by Josh Adams
Catonsville, MD- The NCAA banner hangs high at the UMBC Events Center. It’s unique in that it doesn’t celebrate any conference win or a retired number. The banner is a reminder that in college basketball the impossible can happen at any time. It’s a banner that salutes the sixteen seeded UMBC Retrievers who made history in the 2018 NCAA Tournament by defeating the number one seeded Virginia Cavaliers. For all mid-major schools, the banner should serve as a reminder. The unpredictable happens in March and if you draw the right matchup, your team could forever become a part of the CBS montage in tournament play. While UMBC lost a bunch of starters to graduation in 2018-19, this year’s Retrievers team had 1,500 fans at the Events Center hopeful for a return trip to the big dance with a resounding win over the Manhattan Jaspers on Monday night.
KJ Jackson, a JUCO transfer from Houston has fit into the UMBC system right off the bat and his hot start for the Retrievers gave them the early lead over the Jaspers. Jackson was as hot as a pistol in the early going as UMBC went on a 12-2 run (hitting 7 of 7 from the field during the run) at the five minute mark of the first half to give the Retrievers a 37-18 lead. The Jaspers clamped down on defense in the last four minutes of the half and held UMBC to a single field goal to help cut the lead to 10 as the Retrievers took a 40-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The second half was more of the same from UMBC as they opened the second stanza on a 10-2 run. The Jaspers are young and getting acclimated to Coach Steve Masiello’s system but UMBC never let them get in rhythm as the Retrievers hit several backdoor layups and had timely three point shooting that put the game out of reach. The final horn sounded and the scoreboard read UMBC 75, Manhattan 52.
Jackson was the high man in the game with 20 points with 7 assists and 7 rebounds. Lamar had 15 points as the Retrievers move to 2-0 in the early season. The Retrievers were 13/29 from the three point arc.
One positive that could be seen for the Jaspers was freshman Elijah Buchanan. He was fearless in his game tonight and sought out the ball in the losing cause. He had 10 points to lead the Jaspers who will have a bus ride back to Riverdale to shake off the loss before moving on with their year.
“We didn’t defend the way typical Manhattan teams defend. It’s a work in progress. I’m not going to let one or two bad nights define who we are. We’ll pick ourselves up and go back to work.”
– Manhattan Coach Steve Masiello
” I have no problem taking a couple of losses in November or in December in order to win in February”
– Masiello on the learning process throughout the year for a young team
” He’s fearless. He’s a damn good player. He’s a freshman. He’s gotta defend a little better.”
–Masiello on Elijah Buchanan
“The more you put teams from mid-majors in the tournament, the more likely you’ll see a matchup like that. I give them unbelievable credit for their victory. There’s a lot of good basketball teams out there. You get juniors and seniors on a court in March, their going to cause some problems.”
– Masiello on UMBC’s win in the NCAA Tournament last season
+ 24 Joe Sherburne
+ 17 Max Curran
Manhattan travels to Highland Heights, Kentucky on Friday where they’ll take on Coastal Carolina in the MTE Tournament at Northern Kentucky. They’ll have three games in three days in the Tournament.
UMBC hosts the Air Force Academy on Friday. The Falcons are 1-1 while the Retrievers will look to start the year with three straight wins.