With a loss to the Stony Brook University Seawolves in the America East Tournament, the UMBC men’s basketball team wraps up another disappointing season, finishing the year with a 7–25 record and a 3–13 record in the America East conference. This is now the eighth straight season in which the Retrievers failed to finish the year with a winning record, due in part to a struggling defense.
Many of the losses weren’t close, losing by an average of 8.5 points per game, the second largest margin in the conference. Of the 24 losses, 14 came by a margin of at least 10 or more.
Leaky defense from the Retrievers helped lead to their struggles throughout the year. The Retrievers allowed 80.6 points per game, placing third to last in the America East. Nationally, the Retrievers placed 333rd in the country out of 346 Division I programs in scoring defense. In 12 of the Retrievers losses, they allowed 80 points or more and there were five games in which they gave up 90 points or more. Opposing offenses shot 49 percent against the Retrievers this year — the highest rate allowed in the America East and 342nd highest nationally. The Retrievers also allowed opponents to shoot a league high 38 percent from three point range, which also ranked 325th in the country.
Among the other struggles, there was a lack of interior defense, ranking third to last in the conference and 333rd in the country with 1.8 blocks per game. For comparison, the leading shot blocker in the country, University of Illinois-Chicago sophomore center Tai Odiase rejected 3.29 shots per game by himself. Rebounding also hampered the Retrievers this year, finishing with a negative 3.9 rebounding margin. The Retriever averaged a league low 23.1 defensive rebounds per game, good for 318th nationally.
With an offense ranking only 201st in the country, the Retrievers could not score consistently enough to overcome their defense. Among the struggles offensively, the Retrievers were 247th in the country in three point field goal percentage, 244th in assists per game and 309th in offensive rebounds per game.
The struggles on offense came in spite of the efforts of their two leading scorers, sophomore guards Jairus Lyles and Rodney Elliott. The Virginia Commonwealth University transfer did not play his first game until Dec. 19 against the Howard University Bison but made an immediate impact, averaging 23 points per game, which would have led the conference if he qualified for the league leader board. Lyles shot 47 percent from the field and made 34 percent of his three point attempts. Lyles was named to the America East All-Conference second team for his efforts. Elliott finished the regular season ninth in the America East in scoring, averaging 12.8 points per game. Elliott also finished second in the conference in assists per game with 3.6 per contest.
Another player finishing with end of the year honors was freshman Joe Sherburne. Sherburne earned America East All-Rookie team honors, averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 42 percent from the field and shooting 35 percent from three point range.
Looking ahead, the Retrievers will look to improve under a new direction with the dismissal of head coach Aki Thomas. Whoever the new head coach will be, that person will be inheriting a team that is losing only one player to graduation, forward Cody Joyce. As of right now, only one player has committed to UMBC for next season according to ESPN.com, Cole Long, a 6’7″ forward from Toronto, Canada. The new coach will also have a full season with Lyles and Elliott in the backcourt to go along with forwards Sherburne and junior Will Darley.
The Retrievers look to avoid nine straight seasons with a losing record.