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UMBC faces reality check after 77-50 loss to America East foe Albany

The UMBC men's basketball team entered Monday with its best-ever record in Division I play through 17 games. If first-year coach Ryan Odom needed a litmus test for his squad's progress, he couldn't have asked for more than a game against America East Conference foe Albany.

The Great Danes have owned the Retrievers in recent years, winning five straight meetings and 14 of 15 in the series. And for all the strides UMBC has made this season, an utterly forgettable 77-50 loss before an announced 1,591 at RAC Arena showed there's still plenty of work to be done.

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The Retrievers (12-6, 3-2), who had led the league in scoring at 81.8 points per game, had fits all afternoon against the aggressive zone defense of the larger Great Danes. They shot a season-low 32.7 percent from the field, including 8-for-27 from 3-point range, in their most lopsided defeat since a 45-point loss to Vermont in February.

Jairus Lyles, the team's leading scorer entering the game, finished with six points, 15 below his average, on 2-for-9 shooting.

"We've got to be a tougher basketball team all around," Odom said. "We can't look like we looked tonight. We looked confused. We did not handle it the way a veteran team should."

The UMBC men's basketball team has the nation's most accurate 3-point shooter, and he has a problem. It is very much a First World Problem. It bothers him j

For Albany (10-9, 1-3), which leads the all-time series 23-7, a change in defensive strategy paid huge dividends. Looking to make Lyles, a junior guard, settle for jump shots and deny his drives to the basket, Albany coach Will Brown chose to largely scrap his team's usual man-to-man defense in favor of a 3-2 zone.

"I've been here 15 years, and I can probably count on two hands how many possession of zone we've played," Brown said. "We didn't have a guy who I felt could just guard Lyles one-on-one. I thought if we could set our defense and mix our defenses up by playing some zone, not allowing them to get into any kind of rhythm … that was our goal."

UMBC looked sharp early, hitting its first four shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guard Will Darley (Dulaney), to take a 10-4 lead.

Then Albany took over.

The Great Danes ramped up their pressure on the Retrievers' perimeter shooters, guarding them closely and forcing them to shoot over the zone. UMBC, one of the league's top long-range teams, suddenly couldn't hit a shot.

The Retrievers missed seven straight field-goal attempts, including five from 3-point range, helping Albany set up its transition game. The Great Danes went on a 14-0 run, capped by forward Dallas Ennema's 3-pointer in transition, to take an 18-10 lead.

UMBC went scoreless for 7:19 during the stretch, several times forcing tough 3-point attempts. The Great Danes often put three defenders on the ball-handler, making it difficult for the Retrievers' smaller guards to find passing lanes.

Arnaud William Adala Moto made 12 of 13 free throws and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds, John Davis added 16 points and the host

"Certainly, we did not handle it very well. The starting group and the subs that came off the bench, none of them really handled that well all night," Odom said. "We have a team that likes to run and liked to get up and down the court, and they did a good job of frustrating us."

Though junior guard Rodney Elliott (John Carroll) came off the bench midway through the first half to help get the Retrievers back into the game with eight points in 1:47, Albany regained focus defensively, scoring 14 of the next 16 points to build its lead to 14 near halftime.

With UMBC still ice-cold, Albany guards David Nichols (18 points) and Joe Cremo (15) continued to fire away at the other end, time and again turning defensive stops into transition baskets as they helped push the lead to 30 midway through the second half.

After three straight conference losses to open the season, Brown said his team came ready to play.

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"I think our guys said, 'Enough is enough,' " Brown said. "They wanted to stop the bleeding."

Elliott finished with nine points for the Retrievers, who did not have a scorer in double figures.

"There are going to be times when it doesn't go in the basket for you like you're used to, and you've got to do other things to stay in games and make it happen for yourself," Odom said. "We didn't handle it well, so I want to learn from it."

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