GAME NOTES: The Retrievers of UMBC will have a tough time this evening trying to corral their first victory on the year, as they will take on the seventh- ranked and undefeated Connecticut Huskies at the XL Center.
This will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs on the hardwood.
It has been a rough season indeed for the Retrievers, losing all six of their contests to this point, and now having to battle one of the top teams in the nation, on their home floor. Four of the six losses for UMBC have come on the road, and three of those setbacks have come by double figures.
As For Huskies, they have been impressive in the early stages of this season. Whether it is clobbering the opposition, or pulling out close matchups, this Connecticut team has what it takes to be one of the top teams in the country by season's end. So far, the Huskies have defeated Michigan State and Kentucky on their way to winning the Maui Invitational title, and followed that gauntlet with a 62-55 decision over New Hampshire in their last matchup.
Finding success at the offensive end of the floor has been the biggest issue for UMBC to start the year, and the team's lack of scoring was evident in its recent loss to Penn, as the Retrievers fetched just 59 points. UMBC shot a mediocre 41.7 percent from the floor, but that included a lackluster 7-of-23 showing from long range. The Retrievers also committed a whopping 20 turnovers, which is never helpful, and that led to 23 points for the Quakers. Justin Fry led the way in the loss with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Travis King tallied 14 points. King has been the best overall option on the year, as the guard is currently leading the team with 15.0 ppg. Laurence Jolicoeur added 13 points in the losing cause, while point guard Chris De La Rosa dished out nine assists. De La Rosa, who is averaging an impressive 7.3 apg, struggled from the field in the setback though, netting just one of his seven shots, leaving him with nine points. Despite the poor shooting display, the guard is still second on the team with 14.0 ppg.
There have been plenty of outstanding performances through the first month of the season, and a handful players on various rosters have stepped up their game to lead their respected teams. However, there is no one in the nation that has been more important to their team than Kemba Walker. Walker has thrown the Huskies on his shoulders and has taken over the nation, while leading this squad through six straight wins. At the present moment, the veteran guard is leading the country in scoring at 30.0 ppg. However, Walker has not been completely alone in the scoring for UConn, as forward Alex Oriakhi comes into tonight's game averaging a double-double of 12.3 ppg and 11.7 rpg. In the team's recent win over New Hampshire though, the forward was limited to only seven points, but still grabbed 10 rebounds. In the long run though Oriakhi's inability to find the basket did not matter, because once again Walker took over, scoring 30 of the team's 62 points. The only other player in double figures was Shabazz Napier, who tallied 11 points in 27 minutes off the bench.
Eventually UMBC will grab its first win, but it definitely will not be tonight. The Retrievers have some solid players, but there is not a person in on UMBC's roster that can slow down Walker. Look for the explosive guard to lead the Huskies to another victory.