BALTIMORE, Md. — Back on January 11th, the Hartford Hawks and the UMBC Retrievers squared off on the Hawks’ home floor. The result was an 84-68 decision for the visiting Retrievers.
Since then, the teams have gone in separate directions.
Coming into Thursday night’s tilt, the Hawks were riding a six-game losing streak, and had lost 11 of their last 12 games overall. Sitting at 1-9 overall in America East play, things weren’t about to get any easier for the Hawks with a visit to Baltimore.
On the flip side, the Retrievers came into Thursday night looking like a legitimate threat to the Vermont Catamounts and their chances at the America East title. Boasting Jairus Lyles, who is a front-runner for conference Player of the Year award, UMBC was looking for another win to keep pace atop the standings.
The tides would shift on Thursday, even if it was only for one night.
Jalen Ross scored a game-high 28 points for the Hawks, and Hartford overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half to hold down home court.
Hartford earned a split in the series with an 84-77 win over the Retrievers.
At the break, the Retrievers held an 11-point lead over the Hawks, at 42-31. A layup from Nolan Garrity to open the second half extended UMBC’s lead to 13 points, its biggest of the night.
The Hawks would cut the lead down to 10, but a three from Lyles stretched it back to 13 with just under 18 minutes to play in the game.
Hartford would launch another comeback, and as the second half ticked away, the Hawks found themselves ahead for the first time since they led 10-9 early in the first half.
With 6:27 to play in the game, Ross hit a three point jumper to cut the deficit down to a single point, and Hartford would take the lead shortly thereafter. Jack Hobbs scored five straight points, giving the Hawks a 66-62 advantage.
From then on out, the Hawks would never trail.
Thanks to some timely free throw shooting down the stretch from guard Jason Dunne, and baskets from George Blagojevic and Ross, Hartford held on to score the 84-77 win over the Retrievers.
Jalen Ross scored a game-high 28 points to lead the way for the Hawks. He did a lot of damage from the free throw line, going 11-of-13 from the charity stripe. J.R. Lynch chipped in with 17 points and 6 rebounds in the win.
Jairus Lyles was held in check for most of the night. He finished with 10 points, on 2-of-8 shooting from the field. Lyles did record 7 rebounds and 5 assists, while also committing five turnovers.
Guard K.J. Maura scored a career-high 22 points in the loss.
The win halted the six-game losing streak for the Hartford Hawks (7-19, 2-9). They will look for their second-straight victory on Sunday at home against the UMass-Lowell River Hawks.
On the flip side, the loss ended the three-game win streak for the UMBC Retrievers (16-8, 7-4). They will look to get back on the right track on Sunday when they welcome the conference-leading Vermont Catamounts to town.
– T. Bennett