Jackson against Manhattan on Monday night. Photo by Alex McKenzie.
Men’s basketball’s junior-guard KJ Jackson is adjusting well to the competition at the Division I level. After dazzling at Temple last season with an average of more than 25 points per game, Jackson figured to be an offensive weapon for the Retrievers this season. After struggling in his first game as a Retriever going 1-6 from the field and scoring 7 points against Marquette he has steadily gotten better each game. On Monday night. the Retrievers were set to face Manhattan in their first contest against another mid-major opponent, and Jackson had a breakout game.
Slow starts offensively have been a theme for the Retrievers early this season and that continued on Monday. UMBC was scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the game, keeping Manhattan to only a three-point shot during that stretch. The offense finally broke out of its slump as junior-forward Arkel Lamar hit a long three-point shot to tie the game at 3-3. Then Lamar stole the ball from Manhattan, and ran the ball up the court, finishing with a powerful dunk.
At that point, the pace of the game became very rapid as each team was running up and down the court, exchanging points for two minutes, before a string of misses that led to three minutes worth of back-and-forth missed shots. This scoreless stretch was ended when Jackson hit back-to-back three-pointers to give UMBC a 21-14 lead. After a Manhattan layup with 7:07 left in the half, the Retrievers offense would dominate, going on a 14-0 run over the next four-plus minutes to give UMBC a 37-18 lead. Manhattan would respond with an 11-1 run over a less than four minute stretch. Graduate-forward Joe Sherburne would attempt a layup and get his own rebound in the closing seconds of the quarter, scoring from just underneath the hoop to give UMBC a 40-30 lead at the half.
Jackson would start the half with back-to-back layups for the Retrievers. After a Manhattan jump shot, UMBC would convert three consecutive three-point shots to produce a 9-0 run. The teams would trade baskets over the next three and a half minutes to give UMBC a 59-39 lead over Manhattan with 12:39 left to play in the game. The two teams then went scoreless once again, this time for a stretch of about three minutes. The scoreless draught was broken when UMBC sophomore-forward Brandon Horvath converted a free-throw. Two minutes later, after the teams traded buckets, with Horvath under the basket, junior-center Sam Schweitz passed him the ball, and he unleashed a monster dunk which sent the crowd into a frenzy. After letting go of the rim, Horvath stared down the defender that had fouled him on the dunk in a fiery display of competitiveness. Horvath would be assessed with a technical foul.
Over the last few minutes of the game, Jackson would add 4 more points, giving him a total of 20 points on the night. He also added 7 rebounds and 7 assists to go with his impressive point total. This was most definitely a breakout game for Jackson, posting career highs and leading the team in those three categories and in minutes played. Over the last two games, he has demonstrated that his abilities that he displayed at Temple College for two years most certainly translate at the Division I level. The Retrievers will certainly look to Jackson all year to be a playmaker for them on offense, along with Lamar who registered 15 points and 5 steals on the night.
The Retrievers will travel to the Bahamas on Thursday to face Air Force in the Bimini Jam. They will also take on High Point and South Dakota during the trip. The Retriever will be bringing live Twitter coverage throughout the tournament. Fans can also expect a limited edition magazine to commemorate the tournament.