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Miracle run: Reflecting on UMBC’s 2007-08 men’s basketball team

The UMBC men’s basketball team have struggled the last few seasons. Since 1986-87, the team has had five winning seasons. The team has not won more than ten games since the 2008-09 season. However, the Retrievers greatest season came the season before in 2007-08.

Before 2008, UMBC made just two postseason appearances in Division II. The 2007-08 Retrievers finished with a 24-9 record. Four players averaged at least 12.9 points per game. The Retrievers led the America East conference in points per game, point differential per game, three-point field goal percentage, assists per game, fewest turnovers per game, turnover differential and assist to turnover ratio. The Retrievers 318 turnovers were the fewest in the country.

On defense, the Retrievers ranked fifth in the conference and 158th in the country in points allowed per game. UMBC finished fourth in field goal percentage defense and third in three-point percentage against. The Retrievers finished second in blocks per game as well.

Unlike recent seasons where the losses come in bunches, the 2007-08 Retrievers only had one losing streak. Their longest losing streak was two games. The Retrievers longest win streak was nine games.

UMBC opened the 07-08 campaign with three straight wins over St. Peter’s University, La Salle University and the University of Richmond. “Getting off to a good start helps the players’ confidence,” then-head coach Randy Monroe said in the November 20, 2007 edition of the Retriever. “It helps because the players are playing together and getting positive results.”

The positive results continued as the season progressed. The Retrievers followed up their 5-1 November with a 3-4 December. The next month, the Retrievers went 6-2, winning their games by an average of 12 points.

The Retrievers lost only once for the remainder of the regular season. The one defeat was a 58-57 nail-biter against the University of Maine.

Guard Jay Greene and forward Darryl Proctor earned first team all-conference honors, the only two in school history. Greene averaged 8.8 points while leading the conference in assists per game (7.2). The Whitehall, Pa. native ranked fourth in the America East in three-point percentage (41 percent).

Proctor ranked seventh in the conference in scoring (15.1 ppg) while shooting 50 percent from the field. In addition, Proctor ranked fifth in steals per game (1.8) and second in rebounding (8.4).

The 07-08 Retrievers also had two second team all-conference players in guards Ray Barbosa and Brian Hodges. Barbosa led the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game. Also, Barbosa’s scoring average ranked fourth in the America East. Hodges averaged 14 points for the Retrievers with a .394/.375/.782 shooting line.

UMBC had a perfect 7-0 record in February. The Retrievers carried their hot streak into the America East tournament. The Retrievers handled Stony Brook University, University of Hartford and the University of Vermont to win the tournament. Consequently, UMBC qualified for its first NCAA Tournament and their third tournament overall.

The NCAA selection committee placed the Retrievers in the Midwest bracket with the 15th seed. Unfortunately, UMBC ran into the Georgetown Hoyas in the first round. Proctor’s 16 points, eight boards and seven steals were not enough to propel the Retrievers to victory. The Hoyas handled UMBC 66-47.

The Retrievers success failed to carry over to next season. UMBC lost Barbosa, Hodges and Cavell Johnson to graduation. As a result, the offense suffered. UMBC scored nine fewer points per game in 2008-09, 65.7 from 74.2. Their point differential per game fell to -3.3.  This resulted in a 15-17 finish for the Retrievers.

Nine seasons later, the Retrievers are still looking for their first winning season. New head coach Ryan Odom hopes to help bring UMBC back to the promised land.