By Corey Johns, So Much Sports Baltimore — Coming off perhaps the most physically grueling game of their season just two days prior (Towson), UMBC put together a masterful performance against the excessively fast-paced Citadel Bulldogs to earn a record-breaking 120-111 victory in double-overtime.
“It was two totally different games in three days; we were playing against a Towson team where you got to guard 15 feet and win and this game you got to try to guard the 3-point line plus be able to guard the drives to the basket,” UMBC head coach Ryan Odom said. “Two totally difference paces. We try to play fast and they (The Citadel) try to play faster.
“A lot of times it hear-wrenching because it’s moving so quickly, but I’m most proud of the way they played at overtime. At the end of regulation we had our chances. The first overtime we felt like we had it too. Then when they were coming over to the bench they kind of had the world on their shoulders I said ‘fella’s you got to enjoy these moments, this is college basketball. You’re in double-overtime of of a hotly contested game, go out and enjoy it.’”
The Retrievers set their schools all-time scoring record while the combined 231 points scored also eclipsed the RAC Arena record. The previous team scoring record was 118 points against Gallaudet on Jan. 29, 1974. The team’s records as a Division I program was 115 points against Central Connecticut State in a 115-107 win at the RAC on March 6, 1992.
Junior guard Jairus Lyles also became UMBC’s first player to scored 30 points and grab 20 rebounds in a game, finishing with 32 points and 20 boards. He topped 20 points for the 20th time in his 31 games as a Retriever and 30 points for a fourth time while becoming the fourth player in program history to collect 20 rebounds in a game.
“I’ve never played in a game where it was up and down literally for  straight minutes,” Lyles said. “It was go, go, go. You couldn’t even run any plays because of the style of defense they were playing. It was exhausting to say the least.”
Six Retrievers in total scored in double-digits in the game. Sophomore center Nolan Gerrity also had a tremendous double-double with career highs across the board in points (17), rebounds (15) and blocked shots (6). Will Darley scored 22 points by continually crashing inside to help the Retrievers to a 54-40 advantage in the paint. Joe Sherburne (18), Jourdan Grant (12) and Malcolm Brent (10) also scored in double figures.
Even while UMBC had their greatest offensive performance in program history and despite their opponent scoring 111 points, defensively the Retrievers had a great game too. The Citadel led the nation in scoring heading into the contest with 102.5 points per game. This year they’ve scored at least 100 points six times, including 146 and 144 efforts this season. It took until their final basket of the first overtime period to score 100 points and nearly three minutes into the second overtime period for them to reach their scoring average.
“We wanted to contest the three’s,” Odom said. “We knew they shot it pretty quickly so if we could guard for three to four passes or drives we felt we could force a pretty hard shot.”
The Bulldogs had a relatively quiet first half, shooting just 31-percent from the floor and trailing 44-38 at the break. But by making six of their first eight 3-point attempts in the opening minutes, the Citadel took a 17-12 lead just five and a half minutes into the game. It looked like they may be starting to build a significant lead against the Retrievers but an immediate 3-pointer by Lyles got UMBC back within two points. Odom also masterfully rotated his lineup and both Grant and Brent gave meaningful performances off the bench to keep the Retrievers both fresh and effective.
“I thought Malcolm Brent’s minutes were very, very important minutes,” Odom said. “When they’re subbing as much as they were we had to go to our bench as well to get some spot blows and he delivered and I’m so happy for him because he practices hard every day, hasn’t gotten an opportunity and remained positive. Then today, I was happy it was his day.”
A pair of layups by Brent sandwiched a 3-pointer and layup by Lyles in a nine-point run that gave UMBC a 31-26 lad with 6:06 remaining in the first half. They would hold their lead into the second half.
The Retrievers didn’t allow the Bulldogs a chance to tie the game after taking their two-possession lead in the first half as they shot 48.6-percent from the floor and were able to hold onto the ball in key situations. After starting out 6-for-8 from 3-point range, the Bulldogs were held to just 3-for-13 shooting from outside over the next 14 and a half minutes.
In the second half the Citadel’s offense woke up a bit more, making over half of their shots.
A 3-pointer by Lyles gave UMBC a 55-45 just over three minute into the second half, but the Bulldogs were able to erase that over the next six minutes to tie the game at 64-64. The Citadel would only gain a one-point lead after a made free throw by Leandro Allende. UMBC would lead for much of the second half, gaining back as much as an eight-point lead with 4:45 remaining after two free throws made by Lyles.
Two 3-pointers by Warren Sledge, a three-pointer by Frankie Johnson and a three-point play by Zane Najwadi all helped the Citadel tie the game at 91-91 with 97 seconds remaining.
The Retrievers had an opportunity to get the go-ahead score, but Sherburne’s 3-pointer missed. The Bulldogs then took the final possession. Parks took the ball up the right side of the court and moved to the left, but while trying to make a move he slipped and fell to the floor. He was still able to get the ball to Johnson, but his rushed shot at the buzzer fell short.
It was a huge break for UMBC but the battle wasn’t finished there. Neither team could gain ground in the first overtime period but a 3-pointer by Quayson Williams tied the game with 15 seconds left. The Citadel then had their bit of fortune as UMBC missed a layup and a few attempted tip-ins in the final seconds before a second overtime was forced.
The Retrievers would be without Maura, who finished with nine points and seven assists, for the final 1:21 of the first overtime and the entire second overtime period while dealing with cramps, but Grant seamlessly ran the point in the second overtime period. UMBC was able to pull away as Grant and Darley opened the period with a lair of layups. The team was then able to make 16 of 18 free throw attempts in the final three and a half minutes to keep their lead, even building it to as many as 10 points on occasion.
“[Grant] did a great job when KJ went out at the end of the first overtime,” Odom said. “Jourdan stepped up big time and made some huge plays for us.”
The victory improved UMBC’s record to 8-3, already topping their seven-win mark achieved last season.
“We had a rough year last year. We didn’t win those games last year,” Lyles said. “We had to change some stuff. Give credit to the coaches for preparing us every single day and the players for listening to the coaches. As long as we’re doing what we’re doing we should be fine and elevating our level.”
Seven Bulldogs scored in double-digits in the game. Parks led them with 24 points with six made 3-pointers. Brian White scored 21 points.
UMBC still doesn’t have too much of a turnaround period. The Retrievers with a game on Friday at James Madison before playing at Virginia Tech the following Wednesday. They will return home to host Binghamton on Thursday, January 5 to open America East play, which will be broadcast nationally on ESPN3.