Burlington, Vt. – UMBC graduate student guard Jairus Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) drained a 23-footer from the top of the key with 0.6 seconds left to give the Retrievers a dramatic, come-from-behind 65-62 victory over top-seeded and host Vermont in the America East Championship game.
UMBC (24-9) celebrated their second America East title nearly 10 years after their first crown and NCAA Tournament bid.
Lyles, who scored a game-high 27 points, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He averaged 19.8 points over the Retrievers' three tournament games. He was joined on the All-Championship team by teammates senior guard K.J. Maura (San Juan, P.R.) and freshman forward Daniel Akin (Eltham, England) and Vermont's Trae Bell-Haynes and Payton Henson.
"Win the game, that was all that was going through my head," said Lyles of the game-winning shot. "He (Odom) called a play, I waved it off. Trae Bell-Haynes gave me some space, so I just raised up and hit the shot right over him."
Junior forward Joe Sherburne (Whitefish Bay, Wisc), a senior with a perfect 4.00 GPA in financial economics, was the men's basketball Elite 18 honoree.
The Retrievers will learn their NCAA draw during the selection show Sunday at 6 p.m. on TBS.
"I am so proud of these guys," said head coach Ryan Odom. You have to earn the right to win and these kids did that. They were eager to compete and win. And that's what you saw today."
UMBC trailed by nine points on two occasions in the second half, the final time with 8:21 remaining. But the Retriever defense buckled down and would not give up a field goal the rest of the way.
Maura capped a 10-1 UMBC run with a trey with 5:09 remaining to knot the score at 58-all. Vermont would hit four free throws, but a dunk by sophomore forward Max Curran (Hooksett, N.H.) at the 2:49 mark and a driving layup by Lyles with 61 seconds left tied the contest at 62 apiece.
Vermont's Trae-Bell Haynes' driving attempt with 24 seconds left was blocked and Curran gathered the rebound. With the ball in his hands for the entire possession, Lyles found space between himself and his defender, raised up, and swished his fifth trey of the game.
The win was UMBC's 24th of the season, tying the 2007-08 championship team, which finished the campaign at 24-9. It snapped a 23-game losing streak against the Catamounts, which dated back to the 2008 America East semifinal contest.
The Retrievers committed only four turnovers in the game, the second-lowest for an America East playoff game. They forced 13 Vermont miscues and outscored the Catamounts, 23-6, in points off of turnovers.
The Catamounts established their dominance in the paint early, gradually building a 30-21 lead with 5:17 to play in the first half. Trailing 35-28 with 2:39 to play, UMBC held Vermont scoreless the rest of the half and treys by Lamar, Maura and Lyles just before the horn erased the deficit and gave the Retrievers a 37-35 halftime advantage.
Lyles scored 15 first half points, hitting 3-of-4 shots from behind the arc.
UMBC has won five straight games heading into the NCAA Tournament and five straight on the road.