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The UMBC Retrievers Men’s Basketball Team will welcome the red-hot Vermont Catamounts in what is the first game in UMBC’s all-new $85 million 5,000 seat Event Center. Big opening just in time for an even bigger game.
Vermont currently sits on a conference-high 11 game win streak, with an impressive 14 point average margin of victory. They have yet to face a defeat from a team in the AEC, something the Retrievers look to put an end to against a team who they have struggled against for a long time.
The outcome of this game will have big implications for both teams tournament dreams as 1st ranked 8-0 Vermont(18-5) hold a two-game lead over 2nd ranked 7-2 UMBC (16-8).
This will be the second and final time these two teams match up this season, the first resulting in a 71-56 victory for the Catamounts. That matchup was controlled from start to finish by the Catamounts, leading for a majority of the game by as many as 21 points.
The Retrievers offensively displayed quite an inefficient night, scoring their 3rd lowest points in a game this season, in which they shot a disappointing 36% from the floor.
Nonetheless, just like any other loss, this is a game the team has to put in the past and look for a fresh start in a completely new stadium.
No player has to retain this message as much as UMBC’s best player Jairus Lyles does who shot just 16% on 19 shots the last time these two teams met up.
It’s no surprise that a team plays better at home than away. In fact, the Retrievers are a conference-best 11-0 at home this season and much of that can be accredited to Lyles’ level of play at home. His 5 best scoring games this season have all come on his home court. In the past 5 home games, Lyles is averaging 28.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3 assists.
But in order to be able to disrupt this ebullient Vermont team, Lyles is going to need his supporting cast to ball out.
Expect coach Ryan Odom to move forward Arkel Lamar back into the starting lineup after his 17 minutes off the bench last week vs. Stony Brook, in what was his first game back from his minor ankle injury.
Lamar is among the team’s best three-point shooters and rebounders and will have to play a vital role in this matchup. Lamar in the last game against the Catamounts scored 15 points, shooting a total 46% from the floor.
Although he was efficient on the scoring end his presence on the glass was just not quite felt. Lamar was outrebounded individually by three Catamount players and even by 6’2” Lyles.
The Retrievers were outrebounded 18 and even allowed 14 offensive rebounds. This has to be a major turnaround point for the Retrievers if they look to dethrone the Catamounts. Because of Vermont’s stellar defense, which is ranked 39th in scoring, second chance points will be a big factor for the Retrievers.
Alongside Lamar, freshman Daniel Akin, who has started 9 straight games should also produce a boost on the glass as well as provide an excellent defensive game. Akin has been named America East Rookie of the Week and what a better way to end such week than with an efficient game, to put an end to the 11 game win streak, to deliver payback for the earlier loss this season, to win at the first game at the new event center… ok ok, you get the point.
K.J. Maura was the most efficient player in the last matchup between these two teams scoring a game-high 20 points. Maura’s great offensive play was matched with an even better game on the defensive side. Maura, who is averaging 2.5 steals per game, will play a big part in slowing down, the Catamount best player Trae Bell-Haynes and this red-hot offense.
Maura along with the team have a lot to play for in this final matchup between these two tournament bid hunting teams.
The Catamounts have been the best team in the conference these past two seasons but the way this Retrievers team has been playing recently, especially at home is quite intriguing. I don’t think this game will be a game in which a team leads by more than 10. Expect a tight and close game between these two that will come down to the wire.
Catamounts to look out for
- Trae Bell-Haynes is the one player the Retrievers cannot allow to get hot. Haynes has been averaging 19.4 ppg, 3.5 apg and 5.6 rpg in the past 5 games. Haynes last game struggled, shooting just 37.5 thanks to pressing defense from Maura and Lyles so it will be interesting how he responds and adjusts the second time around.
Payton Henson & Drew Urquhart
- What’s interesting about these two forwards is that they pick up for each other’s slack. When one is struggling the other picks it up and when one starts off hot the mid-game adjustment to put more attention on him allows the other to get going. Against the Retrievers it was Henson with the better night, putting up a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds. It will be tough to see how Lamar, Sherburne and Akin find a way to shut both players out.
Starting line up Prediction