West Hartford, Conn. – Senior guard K.J. Maura (San Juan, P.R.) scored a career-high 25 points as UMBC earned the No. 2 seed in the America East playoffs with a 62-53 victory over Hartford.
The Retrievers improved to 21-10 overall and finished America East play at 12-4. The 21 wins matches last year's total and is tied for the second-most in school history. Hartford's four-game winning streak was halted and the Hawks fell to 18-12 overall and 11-5 in the conference.
UMBC will host seventh-seeded UMass Lowell in the America East quarter-finals on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
The 5'8" Maura tied his career best with six treys, knocking down 6-of-9 from distance and 8-of-12 overall. He connected on his first two free throws of the night to break UMBC's record for consecutive free throws made with 33.
Hartford only led for 15 seconds of play, but the Retrievers could not shake the Hawks until the final moments of the game. The Hawks' J.R. Lynch knocked down a trey to bring the hosts to within 58-53 with 2:17 remaining. But after running down the clock, UMBC senior guard Jourdan Grant (Bowie, Md./Archbishop Spalding) hit a driving layup, and, after a Hawk missed trey, Maura hit Lyles for a layup to seal the victory in the final minute.
Junior forward Joe Sherburne (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) added 13 points for the victors and graduate student guard Jarius Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) contributed 10 points and a game-high five assists.
Both teams started nervously as Hartford missed their first eight shots from the floor and UMBC only connected on one of their first seven. But Maura developed the hot hand midway through the half and buried 4-of-6 from long range en route to an 18-point first half. UMBC took an 11-4 lead at the 11:20 mark, but the hosts scored nine consecutive points to surge in front 13-11 with 8:50 to play in the frame.
But in the final 4:19 of the half, UMBC broke from an 18-all tie and scored 12 of the half's final 17 points and went to the locker room in front, 30-23. Maura capped his stellar half by knocking down two free throws with 7.4 seconds left, breaking Will Darley's one-year record by two.
Led by Maura, UMBC converted 10-of-22 from long range. Sherburne converted 3-of-8 and needs just one more trey to become the seventh Retriever to reach the 200 plateau.
The Retrievers won their fourth consecutive road game, a feat not achieved since the championship season of 2007-08. The 6-2 road record in league play ties the best achieved by UMBC in the same season.
UMBC just hosted UMass Lowell last Saturday and surged late for an 83-75 victory.