BALTIMORE - The UMBC men's basketball team opened a new era of Retriever athletics and campus activities as a sell-out, UMBC record crowd of 4,753 witnessed the opening of the UMBC Event Center.
UMBC battled America East Conference giant Vermont on nearly even terms for 20 minutes, but the Catamounts were brilliant on both ends of the floor in the second half and prevailed, 81-53.
The Retrievers saw their three-game winning streak halted and they fell to 16-9 overall and 7-3 (second place) in the conference. Vermont (19-5, 9-0 AE) won for the 30th straight time in league regular season play.
UMBC graduate student guard Jairus Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./De Matha) continued his torrid play, scoring a game-high 27 points. Lyles moved into a tie for fifth place on the Retrievers' all-time scoring list –he now shares that position with Reggie Nance (1977-81), who finished his NCAA Division II career at UMBC with 1,558 points.
Appropriately, Lyles scored the first basket in the arena, hitting a jumper at the 18:58 mark. He gave UMBC an early 4-0 lead on the next possession, but the Catamounts scored the next 15 points of the game to lead, 15-4, at the 14:26 mark. The Retrievers, however, put together their own run, tallying 11 in a row and tied the game on another Lyles' layup at the 12:17 mark.
A pair of free throws by K.J. Maura (San Juan, P.R.) at the 5:23 knotted the game for the final tie at 23-all and two more by the senior guard kept the hosts within a pair at 32-30 with 1:40 remaining. But Vermont closed the fame on a 7-2 surge to lead, 39-32, at the break.
The teams traded baskets early in the second half and junior Joe Sherburne's (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) jumper in the lane had UMBC within 46-40 with 15:26 to play. But a 10-3 Vermont run gave the visitors a 56-42 advantage three minutes later and the Retrievers could not close within single digits the remainder of the game.
Vermont converted 14-of-19 second half field goal attempts and finished at 65.9 percent (29-of-44) for the game. Senior forward Drew Urquhart hit 8-of-10 field goal attempts and led the Catamounts with 18 points.
Maura scored 13 points and added three assists, four steals and commited no turnovers.
UMBC had won all 11 previous home games this season at the RAC Arena.
The Retrievers hit the road for a pair of America East contests next week, facing Binghamton on Feb. 8 and UNH on Feb. 11.