HARTFORD, Conn. — HARTFORD, Conn. -- After getting beaten, 82-33, in her one and only trip to the NCAA women's basketball tournament last night, UMBC senior Sharri Rohde was asked what she would remember about this experience in five years.
Without skipping a beat, Rohde smiled broadly - not at the drubbing she and her Retrievers teammates had taken at the hands of No. 4 Connecticut, but at the miracle ride they took, figuratively and literally, to get to the Hartford Civic Center.
"Winning an America East championship was amazing," Rohde said. "I never had a feeling like that, and then playing at the Civic Center in front of that huge crowd and playing against one of the best teams in the nation. I'll just look back and I'll think about that and just think about what a great experience that was and how so many people don't have that opportunity. I'll look back and I'll smile. Right now, it hurts a little, but it was a great experience."
In basketball terms, the Retrievers (16-17) took it on the chin against the Huskies (30-3), the top seed in the Fresno Regional and Big East regular-season champion. A win by UMBC, the 16th seed, would have been the biggest in women's tournament history, surpassing the 1998 game in which Harvard, also a 16th seed, beat top seed Stanford, the only time that has ever happened in NCAA tournament history, men's or women's.
With the Retrievers shooting only 25 percent, while setting season lows in both points and field goals (13), that upset wasn't likely to happen.
As the seventh-place team in their conference, the Retrievers won their league title by beating the top three teams, and thus earned the school's first NCAA tournament berth. Everything that has happened since - even their bus getting stranded Friday on the New Jersey Turnpike - has been gravy.
"This has been an unbelievable week for us and our university," said fifth-year coach Phil Stern. "I think our kids handled themselves just unbelievably and I'm so proud of them. This was a great environment for us tonight. It was a lot of fun. We kind of ran the gamut of emotions out there, but for the most part I'm proud of everything we've done and how we competed to the end. We played against a team that might win a national championship, but I'm really proud of our program."
For the record, UMBC (16-17) was done in by the punishing athleticism of Connecticut (30-3), which continually ran faster and stronger players at the Retrievers, hitting them with a 21-0 run spanning the two halves that would have done in the most tradition-rich team, much less one only three years removed from a 4-24 season.
"I said earlier that I wish we weren't playing them so I could watch them play, because I am a big fan of their style of basketball," said Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, inducted this past year into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Auriemma noted that the Retrievers suffered from a talent disparity, evidenced by Huskies power forward Charde Houston, who had 15 points in only 24 minutes. Houston, 6 feet 3, had three steals and disrupted countless other offensive sets for UMBC.
"We're never going to face someone like Charde Houston in our league," Stern said. "Obviously, she'll be a pro. I thought we did a decent job at times on them. They're going to wear us down and we probably extended ourselves at times, and it showed."
For the Retrievers, Rohde had seven points and Brittnie Hughes had nine points in their final games for UMBC. Junior Amanda Robinson had eight points for the Retrievers.
Off the court, the 250 Retriever fans - who outnumbered the Maryland group that came to the Hartford Civic Center to see the Terps play Harvard earlier in the day - held their own against the Husky faithful, matching dog sounds bark for bark.
Even in the second half, with the game long decided and the Retrievers down by 40, the black-and-gold faithful never missed a cue to yell, "U-M-B-C, Big Dogs, Woof."
The hope, for UMBC, is that this trip is just the first of many, with more fans coming and more memories to be made.
"Now that we've had the experience, it's really good, especially for all of us and the young girls," Robinson said. "Now, we know what to expect. We know what to look forward to and I think that will help a lot during the season and help us strive more, because we know what it's like to be here and how awesome this experience was. I think it will help us a lot.'"
UMBC-Rohde 3-9 1-2 7, Robinson 3-12 1-2 8, Hughes 4-13 0-0 9, Drabyn 2-8 0-0 6, Hatten 0-3 0-0 0, Hunt 0-0 0-0 0, Cassidy 0-3 0-0 0, Butler 0-0 0-0 0, Luttrell 1-3 0-0 3, Book 0-0 0-0 0, Baldwin 0-1 0-0 0, Morris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-52 2-4 33. CONNECTICUT-Houston 7-9 1-2 15, Charles 5-7 0-1 10, Montgomery 7-12 2-2 19, Thomas 1-5 0-0 3, Greene 5-9 2-2 12, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Swanier 5-7 0-0 12, Fernandes 0-0 0-0 0, Gardler 1-3 0-0 3, McLaren 0-0 2-2 2, Hunter 2-4 0-0 4, Kerns 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 34-57 7-9 82. Halftime-Connecticut, 41-20. 3-point goals-UMBC 5-24 (Drabyn 2-8, Luttrell 1-1, Robinson 1-4, Hughes 1-5, Hatten 0-1, Rohde 0-2, Cassidy 0-3), Connecticut 7-17 (Montgomery 3-6, Swanier 2-4, Gardler 1-2, Thomas 1-5). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-UMBC 23 (Hatten, Rohde 4), Connecticut 41 (Charles 7). Assists-UMBC 11 (Robinson, Rohde 3), Connecticut 20 (Montgomery 4). Total fouls-UMBC 9, Connecticut 5. A-6,824.