For the first time ever, a 16-seed has knocked off a 1-seed.
Most people didn’t even know what UMBC stood for going into their game against the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday (It’s University of Maryland-Baltimore County, by the way). But if you didn’t know before, you’ll know now and you’ll know forever, because the Retrievers made history by beating the Cavaliers 74-54.
The two teams played even through the first half. 16-seeds have hung in with 1’s before but rarely do they last. And obviously, they’d never won.
But UMBC came out firing to start the second half, building a 16-point lead and they never looked back. This wasn’t a team that scrapped their way into a tight game and then held on to the end. This was more like a “team of destiny” type of performance.
Jairus Lyles, who needed to hit a buzzer-beater to win the America East Tournament Championship, played like a star in the team’s first NCAA Tournament game in over a decade.
Lyles was dealing with cramps in the second half and was clearly hobbled but led the Retrievers with 28 points, 23 of those in the second half.
He easily played the game of his life.
KJ Maura, the 5’8 senior from San Juan, Puerto Rico, steadied the offense as the diminutive point guard scored 10 points and did his best Bob Cousy impression, using his speed and size to his advantage as the Cavaliers tried to get back in the game by pressuring UMBC.
Meanwhile, the doubts that people had about the No. 1 seed Cavaliers turned out to be true. They slow offense utilizing its size didn’t even get the No. 2 overall seed one win in the 2018 tournament.
UMBC now plays Kansas State in the next round on Sunday.