UMBC men's basketball players had never lifted a trophy at the Division I level until November 20, 2000 – that evening provides Moment No. 39 on the #retriever50for50 countdown.
After nearly a decade of frustration, UMBC men's basketball turned the corner in the 1997-98 season, posting a 14-14 record. The Retrievers made a grand entrance into the Northeast Conference the following year, winning the regular season title with a 15-1 mark, but fell in the conference semifinals.
That season opened with the inaugural Battle of Baltimore Tournament, which was televised locally by WMAR/ABC-2. However, the Retrievers laid an egg, losing in a pair of poor efforts vs. Loyola and Morgan. UMBC would be favored to capture the title in November of 1999, but after a win over host Coppin State, the Retrievers coughed up a 16-point second-half lead and fell to the defending champion Greyhounds, 77-71.
The event moved to the RAC Arena in 2000 and a tournament-record crowd of over 3,400 fans witnessed the home team shoot over 53 percent from the floor to defeat Towson, 87-72 in the semifinals.
But awaiting the Retrievers were the Loyola Greyhounds. UMBC would set the tone defensively, holding Loyola to nine points in the first 18 minutes of the game and taking a 28-16 halftime lead. Senior guard Terence Ward, who played a minor role versus the Tigers, stepped up with 22 points in the championship game as the Retrievers led wire-to-wire in a 74-56 triumph.
Ward, who amassed 1,692 points in his UMBC Hall of Fame career, hit 6 treys to lead the hosts. Freshman phenom Peter Mulligan added 17 and averaged 20.5 points in his first two collegiate contests.
UMBC would go on to dominate the tournament, winning the next three titles at Loyola in 2001, UMBC in 2002, and Morgan in 2003. Unfortunately, the 2003 edition was the finale for the Battle of Baltimore and the schools have yet to resurrect that type of format for Baltimore-area basketball fans.