One thousand and eighty-one people reportedly filled the Event Center on Saturday afternoon, but the atmosphere made it feel like there was much more. The crowd was electric throughout Saturday’s contest, and they seemingly had an impact on the game. The validity of “home court advantage” is highly debated throughout sports, but it was hard to deny as the Retrievers began their America East Championship title defense against the Maine Black Bears.
Almost instantaneously the crowd provided assistance to the team, as they chanted “five … four … three … two … one.” At the end of their countdown, the Maine player took an awkward shot, seemingly trying to avoid a shot clock violation. As the Retrievers came down with the ball, there was a laugh spread through the crowd, as the shot clock still had plenty of time left.
The 2-13 Black Bears did not figure to be much of an obstacle for the Retrievers. They were picked to finish seventh overall in the America East preseason poll in what is seemingly a rebuilding year for the program. But, UMBC struggled through much of the first half, unable to keep pace with Maine. The Retrievers were beaten on both sides of the ball and went into halftime with a 31-19 deficit.
It seemed as if Maine would continue to dominate the Retrievers, with the Black Bears leading by as much as 13 points early in the second half. But the Retrievers would eventually find a rhythm and get themselves back into the game with an 8-0 run with about 15 minutes to go in the game. UMBC would tie the game at 43-43 as graduate-guard Joe Sherburne drove to the basket as he was fouled, converting the field-goal attempt, and the following free-throw.
The Retrievers defense dominated the last 7:22 of the game, as they held the Black Bears without a field-goal. They scored only 2 points over that time, and the Retrievers finished the game on a 10-2 run to beat Maine 61-52.
Sophomore-center Daniel Akin had a breakout game on the afternoon. Akin scored 12 points and registered 18 rebounds in his best performance since returning from a knee injury in December. Sophomore-Forward Brandon Horvath led the team with 13 points.
The Retrievers play again Wednesday night at 7 p.m. as they take on Hartford. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ ($$)
Around the America East
Binghamton beat New Hampshire 69-58. Binghamton’s Sam Sessoms scored 21 points.
Vermont dominated Albany 80-51. Vermont’s Anthony Lamb scored 16 points.
Stony Brook beat UMass Lowell 75-63. Akwasi Yeboah scored 19 points.