The University of Maryland, Baltimore County men’s basketball kicked off the America East Playoff Quaterfinal on Saturday, Mar. 7 by hosting the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. With a packed student section decked in white apparel and waving photos of head coach Ryan Odom, the Retrievers pushed past the Wildcats 73-67.
The Retrievers looked to be aggressive on both the offensive and the defensive sides of the ball against the Wildcats, and as a team, they executed their game plan and came out victorious. UMBC’s defensive strength overwhelmed the Wildcats, forcing them to either charge unsuccessfully into the paint or make three pointers.
The Wildcats depended on making their three point shots to beat the Retrievers; over 27 of their points came from the perimeter, 18 of which coming from UNH sophomore guard Marque Maultsby. The Retriever’s poor perimeter defense and lack of pressure on the Wildcats let them shoot a 39.3 percent from three point range. Despite poor perimeter defense, UMBC’s overall defensive plays forced 15 turnovers and lead to 22 points.
Senior guard K.J. Jackson made three of these turnovers. Jackson made three steals during the game, two of which resulted in fast breaks, which helped him lead the Retrievers with 25 points.
Points in the paint — those scored in the colored area under the basket — also boosted UMBC to their victory. Their total points from within the paint were more than double the Wildcats’; the Retrievers finished the game with a total of 38 points in the paint, while the Wildcats only scored 18 points.
The difference between the Retrievers’ and the Wildcats’ ability to drive the ball into the paint played a large role in the outcome of the game. The Wildcats could not play aggressively enough without fouling; by the end of the game, three of the five Wildcats on the court amassed four fouls, one short of being pulled from the game. With the fear of getting sidelined for the rest of the game, the Wildcats could not play tough enough to stop the Retrievers from penetrating their defense.
With so many fouls on the Wildcats, UMBC had many free throw opportunities. Unlike in previous games, the Retrievers did not struggle to make free throws. UMBC had an 80.8 free throw percentage, 5.8 percent higher than the Wildcats’ and over 12 percent higher than when they beat the University of Stony Brook Seawolves on Tuesday, March 3.
While their plays did not receive standing ovations from the Retriever fans, UMBC’s reserves, junior forward Dimitrije Spasojevic and sophomore guard Keondre Kennedy, contributed to the team’s win. Spasojevic and Kennedy brought energy to the Retrievers and their plays each time they were subbed in. Both players ended the game with six points and three rebounds, helping the Retrievers get the ball in their position and push it down the court.
The Retrievers’ successes against the Wildcats brought new excitement to the team.
As the Retrievers headed back to their locker room, Jackson told the remaining fans in the stand, “We’re not done yet!”
The rest of the Retrievers are not dwelling on their win against UNH either. The team looks towards their semi-final game on Tuesday, March 10 against the number one seed, University of Vermont Catamounts. Having both lost to and beaten the Catamounts, the Retrievers must further fortify their defense and push even further into the paint if they wish to win the America East Championship.