Brandon Horvath dunks for two during UMBC's semifinal for the America East.

UMBC men’s basketball advances to the America East final after a gripping semifinal victory

They never said it would be easy, but they did say it would be exciting. After battling through two rounds of fatiguing overtime, UMBC men’s basketball bested Hartford 90-85 to advance to the America East championship game and defend their title.

While the Retrievers set a comfortable lead after the first half, never trailing, the Hawks ramped their offense and began to close the gap with six minutes left in gameplay. The final moments of regulation time were decided by fouls, with UMBC and Hartford alternating from the free throw line. With 16 seconds left, the Hawks pulled ahead by one. Junior guard K.J. Jackson, sociology, answered the call and sunk one out of his two free throws to tie up the game with 3.7 seconds left, forcing the game to overtime and keeping Retriever Nation on the edge of their seats.

Retriever fans take in the double overtime win.
Retriever fans feel the intensity of the semifinal, as the game goes into double overtime.

Five minutes were added to the clock and, after a taxing back and forth, UMBC tied again with Brandon Horvath ‘21, financial economics, sinking both of his free throws. Starting with the second overtime, the Retrievers found their footing and pulled ahead, capitalizing on foul shots and pulling out a five-point victory.

“It was a crazy game, but this is what March is all about,” reflects Horvath.

Team mentality

Just after the win, Jackson spoke with the Baltimore Sun’s Edward Lee about the players’ team mentality. “I’ve got Joe, I’ve got Brandon, I’ve got everyone here with me playing just as hard,” he said. “It’s not time to be tired…It’s time to go make plays, and that’s what I did.”

K.J. Jackson sets up for a three-pointer in the second half of Tuesday’s game.
K.J. Jackson sets up for a three-pointer in the second half of Tuesday’s game.

Leading the pack, Jackson accounted for 21 of the Retrievers’ points, with R.J. Eytle-Rock ‘22, psychology, netting 16; Horvath posting up 14; and Joe Sherburne ‘18, financial economics and Arkel Lamar ‘21, sociology, each contributing 12.

Sherburne has been a force both on and off the court during his career at UMBC. He was recently named the 2018-19 Google Cloud Academic All-America® Team Member of the Year for Division I men’s basketball. In addition to his All-American of the Year accolade, Sherburne was also named to the America East All-Academic Team for the third time in his career and to the America East First Team for the first time.

Ready for Vermont

Retriever Nation won’t have a chance to catch their breath from last night’s adrenaline-filled win as there’s still one more victory in this tournament to claim. UMBC travels to Vermont to take on the Catamounts for the second year, to battle it out for the America East Championship title.

The final game is on Saturday, March 16, at 11 a.m. at the Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2, with Retriever watch parties across the nation. UMBC will host a free family-friendly watch party in the Event Center for anyone interested, including community fans. Students interested in attending the game in Vermont have until 2 p.m. on March 14 to secure their spots. More information available here.

Banner image: Brandon Horvath dunks for two during UMBC’s semifinal for the America East. All photos by Maryland Demond ’11 for UMBC.