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UMBC guard K.J. Maura named America East Defensive Player of the Year

UMBC men’s basketball senior guard K.J. Maura was named America East Conference Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday, becoming just the second Retriever to earn a major award during the program’s 15 years in the league.

Maura ranked 29th nationally and second in the America East in steals per game (2.0), behind only teammate Jairus Lyles (2.2), and helped key a dramatic turnaround of the Retrievers defense under second-year coach Ryan Odom. After allowing 79.1 points per game in conference play last season, second to last in the league, UMBC finished fourth in the regular season this year (66.7).

The 5-foot-8 Puerto Rico native also is averaging 11.1 points per game and is 18th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9). Before Thursday, Rodney Elliott (John Carroll) was the lone Retriever to win an America East award, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2014.

UMBC freshman forward Daniel Akin was also selected to the league's All-Rookie team.

Led by Maura and Lyles, who on Thursday became UMBC’s first first-team all-conference selection since 2009, the second-seeded Retrievers will host No. 7 seed Massachusetts Lowell in the quarterfinals of the America East tournament at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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