Matchups between UMBC and CCSU are usually memorable and go down to the wire. I can’t remember the last time a bitter taste was left in my mouth after the game was taken out of the players’ hands at the very end, however.
First, let’s look at all the positives…starting with the freshmen. Assistant coach Jay Greene, the ultimate authority of point guards at UMBC, was raving in his post-game interview about how excited he was about point guard Aaron Morgan’s rebounding ability and resilience in what Greene called Morgan’s best game of the year. How can it not be with 13 points? Malik Garner, even though the stats didn’t show it, his defensive presence was a difference-maker for the Retrievers. Beyond the freshmen, Chase Plummer had another monster game before getting the royal treatment by the officiating at the end (more on that later), with 10 points, but Ryan Cook stole the offensive show with his 20. All in all, 5 players finished in double-digits, including Brian Neller with his 4 treys, and Adrien Satchell with 10, with Plummer and Cook having a double-double night.
But the end of the game will overshadow one of the best games this long-standing rivalry has seen in years. With five seconds left and UMBC up 82-81, CCSU point guard Kyle Vinales sells (and I don’t use that term loosely) a blocking foul from Plummer after going into the backcourt, sending him to the line for two since the Blue Devils were in the double bonus. First of all, I’ve seen more contact go uncalled in a middle school game. Then to see Vinales’ head snap back like he took a football stiff-arm made me roll my eyes. But the timing…five seconds left, a player clearly goes into the backcourt before any contact whatsover, and a referee has become the story of the game. UMBC fans have always said that the team has no respect from the officiating community, this could be the clearest evidence since Chauncey Gilliam was ejected from a game in February, 2009.
But the truth is, both teams played an incredibly tight, well contested game. Although the seniors haven’t all had a great career, after this night, it’s very clear the program is on its way up.