The University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s men’s basketball team hosted the University of Hartford Hawks on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Despite the Hawks standing at third in the America East, compared to UMBC’s sixth place standing, the teams seemed evenly matched. With the score being tied a total seven times and a total of seven lead all came, most of the real gameplay came in the second half. Hartford fought hard, but the Retrievers pulled away in the middle of the second half and pushed past the Hawks 70-59. This win puts UMBC 3-6 in the conference and Hartford at 6-3.
The Retrievers and the Hawks balanced each other throughout the first half. Neither team allowed the other to get more than five points ahead. The greatest lead came from UMBC after sophomore guard R.J. Eytle-Rock made a jump-shot to lead Hartford 19-14. However, the Hawks immediately responded with a three-pointer, bringing the game back within two points.
It was not until the second half that UMBC put a stop to the trading of leads. The Retrievers came out of halftime with intense defense. Throughout the second half, they showed Hartford different defensive looks, switching from man-to-man to 1-3-1 defense (one defender at the point, three defenders across the free throw line, and one defender under the basket) in attempt to apply pressure to the offense and trap them. The different defensive looks threw Hartford off, giving UMBC control of the game for the remainder of the half.
On top of preventing the Hawks from scoring, the Retrievers’ defensive strategy also gave them the opportunity to score through fast-break points. Junior forward and guard Brandon Horvath took one of these opportunities, turning over the ball and rushing Hartford’s basket.
UMBC’s head coach Ryan Odom was pleased with how the Retrievers came out after halftime with intensity and aggressive plays. Odom states defense is a key part of their play style.
“We put an emphasis on defense every game, every play, and every practice. We want to focus on applying pressure to other teams and really make them uncomfortable on offense, and we did a good job with that tonight,” Odom explained.
Besides Odom’s defensive strategy, the Retrievers’ win was secured by Eytle-Rock’s impressive plays. He ended the game with a record-high total of 21 points, shooting 9-15 from the field. All of Eytle-Rock’s offensive plays were fluent with him making his points within the offensive.
The types of plays Eytle-Rock made last night are the ones he consistently practices and looks for in games. Eytle-Rock explained that he tries to take what the defense gives him, turning every block and pass into an opportunity to score. His best shots are when he is most comfortable, planting his feet before shooting.
“We work on those types of shots in practice. Coach calls them ‘parked shots,’” Eytle-Rock explained. “Tonight, my teammates did a good job of putting me in different positions to score the ball and they just told me to keep shooting, so that is what I did.”
UMBC’s played on the road against UMASS Lowell on Saturday, Feb. 8, beating them 60-50. The Retrievers will look to continue this winning streak into next week when they play the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 15.