Men's Basketball Authors Highlight Reel of Dunks; Holds Off Maine, 79-76

BALTIMORE – UMBC used a late 6-0 run to break a 70-all tie and held on to defeat Maine, 79-76, in an America East contest at the RAC Arena.

UMBC improved to 5-1 at home, 5-11 overall and 1-2 in America East play. Maine slipped to 3-12, 1-2. All three Retriever conference clashes have been decided by five points or less.

For the Retrievers, senior forward Chase Plummer(Plainfield, N.J./St. Patrick) and freshman guard Bryan Harris (Oxon Hill, Md./Southern) tied for scoring honors with 16 points apiece, while sophomore forward Malik Garner (Philadelphia, Pa./Chestnut Hill Acad.) added 14 points. Junior forward Devarick Houston (Jonesboro, Ga./Mays) was UMBC's America East Player of the Game with 8 points, a game-high 10 rebounds and four of UMBC's 12 steals.

Maine sophomore guard Zarko Valjarevic led all scorers with 24 points, as the sharpshooter hit 6-of-8 shots from behind the arc.  

The second half featured eight ties and seven lead changes. With the game tied at 70-all, Garner gave the Retrievers the lead for good with an elbow jumper at the 4:45 mark. After a Black Bear missed field goal, Plummer corralled his own miss inside and muscled in the follow shot with 3:51 remaining. Maine misfired on its next possession, as did Garner on the other end,  but Houston soared for a thunderous follow slam to give the hosts a 76-70 advantage with 3:12 remaining.

The Black Bears would whittle the deficit to 78-75 on a Xavier Pollard lay-up with 51 seconds to play and had three possessions to tie the score. After UMBC ran down the shot clock and missed on a three-point attempt, Maine called time out with 7.1 seconds to play, but Pollard threw an inbounds pass over the head of Valjarevic and out of bounds.

Maine quickly fouled Garner with 6.4 seconds left and the sophomore missed two free throws, giving the Black Bears another opportunity. But UMBC fouled Pollard with 4.1 seconds left and the junior guard made the first attempt and missed the second on purpose. However, Maine was called for a lane violation and, after a foul, UMBC freshman guardRodney Elliott (Baltimore, Md./John Carroll) hit one of two free throws to restore a three-point Retriever lead.

A three-quarter court, desperation attempt by Maine's Dimitry Coronel fell well short, giving the Retrievers the home court triumph.

UMBC did a great deal of its damage above the rim, as the Retrievers threw down nine dunks in the game. All four of Houston's field goals were dunks.  

The Retrievers struggled shooting the ball overall, attempting 25 (76-51) more shots than the Bears, but converting just one more (29-28) for a shooting percentage of 38.2 percent. Maine hit nearly 55 percent and nailed 7-of-15 from behind the arc.

UMBC committed a season-low four turnovers, and forced 20 Maine miscues.  

UMBC opened the game on a 9-2 run, due to a fast-paced offense and relentless full court pressure on defense. The Retrievers would increase their lead to double digits at 23-12 with 10:12 remaining in the first half, but Valjarevic, who amassed 19  first half points, led a Black Bear rally which propelled the visitors to a 40-36 halftime edge.

Maine led by as many as 44-36 early in the second half before a 10-1 Retriever response erased that deficit.

Harris scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half. Elliott, plagued by foul trouble, was held to seven points, but did share game-high honors with five assists in 23 minutes.

Ten of UMBC's 16 games have been decided by six points or less and the Retrievers are 4-6 in those decisions.

 UMBC heads back to the road on Wednesday, taking on New Hampshire in Durham, N.H.