BALTIMORE – UMBC shaved a 16-point second half deficit to three points in the final minute, but could not complete the comeback and fell, 79-73, to Albany in America East Conference play at the RAC Arena.
Albany (18-6, 7-2 AE) scored the first nine points of the second half to extend a 35-29 lead to 44-29 just 1:16 into the frame. They would widen the margin to 49-33 at the 16:29 mark before UMBC (5-19, 1-8 AE) would begin to chip away at the deficit.
The Great Danes still led, 70-61, with 3:27 to play before a Joyce lay-in and a subsequent trey by sophomore guard Rodney Elliott (Baltimore, Md./John Carroll) cut the gap to 70-66 with 2:02 remaining. There was an exchange of field goals, with Joyce surpassing the 1,000-point mark on another inside finish with 1:24 remaining.
Both teams failed to score on their next possession, as UMBC junior forward Will Darley (Timonium, Md./Dulaney) came up short on a jumper in the paint that would have cut the lead to two points with 54 seconds left. After UA committed a turnover, Elliott drew a foul, but only converted one of two free throws to bring UMBC to within 72-69 with 27 ticks left.
But Albany hit four consecutive free throws to hold UMBC off in the final 24 seconds.
Lyles scored 24 or more points for the 11th time in his 13 outings as a Retriever. At one point, he had 20 of UMBC's 40 points. Lyles added four steals and four rebounds in 39 minutes of action.
UMBC was done in by poor shooting from beyond the arc, as they misfired on ten of their first 11 attempts and finished at 4-of-19. The Retirevers hit 44.6 percent from the floor and excelled from the charity stripe, converting 19-of-23 (82.6 percent). But Albany, the conference's top free throw shooting team, hit 20-of-24 from the line.
Albany senior guard Ray Sanders led the visitors with 21 points and added seven helpers.
The opening segments first half featured 11 lead changes and four ties, before Albany took control with an 11-0 run to erase a 19-18 deficit and lead 29-19 with 6:19 remaining in the stanza. UMBC cut into the lead, but were hindered by misfiring on eight of nine attempts from behind the arc and trailed, 35-29 at the break.
UMBC takes to the road for their next conference match-up, as they face Maine in Portland on Saturday, Feb. 6 at noon.