There are a few legendary Retriever sports seasons which have provided multiple entries in the #retreiver50for50 countdown. Moment No. 35 occurred on Feb. 23, 2008 – despite the cold temperatures outside at that time, the action in the RAC Arena was hot, hot, hot!
After a narrow loss at Binghamton dropped the men's basketball team's America East record to 4-2, the Retrievers, picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll, captured seven straight games to take stunning control of the conference race. Almost every game was tightly-contest, as five of the seven victories occurred by seven points or less.
Hence, with three games left in the regular season, a win over the New Hampshire Wildcats would accomplish several huge goals. First, it would clinch the regular season title, which meant that UMBC was guaranteed to compete in post-season competition at the NCAA Division I level for the first time in program history. Secondly, if UMBC could advance to the America East Championship game, the Retrievers would host the game at the RAC, on ESPN2. Finally, a victory over UNH would be UMBC's 20th of the season, a new program record since moving to DI.
A record number of 3,712 fans packed the RAC, anticipating a blow-out win over the struggling Wildcats. But like a majority of UMBC's games versus league foes, victory did not come easily.
Even before tip-off, the crowd was fired up, as UMBC honored seniors Ray Barbosa, Brian Hodges and Cavell Johnson. But UMBC misfired on 8-of-10 shots from behind the arc in the first half and trailed, 28-27, at the break. The Wildcats built the lead to 54-47 with 5:46 to play, but UMBC went on a 10-0 run, which Barbosa capped with a long trey with 1:42 remaining. With the crowd in full throat, UNH's Tyrone Conley silenced them (briefly) by knocking down a three with 17 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
Barbosa opened the extra frame with a jumper and backcourt mate Jay Greene followed with back-to-back treys to give the hosts a lead they would not relinquish in overtime. But UNH, which hit 16 treys in the game, cut their deficit to 69-68 with three seconds left. However, they fouled the wrong man in Barbosa, who converted both free throws with one tick left to go and gave the Retrievers a 71-68 victory, setting off a wild celebration in the arena.
Barbosa led five Retrievers in double figures with 21 points, while Greene added 11 points and nine assists.
There would be one more notable men's basketball game in the RAC that year – stay tuned!