The UMBC men's basketball team (7-5) plays the first of back-to-back games versus 2017 NCAA Tournament teams on Sunday, Dec. 17, when they host the Northern Kentucky Norse (7-3). Tip-off time is slated for 12:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3 with Gary Stein, John Feinstein and Paul Mittermeier on the call.
After playing 13 times in 35 days, UMBC will get an 11-day respite before taking on Big Ten power Maryland in College Park, Md. on Friday, Dec. 29. That game will be televised by FS1, with an 8:00 p.m. tip-off on tap.
Retriever Update: Graduate student guard Jairus Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMahta) scored a game-high 27 points as UMBC edged Coppin State, 81-74, at the RAC Arena on Tuesday evening. The visiting Eagles cut a 19-point second half deficit to 63-60 with 5:04 remaining, but treys by Lyles and junior forward Joe Sherburne (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) helped turn back the Coppin State rally.
Lyles leads the team and the America East Conference with 20.8 points per game and has moved into 10th place on UMBC's all-time scoring list with 1,273 points.
Sophomore forward Arkel Lamar (15.0 ppg, team high 7.3 rpg) has enjoyed a stellar start, scoring in double figures in all 12 games and adding three double-doubles. Senior guard K.J. Maura (10.7 ppg, 6.3 apg) leads America East in assists per game, while Sherburne (11.5 ppg) also averages in double figures.
Lamar (13th, 51.6%), Sherburne (38th, 47.8%), and Lyles (43rd, 47.2%) are all ranked in the top 50 nationally in 3-pt. efficiency as of Dec. 14.
UMBC, which is averaging 81.8 points per game, leads the nation with 151 3-pt. field goals made through games of Dec. 14. The Retrievers are ranked second in treys made per game (12.6, Davidson leads at 13.1) and are 11th in 3-point field goal percentage (42.5).
UMBC has won five straight at home (this season) and 10 of 11 dating back to 2016-17. The Retrievers are 6-1 when outrebounding their foe (3-1) or rebounding is even (3-0).
A Glance at the Norse: UMBC and NKU have a great deal in common. UMBC was founded only two years prior to Northern Kentucky and the campus populations (UMBC 13,662, NKU 14,600) are very similar. From a basketball perspective, UMBC as the third-most improved team in the nation last year, improving from 7-25 in 2015-16 to 21-13 a year ago, while NKU was fourth, moving up 12.5 games from 9-21 to 24-11.
Fresh of their first NCAA Tournament appearance a year ago, Northern Kentucky, which returned ten letterwiners and four starters, has opened at 7-3, with a pair of two-point losses at Memphis (76-74) and versus UMBC America East foe Vermont, 66-64.
The Norse have won three of four, including a 91-63 rout over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 10. Junior forward Drew McDonald and sophomore forward Carson Williams combined to shoot 19-of-23 (83 percent) from the floor and score 44 points as NKU recorded a staggering 64 points (64-22) in the paint.
McDonald, who led NKU a year ago with 16.4 ppg and 7.7 rpg, continues to pace the Norse at 15.3 points and 6.9 caroms per contest. Williams is right behind at 14.9 ppg and has converted 61-of-86 field goal attempts (70.9 percent, 6th in the nation) to date.
NKU is 19th in the nation with a 50.8 field goal percentage. They are 5-0 at home, 0-2 on the road and 2-1 on neutral courts this season. The Norse play at Texas A&M on Tuesday.
Other UMBC Notes: The Retrievers knocked down 10 or more treys in 16 games last season and have converted 10 or more in 11 of 12 games (11 consecutive) in 2017-18. Hence, in the Ryan Odom era, UMBC has converted double-digit treys in 27 of 46 games… As mentioned, UMBC has converted 151 treys through 12 games – by comparison, the 2013-14 Retrievers made 153 treys in a 30-game schedule… Last season, UMBC scholarship players missed only 11 games in a 34-game season due to injury. Through 12 games this season, that number is already at 30. After the same starting lineup for the first six games, there have been four different quintets in the past six contests… In 19 career games in the month of December, Sherburne averages 15.3 ppg, shooting 51.9% (97/187) from the floor and 51.0% (76/149) from behind the arc.