If UMBC is going to turn around their tough start to America East play, head coach Aki Thomas knows exactly what they need to do to fix it.
The Retrievers rank fourth in scoring offense in league play (76.4 ppg), but they rank near the bottom of the conference in the stat the head coach in his fourth season tracks the most: rebounding.
“I keep the rebound stats for our bigs, that’s how important it is to me, I keep them in every practice in my pocket and if one, two or three or all those guys that are getting significant playing time can really just start getting what I call clean rebounds,” Thomas said. “We just have to really get stops when we need them.”
The Retrievers have started 2-8 in conference play, but four of their losses have been by a margin of seven or fewer points.
“One thing about playing in the games where you just, you’re right there and you feel you have chances to win is that you never feel out of the hunt,” Thomas said. “I know our record isn’t great by any stretch, but we feel we’ve been so close in these games that with everybody we can compete. Now we have to get over the hump, but we feel like we’re not out of the hunt because of how well we’ve played, how close we’ve played in these games.”
Sophomore Jarius Lyles since his eligibility began at the end of the fall semester has been a spark, providing 25.4 ppg. Classmate Rodney Elliott has served as the perfect steady compliment, scoring 13.2 ppg, but they will need more from the front court to win games down the stretch. Junior Will Darley has provided 10.5 ppg and 4.7 rpg after coming back from injury and senior Cody Joyce passed the 1,000 point mark for his career against Albany. Thomas said he knows that Joyce, the lone senior on the team is starting to know that the clock is winding down on his career.
“It would be good to finish strong and with these last stretch of games here in the half of the conference,” Thomas said. “It would be good to finish strong and send Cody off into the real world on a positive note.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.