Loyola was operating within the thinnest of margins on Wednesday, trailing on the road by 10 points with a minute and a half remaining against UMBC. The Greyhounds needed luck, they needed time and they needed help.
The luck came in the form of a stunning shooting streak, when sophomore guard Eric Laster made four consecutive 3-pointers. Senior guard Dylon Cormier was fouled with 11 seconds left, giving him just enough time to convert a free throw and tie the game at 76 apiece.
And when UMBC's Rodney Elliott missed two free throws — either one of which would have put the Retrievers ahead with three seconds left — Loyola received the help it needed.
“I'm the biggest cheerleader on the team, I'm jumping up and down,” Cormier said. “[Laster] made two or three contested threes and I'm yelling, ‘Space man, just keep shooting.'”
After reaching overtime, the Greyhounds rode their momentum to an 89-83 win over the stunned Retrievers (2-3). UMBC tied an NCAA Division I record for consecutive overtime games by playing in their fourth straight, something that four other teams have done, most recently Dayton in 1988.
Last week, UMBC rallied from a 23-point deficit to defeat Mount St. Mary's 90-84 in overtime. But that equation flipped when Loyola (4-0) stormed back after trailing by 17 points with nine minutes and 44 seconds remaining at RAC Arena.
“We've been on the other end of it. We've seen it, where we've been in that position and haven't quit,” UMBC coach Aki Thomas said. “We're used to overtime, it's part of our culture now.”
Loyola's Cormier provided a circus show of scooping layups, floaters and post-up maneuvers on his way to 34 points and 10 rebounds. Laster's heroic final minutes came after he replaced forward Jordan Latham, who fouled out, at the four-spot.
“Laster saved us there in the second half,” Loyola coach G.G. Smith said. “When he's at the four, it's nice because he can stretch it out, he can shoot the three. I think that was a big point in the game.”
The Retrievers racked up 22 offensive rebounds and five blocks while building their lead, using an 18-8 run in the first six minutes of the second half.
Senior center Brett Roseboro blocked Loyola's Jordan Latham and keyed a fast break that finished with a Rodney Elliott lay-up. Cormier came back with a layup of his own, but UMBC freshman Malik Garner — who scored a team-high 18 points — converted a three-point play.
Roseboro followed by scoring six of the team's next eight points in the post. The 6-foot-10 center only played 16 minutes in the game and sat out during the closing drama of the second half.
“We were trying to match up a little bit with them,” Thomas said. “Their quickness was what allowed them to come back in the game and we were mainly looking to be a bit smaller and so some switching.”
Cormier was not done yet, despite facing a 17-point deficit.
The senior drove for a layup that brought Loyola within single digits with seven minutes remaining. He scored 11 of his team's next 13 points through driving layups, a pull-up 3-pointer and a fast break dunk that narrowed UMBC's lead to 64-60.
UMBC responded and went up by double-digits when Garner converted a free throw with less than two minutes left, after scoring on an alley-oop layup on the previous possession.
But Laster's four 3-pointers allowed Loyola to make the unlikely comeback.
“All I was worried about was staying aggressive and not giving up. That was all I was focused on,” Laster said. “Luckily, the threes were going in.”
The Retrievers out-rebounded the Greyhounds 50 to 31, but only shot 41 percent from the field, compared to Loyola's 50 percent. UMBC's free throw shooting, in particular, has been unreliable, as the team was shooting 56.6 percent from the charity stripe entering the game.
Though they converted 24-of-31 free throws against Loyola, the Retrievers missed their final three in regulation.
“We had a chance to win at the end and that's what you want,” Thomas said. “We'll be in that position again and I'm sure those free throws will go in.”
twitter.com/nick4iezosCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun