At first glance, the UMBC men’s basketball team’s 63-48 victory over visiting Navy at RAC Arena on Monday night might not seem critical. But since the win snapped a four-game losing skid for the Retrievers, the outcome was quite significant for coach Aki Thomas.
“It was a pretty big win,” he said Tuesday morning. “We’ve been playing pretty well at home, and it was fortunate that we could play at home and win at home again. It gives us some momentum going into our league play on [Jan.] 5th at UMass Lowell.
"So it’s going to be a tough road game. And being that we had lost to [Navy] last month, I thought that to come back and play the way we played last night against a team that had beaten us pretty good, showed how much we’ve improved in a short period of time. So that was good for our guys to see and be a part of.”
The positive result was the team’s first victory since Dec. 2 when it edged UMES, 64-59, and gave the players some much-needed confidence.
“We definitely needed some confidence, and this game really helped us with that in a number of different ways,” Thomas said. “We improved in a lot of different areas. Our defense and field-goal percentage were really good last night, but it gives us confidence knowing that when we do the things that we need to do, we can come out with decent results.”
Freshman point guard Rodney Elliott paced UMBC (4-9) with a game-high 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. But the offense got a huge boost from freshman guard Bryan Harris, who scored all 14 of his points in the final nine minutes.
Thomas said Harris, who played in just his second game of the season after serving a suspension for violating unnamed university rules, gives the team another scoring, defensive and ball-handling option on the floor.
“He provides another tough, on-ball perimeter defender,” Thomas said. “He’s got a decent IQ, and he can handle the ball. He really takes some pressure off of the point guards late in the game because he’s another guy that can really take care of the ball and make good decisions. And he’s a streaky shooter. So when he’s feeling good, he’s going to make some shots, and as you know, shooting has been one of our weak points this year. So it’s good to get another shooter in there.”