Senior Guards Lead Men's Basketball to 89-77 Come-From-Behind Win Over UML in #AEPlayoffs

photo by: Brian Schneider
photo by: Brian Schneider

BALTIMORE – In its first home America East playoff game in a decade, second-seeded UMBC dug an 11-point halftime hole, but outscored No. 7 UMass Lowell, 51-28, in the second half and came away with an 89-77 victory in the quarterfinal game at the UMBC Event Center.

UMBC (22-10), which won its first league playoff game since 2013, will host a semifinal round game versus No. 3 Hartford on Tuesday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Graduate student guard Jairus Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the final 20 minutes to lead the rally. But he had plenty of assistance from his senior backcourt running mates, as K.J. Maura (San Juan, P.R.) and Jourdan Grant (Bowie, Md./Archbishop Spalding) added 16 points apiece.

UMass Lowell (12-17), which was competing in its first America East Tournament game after serving four years as a provisional NCAA Division I member, was led by senior forward and two-time America East First Team forward Jahad Thomas, who posted a double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds.

The River Hawks hit over 51 percent of their shots from the floor in the first half and 6-of-13 treys in taking a 49-38 lead at the break. The 49 points scored was the most allowed in a half by UMBC against league foes this year.

But the Retrievers, who evened their record at 6-6 this season when trailing at the brake, scored 16 of the second half's first 20 points. Junior forward Joe Sherburne (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) and Maura capped the run with back-to-back treys to give UMBC its first lead of the game at 54-53 with 14:31 remaining.

After UML's Josh Gantz hit a pair of free throws with 8:16 remaining, the River Hawks were within 68-66, but a jumper by Maura and subsequent 3-point play by Lyles pushed the lead to 73-66. That was the start of a flurry by Lyles who scored 12 consecutive points for the hosts and pushed the advantage to 82-70 with 3:40 to play.

Lowell got back-to-back baskets after the final media time-out, but then Grant came up big, hitting a left corner trey at the end of the shot clock to restore the lead to 85-74 with 2:14 to play. He then added back-to-back layups after steals by Lyles and himself to put the game out of reach in the final minute.

After struggling on both ends in the first half, UMBC hit 22-of-33 shots from the floor in the second and 5-of-10 from behind the arc to finish at 50.8 percent (33-of-65) for the game. UML slipped to 7-of-25 in the final 20 minutes and finished at 41.7 percent (25-of-60) for the game.

Lyles added seven rebounds, five steals and four assists, while Maura dished out seven helpers against just one miscue.  

Freshman Daniel Akin (Eltham, England) and Sherburne also scored in doubles for UMBC. Akin tied his career high with 11 points, converting all four field goal attempts and 3-of-4 from the stripe. Sherburne scored 10 points and buried a pair of second-half treys, giving him 201 for his career. He became the seventh Retriever to reach the 200-mark in 3-point field goals.

UMBC 22nd victory is the second-most in the school's 32-year NCAA Division I history, behind only the 2007-08 America East championship team, which produced a 24-9 mark.

Notes: UMBC has not scored 89 points since amassing that same number at UMass Lowell on January 13… The Retrievers have now posted five three-game winning streaks in 2017-18, but have not recorded more than three on the season… UMBC's last America East Tournament win was a 69-62 win over Hartford in the 2012-13 quarterfinals in Albany… The win snapped a five-game slide in the tournament and UMBC improved to 10-12 overall in 15 years of tournament play.