Newark, N.J. – UMBC sophomore guard Jairus Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) scored a stunning 21 points in the final 5:15 of the game, but the Retrievers' rally at NJIT fell just short in an 86-83 setback.
Lyles tallied a career-high 30 points, and buried a pair of spectacular treys in the final nine seconds to bring UMBC with within 85-83 with 2.5 seconds remaining. NJIT's Ty Howard was fouled and made the first of two free throws, but missed the second. UMBC got the ball with 0.4 seconds to play at midcourt and got a trey off, but freshman Joe Sherburne's (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) desperation effort brushed the outside of the net.
UMBC completes non-conference play with a record of 4-11, while NJIT improves to 9-6.
Lyles' backcourt mate, red-shirt sophomore Rodney Elliott (Baltimore, Md./John Carroll) scored a season-high 21 points. Both guards were brilliant from the free throw line, converting 9-of-10 apiece.
Elliott hit a jumper to give the visitors their final lead of the game at 44-43 with 15:48 to play. But the Retrievers went stone cold from the floor over the next ten minutes, missing six of their next seven field goal attempts as NJIT heated up from the floor. The Highlanders gradually built a an 11-point advantage, which they held as late as the 1:28 mark at 78-67.
After Howard hit two free throws with 37 seconds left, his side still led, 80-72. But Lyles drained a trey five seconds later, and after NJIT hit one of two free throws with 23 seconds to play, Elliott scored on a put-back to cut the deficit to 81-77 with 13 seconds left. Howard drained two more free throws after a quick foul, but Lyles converted another trey with nine seconds left to keep UMBC's hopes alive.
The game appeared to be over after NJIT broke UMBC's press and Terrence Smith dunked the ball to give NJIT an 85-80 lead with just four ticks left. But the Retrievers immediately got the ball back down the court, and Lyles hit a miraculous trey from 28 feet to cut the deficit to 85-83, setting up the game's final sequence.
Lyles finished 8-of-21 from the floor and buried a career-best five (of ten) treys. He added a team-best five assists and two steals. In addition to Elliott's 21 points, junior wing Will Darley (Timonium, Md./Dulaney) and Sherburne also scored in double figures with 13 and 10 points respectively.
NJIT junior guard Damon Lynn led the hosts with 20 points, but the combination of Howard (19), forward Tim Coleman (19) and Smith combined to hit 18-of-23 shots from the field. NJIT converted 16-of-27 shots in the second half and finished at 50.9 percent (29-of-57) for the contest.
UMBC's late heroics brought shooting percentage to 40.6 percent (26-of-64), but the Retrievers were outstanding from the charity stripe, hitting 22-of-26 tries.
UMBC got off a great start, hitting six of their first seven attempts from the floor, including several buckets off turnovers and took a 15-4 lead at the 14:31 mark of the half. But the Retrievers would go cold from the floor and the Highlanders chipped away at the lead, eventually tying the contest at 29-all and surging ahead, 33-29 at the 2:17 mark after a 10-0 run. After the teams exchanged field goals, Sherburne connected from the wing, and, after an NJIT shot clock violation, Elliott drew a foul, sunk two free throws with 1.3 seconds to play and gave UMBC a 36-35 halftime lead.
The Retrievers open their 13th season of America East Conference play at defending league champion Albany on Wednesday, Jan. 6.