UMBC is going to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time in school history! And we were there to see how the Retrievers made history!
The RAC (as UMBC’s gym is called by its students) was packed. A sea of yellow reigned over the student section and gold and black towels were swinging in the air by those fans who were packed into the bleacher seats. A record crowd of nearly 4,000 piled in to see the UMBC Retrievers take on their conference rival Hartford Hawks in Saturday’s America East Championship Game. And for all the criticism that UMBC is lacking in school spirit, after this game, we’d be surprised if there are any critics left. Doors to the game opened at 10am, and by 10:10 the entire student section was packed. From the moment they entered the Retriever fans screamed and cheered for their team (and booed their opponents, their fans, band, cheerleaders, and anyone even thinking about wearing the rival’s red colors) and 4 hours later, as UMBC was cutting down the nets as champions they were still screaming. Never once was there a lull in the noise, as every basket, time-out, steal, even just the coach standing up, yielded another round of rousing applause and clever rhyming cheers. The atmosphere was one unlike we had ever seen and it left everyone exhilirated.
The Retriever team themselves must have taken notice, as they came ready to play from moment one. Within a few short minutes of tip-off the Dawgs had raced out to a nearly 20 point lead and never looked back. With a flurry of shots that fell from wherever the Retrievers felt like putting them up (they shot nearly 80% from the field the first 15 minutes of the game), the Dawgs put on an offensive show that Hartford could never recover from. Fueled by long-distance 3-pointers by America East Tournament MVP Jay Greene, and the outrageous shooting of Daryl Proctor, UMBC gave its fans a game to remember. The Retrievers had more than just offense to thank for their stellar victory as they out-rebounded the Hawks (even Greene, by far the smallest player on the court, collected rebounds over Hartford’s tallest players) and created several key turn-overs to stop any Hawk surges.
With just over a minute remaining and the crowd chanting “NCAA!” the Retrievers knew they had won, and honored their starters by taking them out to a wild standing ovation from the Retriever fans. And as soon as the game clock turned to 0:00 the fans and players stormed the floor chanting U-M B-C!! as they celebrated the school’s first trip to the NCAA tourney! Confetti exploded from the stands and the fight song blasted from the band as the team got ready to cut down the nets as champions.
Being there for such a monumental event in UMBC history was amazing as we felt the energy from the crowd, and the sheer joy for the game that the players felt. It was definitely a memory we will keep with us forever and we can only hope that UMBC has continued success in the years to come.