KJ Jackson driving to the basket for a layup. Photo by Alex McKenzie.
Bimini, Bahamas —
After a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and a short trip over the ocean to the Island of Bimini earlier in the week, the Retrievers tipped off the Bimini Jam on Friday night. After a dominating win against Manhattan on Monday UMBC’s record sat at 2-1 entering Wednesday’s contest.
The Retrievers began the afternoon on defense after losing the opening tip-off. They were playing tight defense and it looked as if Air Force would be stifled on the possession. Despite their defensive efforts, Air Force managed to convert a highly contested three-point shot to take an early lead. The UMBC offense had a quick pace on the afternoon, and junior-forward Max Curran kicked off the scoring for the Retrievers quickly as he maneuvered through defenders to deliver a layup. The two sides continued to play a fast-paced game, going back and forth for the majority of the first half with scoring, but UMBC maintained a narrow lead early on.
With about seven minutes left in the first half, Air Force took a 22-20 lead over UMBC after a three-pointer which continued what eventually amounted to a 10-0 run by Air Force. The scoring drought for UMBC would finally end on a layup by Arkel Lamar to cut the Falcon’s lead to 27-22. As the half came to an end a missed Air Force shot ricocheted off Curran’s head and was rebounded by Lamar. Lamar passed the ball to graduate-forward Joe Sherburne who drained a three-pointer to make the score 31-29. Air Force would score once more to close the half at 33-29.
Air Force would continue to keep UMBC at an arm’s length at the beginning of the second half. The Retrievers offense was struggling to find a consistent rhythm to close the gap. This was partially due to a change in Air Force’s defense as they began to apply pressure in the back court for much of the second half. With Air Force playing tight defense, the Retrievers were continually frustrated with the shot clock running out and so they had to create offense through quick crisp passing, hoping to create an open look for a shot.
The Retrievers’ woes would end with around 12 minutes left in the second half as Sherburne scored on two consecutive plays for a 5-0 Retrievers run. Though short, this run sparked the UMBC offense for the rest of the second half. After Sherburne’s run, sophomore-forward Brandon Horvath tied the game for the first time in the second half at 45-45. The game would remain close for the rest of the second half. Each team traded points tirelessly until, with 1:18 left, Curran gave UMBC a two point lead. But, Air Force would draw a foul to tie the game 62-62 with a minute left. With 32 seconds left in the game, Sherburne would miss a three-pointer, and junior-guard KJ Jackson missed a layup with five seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Both teams were held scoreless for the first minute of overtime until Jackson drew a foul and converted 1/2 free-throws. A minute later Curran would have a similar fate at the line that gave UMBC a 64-62 lead. With 2:20 left in the overtime period, it looked like Curran had given UMBC a shot to win the game after he converted two more free-throws. Air Force did not score their first points of the overtime period until the game had about 1:30 left, trimming the Retrievers’ lead with a layup. Air Force would draw a foul and convert 1/2 free throws to close the gap to 66-65. With 11 seconds left in the overtime, Curran committed a foul which gave Air Force a chance to win the game with two free-throws. The first shot went in without problem to tie the game, but the second did not go in. On the rebound by Curran, Sherburne attempted a long three-point shot which fell short of the basket and sent the game into a second overtime period.
The second overtime was scoreless for a minute and a half until Curran made a jump-shot to give UMBC the lead. The lead would last for about one minute until Air Force drained what seemed to be an impossible three-point shot while heavily guarded. After another minute, Horvath hit a three-point shot that brought his teammates, and the more than 30 UMBC fans in attendance, to their feet. With just under a minute Curran would give UMBC insurance with another layup that extended the lead to 74-69. With 22 seconds left, Air Force made things interesting by hitting a three-point shot to bring them within two points. After a Jackson free-throw, the Retrievers lead by three points and after an Air Force missed a three-point try Curran took the ball down to the other end of the court and slammed down a powerful dunk to cap off a 77-72 victory.
The Retrievers play High Point on Saturday night at 8:30 for a bid in the Bimini Jam championship game.