The last time the UMBC Retrievers stepped on the court at Patrick Gymnasium at the University of Vermont, they cut down a net. It was the net that changed the history of UMBC sports for eternity, as moments earlier Jairus Lyles hit a game winning 3-point shot with 0.5 seconds left in the America East Championship game.
On Wednesday night, the Retrievers made their return to Burlington for the first time since that historic afternoon in March, but the stakes were much different. There would be no net cutting at the end of the game, no trophy presentation, and no trip to March Madness on the line. This game, though it counts for seeding in the America East tournament, was all about defending their America East title. For Vermont, it was all about revenge.
Early on, it looked like the Catamounts would get exactly that. Vermont started off quickly with three consecutive 3-point shots to give themselves a 9-0 lead. But, the Retrievers would quickly narrow that gap. However, UMBC would still trail for most of the first half. They would keep Vermont within an arms reach, however, and they would finally be able to tie up the contest for the first time after freshman-guard Jose Placer used a layup to even things at 29-29. Vermont would respond minutes later with a 3-point shot in the closing minute of the half. UMBC would respond on the other end of the court as with the shot clock winding down, sophomore-forward Brandon Horvath launched a 3-pointer of his own from almost half court, with a hand in his face. The shot would fall, leaving the two teams tied at the half.
Vermont’s 3-pointer scored in the closing minute of the first half was the last field-goal the Catamounts would make for quite some time. UMBC would use their nationally acclaimed defense to stifle Vermont for almost 12 minutes, as they were unable to convert from the field until there was 8:42 left in the half.
The Retrievers led by as many as 16 points in the second half, but Vermont was eventually able to cut that lead in half with just under four minutes left in the game. However, UMBC was able to immediately re-extend their lead to double-digits. They never again led by less than 10 points, despite Vermont’s attempts to get back into the game by fouling. UMBC would win the game 74-61.
The Retrievers were previously 0-23 against Vermont, but they have now won their last two meetings.
Graduate-forward Joe Sherburne led the team on offense as he scored 20 points. Sherburne went 6-10 from the field, adding 4 rebounds and 6 assists on the evening.
Junior-forward Arkel Lamar, who has impressed since returning to the starting lineup scored 13 points, going 4-5 from the field with 7 rebounds.
Freshman-guard Jose Placer continued his hot streak of late. After being named last week’s America East rookie of the week, he scored 14 points with 4 rebounds and 6 assists.
The Retrievers play again on Saturday as they take on the New Hampshire Wildcats in New Hampshire. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ ($).