BALTIMORE – UMBC junior guard Jairus Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) scored a season-high 29 points, including 23 in an explosive second half, leading the Retrievers to a 93-85 victory over Kennesaw State (1-3) at the RAC Arena.
The Retrievers have won their first four games and are off to their best start since the 2000-01 campaign, when they opened at 5-0.
Lyles led the charge which saw the hosts knot a UMBC school record by scoring 57 points in the second half.
Kennesaw extended a 38-36 halftime lead to 42-36 just 40 seconds into the second half. But Lyles scored 13 points in the first 5:13 of the stanza and his trifecta gave the Retrievers their initial second half lead at 54-52. Sophomore center Nolan Gerrity (Cleveland, Ohio) followed with a tip-in and sophomore forward Joe Sherburne's trey from the left corner capped a 12-2 run, which extended the margin to 59-52 at the 13:26 mark.
The Retrievers held the lead until the 8:20 mark, when KSU's Aubrey Williams knotted the game at 68-all with a pair of free throws. But Sherburne, who scored a season high 16 points, put back his own miss on UMBC's next possession, giving the Retrievers the lead for good 15 seconds later.
The visiting Owls had two chances to take the lead or tie the game inside the five-minute mark, but a Sherburne steal led to a Lyles fast-break layup and a rare second half miss by KSU senior guard Kendrick Ray resulted in a pair of Lyles free throws to restore UMBC's advantage to five points. Then, Retriever freshman forward Lamar Arkel (Bridgeport, Conn.) punctuated the key 6-0 run with a steal and thunderous dunk to put the hosts ahead, 82-75 with 3:51 remaining.
Ray's baseline trey with 32 seconds left cut the gap to 90-85, but UMBC junior guard K.J. Maura (San Juan, P.R.) hit two free throws four seconds later to seal the victory.
Lyles, who has now scored 76 points in his last three outings, converted 11-of-19 shots from the floor, including 8-of-13 in the second half. He played only 30 minutes, fouling out with 67 seconds remaining.
Sherburne recorded his second career double-double with 16 points and a team-best 10 rebounds. Lamar stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, eight caroms and four steals, as UMBC outscored KSU, 20-8, off turnovers. Maura netted all seven free throws attempts and added three steals in a 12-point effort.
Ray led all scorers with 31 points, hitting 5-of-7 shots from behind the arc. Williams posted a double-double with 14 points and 15 caroms.
UMBC shot better than 50 percent from the floor for the third time in four games, hitting 34-of-65, a 52.3 percent clip. Kennesaw was a steady 48.4 percent, converting 31-of-64 tries.
UMBC only committed eight turnovers.
The Owls hit 8 of their first 11 attempts from the floor and took a 20-15 lead at the 11:21 mark of the first half. But Lamar capped an 8-2 Retriever response with a pair of field goals to give the Retrievers a 23-22 advantage three minutes later.
UMBC struggled from behind the arc, missing their first eight attempts and the Owls built a 38-31 advantage with 1:39 remaining in the half. Maura broke the spell with a trey at the 1:17 mark and the hosts cut their deficit to 38-36 at the break.
UMBC's 352 points scored (88.0 per game) through four games in the most recorded in school history.
UMBC will play on Thanksgiving Eve, as the Retrievers play their fifth consecutive game in the state of Maryland when they travel to Annapolis to face Navy on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Tip-off time is slated for 7:00 p.m.