Chauncey Gilliam did all he could to make UMBC’s contest versus New Hampshire interesting right up until the end, but his phenomenal late-game shot wouldn’t be enough to defeat the clutch-shooting Wildcats, who ended a two-game losing streak by defeating the Retrievers 62-58 at RAC Arena.
Gilliam scored 16 points, but his final three — an off-balance, contested three-pointer from two feet beyond the arc — game the Retrievers a chance by bringing them within two points, 60-58.
After fouling New Hampshire’s Russel Graham, UMBC was alive with two seconds remaining. But Graham buried both of his free throws and the one-win Retrievers were sent to the locker room with their 18th loss of the season.
Head coach Randy Monroe said that in order for his team to start winning basketball games, it needs to find a way to put a full game together. While the defense played well, holding the Wildcats to 37.3 percent shooting from the floor, the offense struggled by shooting 36.4 percent and hitting only 1-of-9 three-pointers.
“Right now we aren’t one of those teams…that have five guys who can score,” Monroe said. “It’s about the team getting the job done by committee.”
While Gilliam did his part scoring, senior forward Matt Spadafora did his job on the boards, snagging a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with his seven points.
The Retrievers, who have struggled rebounding all year, were again out-rebounded, 62-58, but Spadafora’s hard-nosed play seemed to energize his team midway through the first half.
“Everyone was kind of getting tired of getting pounded on the glass,” Spadafora said, adding he was just trying to go in “extra hard” to get rebounds and set an example for his young teammates. Spadafora is the only senior on the team and the only active player who was part of UMBC’s NCAA Tournament run in 2008.
“Anytime you have a lot of young guys on the team, they want to look up to somebody,” he said.
The Retrievers hung in with the Wildcats in the first half due to their superior ability to hit free throws. While New Hampshire hit on only 2-of-6 (33 percent) in the first half, UMBC dropped 9-of-10 (90 percent) and went into halftime down one, 30-29.
But the second half was a different story. While the Wildcats made every key free throw in the waning seconds and shot 75 percent in the second half, the Retrievers missed several from the line and shot only 8-of-14 (57.1 percent), sealing the team’s fate.
“It’s critical,” Monroe said of the missed free throws. “It’s a big part of the game. We always talk about that with our team. We always emphasize how important it is to make free throws.”
But down the stretch, Monroe’s team faltered.
“It’s a mental thing…from a coaching standpoint…if you miss that first shot…examine why you missed it,” rather than dwelling on the miss, Monroe said.
“Execution is vital…especially this time of the year,” he said. “It’s very, very important to be able to execute.”