NCAA

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

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USA TODAY Sports

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UMBC's improbable run through the NCAA Tournament was brief. The statement the Retrievers made and their place in history is forever.

For one weekend in March, the tiny commuter school from Baltimore known for its academics and championship-winning chess team captured the hearts of the college basketball world and beyond. UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in March Madness, a victory over Virginia that made the Retrievers the ultimate Cinderella.

The fairytale came to an end Sunday night in a 50-43 loss to No. 9 Kansas State -- heartbreaking because it was a game UMBC could have won, but still satisfying because the Retrievers touched so many people by accomplishing what many thought was impossible.

"We put our name on the map. We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," said senior guard K.J. Maura. "I think we gave hope to guys that are not even that tall like me. People that feel like they are underdogs in their life, I think we gave hope to everything they want to do in life."

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Stephen Curry noticed the team and sent UMBC the sneakers the team wore against Kansas State. The Golden State Warriors had his Curry 5s, which are in limited release, and other swag sent to the team. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared the Retrievers "Surgeon General approved" and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted to UMBC guard Joe Sherburne, who claims to be Rodgers' biggest fan. And for a team addicted to the video game "Fortnite," their dreams were made when Ninja, a popular gamer who recently played against rapper Drake and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, FaceTimed with the team early Sunday.

"They play with passion, they play with heart, they play together," coach Ryan Odom said. "We do things together for one another, and obviously when you have a big win like that (over Virginia) and it's so shocking, you know, people love to see that. They love to see the upset.

"And our guys handled it with grace and understood the circumstances. They weren't pounding their chests or anything. They expected to be here and expected to compete."

When UMBC returned to the locker room following its ouster, Odom had written just one word on the whiteboard. The Retrievers needed a buzzer-beating 3 against Vermont to win their conference title and make the NCAA Tournament, but they showed up believing they could beat Virginia, and the same about Kansas State.

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So Odom simply penned "Proud" on the board for his players.

"Just very proud of these kids and what they've been able to do as the representatives that they are for our university," Odom said. "Just captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective and it's really, really neat to see."

Sherburne said Odom relayed stories from friends who had texted or called from outside the country to rave about UMBC. Near tears after an 0-for-9 shooting night, Sherburne found consolation in the joy UMBC brought to so many.

"From when we beat Vermont until the last two hours were the greatest time of my life," Sherburne said. "What we did, everyone in here, it's the greatest time of our lives."

Odom arrived at UMBC two years ago and inherited a team accustomed to losing. He told them he was going to get them to .500 that first year; they thought he was joking. But slowly the culture changed and the Retrievers did everything Odom told them they could accomplish.

And then some.

"When I got here, first we were a four-win team that year, and then the next year we went on to win seven games," said graduate student Jairus Lyles. "Then Coach Odom and his staff came in, we won 21 games and this year we had a tremendous season."

Odom doesn't know how far the UMBC program can grow. Those four letters are now synonymous with the biggest upset in college basketball history, but it's a long way from becoming a basketball school.

"UMBC is a unique place -- lot of high achieving kids on campus," Odom said. "We want guys that want to be great from a basketball perspective and want to play after college. But, at the same time, we want folks that are highly motivated academically that want to do great things past basketball. Because the air goes out of the ball at some point for everybody."

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Did Anthony Cowan deserve the technical foul that ended his night vs. Ohio State?

Did Anthony Cowan deserve the technical foul that ended his night vs. Ohio State?

Anthony Cowan was handed a technical foul late in the second half of Maryland's matchup with Ohio State that resulted in his disqualification.

Cowan, with four personal fouls at the time, was hammered on a layup attempt with 3:54 left in the contest against the Buckeyes. He had cut the Buckeyes' lead to 64-59 and thought he was headed to the free-throw line for an and-1. He was not. 

After no whistle was blown, Cowan reacted, kicking his foot in the air in disbelief. He was then given the technical. which was his fifth and final foul. Maryland didn't have its star point guard for the final 3:54 of a tight game. 

Cowan had picked up his third foul with 7:08 left in the game and then No. 4 exactly two minutes later. 

Twitter lit into the officiating that played a major factor in a very important conference game between the two squads.

Maryland ended up losing the matchup to the Buckeyes 79-72, but it didn't lose ground in the conference standings.

Penn State lost Sunday afternoon, too, so Maryland (22-5, 12-4 conference) didn't lose any ground in its quest to win the Big 10 regular-season championship for the first time. With four games to go, the Terps still hold a two-game lead over the Nittany Lions, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin in the conference standings. Those teams are all tied at 10-6. 

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Cassius Stanley shoots Duke past Hokies

Cassius Stanley shoots Duke past Hokies

DURHAM, N.C. -- Cassius Stanley scored 21 points and made a season-high five 3-pointers to help No. 6 Duke beat Virginia Tech 88-64 on Saturday night.

Matthew Hurt added 16 points and a season-high 10 rebounds for the Blue Devils (23-4, 13-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who never trailed.

Duke opened the game with an 11-2 spurt that featured three 3-pointers in the first three minutes. The Blue Devils scored on 10 of their first 12 possessions and later delivered a 19-4 run on their way to a 51-25 lead at halftime.

Duke improved to 21-1 all time at home against the Hokies.

Vernon Carey Jr. scored 16 points and Tre Jones had 14 points for the Blue Devils.

Tyrece Radford scored 16 points to lead Virginia Tech (15-12, 6-10), which shot 37% from the field. Isaiah Wilkins added 11 points, and Hunter Cattoor had all 10 of his points in the second half for the Hokies.

Landers Nolley II, who entered the game averaging a team-best 17.3 points and 6.3 rebounds, had three points and one rebound for Virginia Tech.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia Tech: The Hokies continued their slide. They were one of college basketball's feel-good stories early on with a win over Michigan State and then seven victories in an eight-game stretch through mid-January, but they have dropped eight of 10 games since then.

Duke: The Blue Devils bounced back after getting thumped 88-66 at N.C. State on Wednesday night, winning for the eighth time in their last nine games. They remain a half game behind No. 11 Louisville for first place in the ACC as they pursue another top seed for the NCAA Tournament.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Virginia, which beat the Hokies 65-39 on Jan. 4, visits Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.

Duke: The Blue Devils travel on Tuesday night to Wake Forest, a team they beat 90-59 on Jan. 11.

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