Lyles Nets Season-High 35; Retriever Defense Stifles Hartford, 78-56

photo by: Brian Gonzalez
photo by: Brian Gonzalez

BALTIMORE – Graduate student guard Jairus Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) scored a season-high 35 points and UMBC continued its dominance at home, outlasting Hartford, 78-56, at the RAC Arena.

The Retrievers won their third consecutive game and improved to 13-7 overall and 4-1 in America East play. Hartford, which had won five of six entering the game, slipped to 10-9, 3-2.

UMBC improved to 9-0 at home and the nine consecutive home wins tied the second-longest streak in school history, posted from the 2007-08 to 2008-09 seasons.

Lyles scored 14 first-half points, then added 21 after the break. He knocked down 12-of-20 shots, a career-best six (of 11) from behind the arc and sunk all five free throw attempts. Lyles fell just two points shy of his career high of 37, posted at Maine in February of 2016.

As impressive as Lyles was, the UMBC defense has been outstanding since the team returned from a 12-day layoff. Prior to facing Maryland, the Retrievers were allowing 76.6 points per game and foes were shooting 47.0 percent from the field. In the recent 5-2 surge, UMBC has allowed only 61.4 points per game and have held five of seven teams under 40 percent shooting.

Two days ago, Hartford scored 97 points and swished 18 of 23 shots from behind the arc. In tonight's game, the Hawks converted only 6-of-25 from long range (24.0 percent) and 19-of-55 (34.5 percent) from the floor.

Senior guard Jourdan Grant (Bowie, Md./Archbishop Spalding) capped the first surge of the game with a trey, completing a 16-5 run and giving the hosts a 24-13 lead at the 8:22 mark of the first half. The Hawks would slice the deficit to 24-20, but the Retrievers would score the final seven points of the half over a span of 3:15 to take a 31-20 advantage into the break.

Hartford kept within reach early in the second half, trimming the margin to 33-28 at the 16:40 mark. But senior guard K.J. Maura (San Juan, P.R.) responded with a trey and Lyles swished threes to push the lead to 42-28 with 14:15 remaining.

Moments later, junior forward Joe Sherburne (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.), who scored all 13 of his points in a span of 7:45 in the second half, knocked down three consecutive attempts from long range to boost the lead to 54-36 with 9:14 to play and the Hawks were unable to make another push.

 Grant added 12 points and five assists off the bench for UMBC, while junior post Nolan Gerrity (Cleveland, Ohio) led all rebounders with a season-high 10.

Junior guard Jason Dunne hit 5-of-10 from 3-point range and led UH with 22 points, but the rest of the Hawks converted only 1-of-15 from behind the arc.

UMBC recovered from a slow offensive start to finish at 50.0 percent (29-of-58) from the floor and 41.4 percent (12-of-29) from behind the arc.

Notes: The 4-1 start in America East matches UMBC's best in 15 league seasons… The 2007-08 squad started at 4-1 en route to a 13-3 league campaign and an eventual league title... Lyles has scored 20 or more points in 40 of his 70 games in a UMBC uniform and posted his seventh 30-point game tonight… UMBC snapped a three-game home losing streak to Hartford… UMBC has matched its 13-7 record through 20 games from a year ago… UMBC has its first bye in league play and the Retrievers don't play against until a Sunday match-up at Albany (2:00 p.m.)