Missed free throws. Too many turnovers. A generous 3-point defense.
The UMBC men’s basketball team could point to several factors that contributed to its 67-63 loss to visiting Albany before an announced 2,381 at the UMBC Event Center in Catonsville on Wednesday night. But coach Ryan Odom refused to be frustrated.
“I just don’t like to lose,” he said. “Whether we win or we lose, we go back into the film room, we go back into our meetings, we talk to our team about what hurt us and what helped us in that game. So this will be no different. We’ve lost games before. I think we’ve got a pretty resilient squad. I think we’re playing a little bit better right now. In no way are we discouraged about where it’s headed. I think we know we can compete. It’s just a matter of making the plays necessary to win games at the end.”
With the loss, the Retrievers witnessed the end of their two-game winning streak and slipped to 9-13 overall and 2-5 in the America East Conference. The Great Danes, who had lost two of their previous three games, improved to 12-10 and 5-2.
Senior guard K.J. Jackson led all scorers with 18 points and added four assists and two steals. Junior forward Daniel Akin had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his first double double of the season and sophomore guard L.J. Owens (Severn) chipped in 10 points.
UMBC shot better from the floor than Albany did, converting 45.3% (24-for-53) compared with 39.3% (22-for-56) for the Great Danes. But UMBC faltered badly at the free-throw line, missing seven of 15 attempts in the second half and eight of 17 overall.
The Retrievers also had trouble protecting the ball, committing 11 turnovers in the first half en route to a game-high 16 giveaways. Albany took advantage, turning those turnovers into 19 points.
“I think you can look at the 16 turnovers as a factor,” Odom said. “Going into the game, our team was first [in the league] in turnover percentage, and we kind of had a blow-up game. Like golf, we had a blow-up hole there, and it wasn’t what we needed at key times. We did a little bit better in the second half, but to have 11 at halftime wasn’t what we needed.”
The Great Danes drained 11 3-pointers, tied for the second-most surrendered by UMBC this winter. Sophomore guard Cameron Healy and senior guard Ahmad Clark combined to shoot only 2-for-12 from long distance, but sophomore forward Malachi de Sousa canned three of four attempts, including one with 1:25 left in the game that gave Albany a 61-56 lead.
“We joke around all the time that we want to be shot makers, not shot takers,” Great Danes coach Will Brown said. “We are an opportunistic 3-point shooting team. We don’t want to live or die by it. I think the way UMBC hoarded Healy and Clark, they really crowded them. So they had to give up something, and I think they gave up some 3′s, and we had some guys step up and make them, and make them at some crucial times.”
De Sousa paced Albany with 15 points and six rebounds, while Clark totaled 13 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Freshman guard Trey Hutcheson contributed 13 points and four rebounds, and Healy added 10 points and three steals despite not making his customary start because of disciplinary reasons.
Trailing 56-46 with 6:03 remaining, the Retrievers scored 10 straight points to tie the score at 56 with 2:28 left. But two free throws and the 3-pointer from de Sousa gave the Great Danes a 61-56 advantage, and when sophomore guard R.J. Eytle-Rock’s bounce pass missed Akin in the paint and went out of bounds with 27.3 seconds left, UMBC was forced to foul, and Albany made all four of its attempts.
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“When it was 56-all, we had a shot at it,” Odom said. “But they made the plays down the stretch, and we didn’t.”