You live by the three, you die by the three. If you watch any or listen to any basketball broadcast and you will surely hear the color commentators repeat the phrase that has surpassed the realm of cliché and now exists only as empty air. As a waste of breath that’s only purpose is filling awkward lulls between analysis. Yet, somehow this could not have been more true in the Lady Retrievers’ loss to the University of Hartford Hawks in the America East quarterfinals.
Neither team was a stranger to letting it loose from deep this season as the Hartford Hawks led the conference in three-point shooting percentage while the Retrievers were not far behind, ranking third. Neither team was shy of letting it loose on Saturday either as they both jacked up at least 28 attempts at triples. In the NBA only one-third of teams attempt a higher number shots from beyond the arc. However, while Hartford converted 12 of 31, UMBC only hit five of 28.
On Saturday, UMBC fell by a score of 74-40. Ironically, while both teams are accurate from deep, they both struggled at stunting opposing teams from raking in threes. UMBC ranks last in this category allowing opponents to hit nearly 35 percent of three pointers. This, combined with the Hawks averaging 34 percent as is, it surely did not create an ideal scenario for the Retrievers.
Both teams opened the game playing zone defense. Despite the inverse results both teams used the strategy throughout the match. Hartford’s defense was smothering for much of the contest as they played a 3/4 press that made bringing the ball past half court a chore, they also trapped the ball as often as possible. The Hawks defense was on Saturday night and yet, this would likely go unnoticed if you solely looked at the turnover ratio as both teams committed 15.
But as anyone who watched the contest could tell you Hartford’s zone was suffocating and, at times, seemed impenetrable. Unlike Hartford, UMBC failed to capitalize on the turnovers they forced as they mustered only three points compared to the 20 scored by the Hawks.
The Lady Retrievers played the first three quarters from beyond the three-point arc as they had no answer for the Hartford defense. The shots that had fallen in the regular season refused to go down in this outing. Despite the disruptive Hartford defense the Retrievers were never stagnant, frequently moving without the ball, setting screens and fiercely swinging the ball around the perimeter in search of some daylight. The Hawks granted none. That is, until the team began to feed senior Pandora Wilson who notched her first points of the game with two minutes to go in the first half. Wilson finished the game with seven points, three rebounds, and a steal.
Junior Laura Castaldo played all but three minutes in this match up, leading UMBC in scoring, rebounds, and assists with 10, five and three, respectively. The guard scrapped for 50-50 balls, crashed the boards as she did everything she could to gain extra possessions for her squad. Senior Taylor McCarley also played the majority of the game but UMBC’s floor general struggled against the zone, infrequently getting into the lane and only scoring two points. On defense, McCarley was very active, sprinting from sideline to sideline, but the team just could not solve the high-flying Hartford offense.
Hartford won the opening tip and never looked back as they scored the game’s opening 10 points on route to an eight-point lead in the first quarter. The Retrievers battled hard throughout the contest to try to cut the deficit. All efforts were foiled by the Hawks who climbed out to a 34-point lead with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Junior Darby Lee terrorized the Retrievers as she ended the game with a perfect eight for eight, tallying 16 points and 11 boards to complete her double-double.
Lee hit several jumpers from the teeth of the UMBC zone as she found a sweet spot 15 feet from the basket. Hartford’s leading scorer Deanna Mayza was fairly-well contained in the first half as the Retrievers held her to five points before she hit a three just seconds before halftime. The senior went off in the second half as her 21 points led both squads to go along with her six assists and three steals.
While the Lady Retrievers’ season has come to an end they certainly have a ton to be proud about as they climbed out of their rocky start to the year. They improved on last year’s conference record, points per game, and three point shooting percentage. Meanwhile first year coach Kim McNeill and the Hawks will face the University at Albany in the America East semifinals.