoming a sports writer. A year after transferring to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he took Media & Communications Studies with a Journalism Minor, he began writing for The Retriever, initially as a contributing writer and eventually as a staff writer for sports. After several months writing for The Retriever, he began writing for So Much Sports, covering various college sports and as a columnist, writing about a variety of national sports topics.

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