The atmosphere was electric on Saturday, Feb. 3, as UMBC put on a show for the highly anticipated debut of the Event Center. “(It was) an amazing turnout” said coach Odom after the game. The Retriever fans packed the stands with 4,753 people in attendance to watch the first basketball game to ever be played in the new building. The stars were aligned for this to be one of the greatest days in UMBC history, but Vermont had other plans.
The night began as UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski cut the ceremonial ribbon to consummate the opening of the new arena. Then, the new bells and whistles of the arena were put on full display as the lights were dimmed, yellow lights beamed upon the court, and the starting lineups were announced. “We were really pleased with how the presentation went,” said Coach Odom. The fans in attendance seemed to be pleased as well, especially the student section who sat in awe, dazzled by all of the new features the arena had to offer.
The game started with Vermont missing a shot and UMBC missing one shortly after. It was then that the full effect of the arena could truly be felt, as Vermont rebounded the ball and took it up the court. The crowd’s voice was impressive, and UMBC quickly transformed itself from an easy place of play to a menacing home court as freshman Daniel Akin blocked a shot attempt from Vermont. The stadium rocked with excitement as the Vermont player fell to the court and kept rocking until senior guard Jairus Lyles drove to the basket to score the first ever Retriever points in the Event Center.
Sadly the crowd would not be enough to propel UMBC to a win over the 24-0 (in conference over the last 2 seasons) Vermont team. UMBC would come storming back from an early deficit to keep the first half interesting. The first half was filled with lead changes and exciting plays, but the Retrievers were visibly over-matched in the paint area where they met their downfall. Vermont would make a deflating shot with 6 seconds left in the half, and from there, things would only get worse for the Retrievers. In the second half, Vermont attacked the paint consistently, exposing UMBC’s weak interior defense to the tune of a 42-21 second half.
UMBC would eventually fall to Vermont 81-53 and suffer their first home loss of the season.The one bright spot on the court for the night was Jairus Lyles. In addition to scoring the first points in the history of the Event Center, Lyles would accumulate 27 points and 4 rebounds. Lyles also made 4 three-pointers on the night.
Women’s basketball followed suit at home on Thursday, Feb. 8 in their Event Center debut with a 68-53 loss to Binghamton, while the men redeemed themselves, winning two conference away games at Binghamton and New Hampshire. The boys will host Albany on Sunday, Feb. 18 as they move closer to the end of their season.