Placer being interviewed post-game. Photo by Alex McKenzie.
Bimini, Bahamas —
On day two of the Bimini Jam, the UMBC men’s basketball team had a difficult challenge to face. After a double-overtime win on Friday evening against Air Force, the Retrievers had to turn around the next morning and prepare for the second day of the tournament. UMBC returned to their hotel from practice around 1 p.m., only to head out again to play a game at 8:30 p.m on Saturday.
On Saturday evening the Retrievers were set to face High Point after the Panthers narrowly beat South Dakota the night before. During warm-ups, there was a concern as sophomore-center Daniel Akin was not dressed for the game. Akin has not played thus far this season, but he had dressed for all games up until this point. But, it was confirmed that Akin had not suffered a setback on his injury. There is no timetable on Akin’s return, the team is just waiting for clearance from doctors for him to resume five-on-five basketball activities.
Another concern during pre-game was the absence of junior-guard KJ Jackson and junior-forward Arkel Lamar from the starting lineup. The two juniors were late to the teams walk-through meeting earlier in the day and as a result, they were benched to start the game,
The game began on a High Point three-pointer from the right corner and after a shot clock violation by UMBC, High Point hit another three-pointer from nearly the same spot to take an early 6-0 lead. The first UMBC points of the game came after a High Point player knocked the ball out of bounds and freshman-guard Jose Placer took an inbound pass up the middle of the paint, driving to the rim for a layup.
With around 15 minutes to go in the first half, Jackson and Lamar entered the game for the first time after being benched. Shortly after, graduate-guard Joe Sherburne hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 7-7. Neither team would find a way to pull above a one-possession lead until Sherburne hit another three-pointer which rolled around the rim anxiously before deciding to fall into the net to give UMBC a 20-14 lead. From there Air Force would go on a 10-4 run to tie the game at 24-24 with 4:04 left in the half. Each team would go scoreless over the next two-plus minutes before UMBC junior-center Sam Schweitz made a layup on an assist from Placer. Schweitz would make 1/2 free-throws a minute and a half later to make the score 27-25. With the clock winding down High Point would miss a three-pointer to end the half at that same score.
In the second half, the Retrievers once again found their groove on offense. The half started with a layup from Lamar which kicked off a 6-0 run for UMBC to start the half. After a High Point basket, junior-guard Ricky Council II would hit a three-pointer and junior-forward Max Curran would make a dunk to give UMBC a 10-point lead. The Retrievers’ lead would get to 15 after Placer made two free throws with about nine minutes left in the contest and again with 7:50 left as Schweitz made a free throw to restore the comfortable lead. The lead would reach its highest seconds later as Jackson would make a layup to increase the lead to 17 with 7:17 left. Things seemed as if they were wrapped up after sophomore-forward Brandon Horvath made a dunk with 56 seconds left to give the Retrievers a 13-point lead, but High Point would cut the lead to 8 with just over 20 seconds left. But with 11 seconds left, Placer would make a free-throw and High Point would miss a 3-pointer to end the game with a 68-59 win for the Retrievers.
Placer netted a career high and lead the team with 13 points in his first career start, subbing for Jackson. He also notched 2 rebounds and 2 assists.
The Retrievers play again Monday at 8:30 for a chance to win the Bimini Jam against High Point at 8:30.