Summary — Vermont was just too deep and too good in the second half tonight, as they pulled away from UMBC late and posted a 77-65 win at the RAC Arena in front of a terrific crowd of 2,902 at UMBC. It was a tale of two halves, as Vermont’s top player, Marqus Blakely, did little in the opening 20 minutes, scoring only 3 points as the Retrievers led by 7 at intermission. Blakely and the Catamounts came out like a different team in the second half, though, and the Blakely show needed only eight minutes to put Vermont ahead for good, as he scored 10 points to put UMBC behind for good with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Nursing a wrist injury, Blakely sat out the final 12 minutes of the contest but a host of Vermont substitutes did the damage including Joey Accouai who went 4-for-5 from the 3-point arc while point guard Mike Trimboli connected on a pair of 3-pointers during a 15-4 Vermont run midway through the second half. Darryl Proctor led UMBC – and all scorers – with 24 points. Vermont improved to 12-3 in conference play with the win while the Retrievers fall to 6-8 in America East.
3:58 remaining/2nd — Marqus Blakely hasn’t played in nearly 9 minutes but the Vermont Catamounts are doing just fine without him. It’s now 69-58 Vermont, as Joey Accaoui has 12 points on the night, 4-for-4 from 3-point land, and UMBC is in trouble now. Darry Proctor has been UMBC’s big second-half gun and he now leads all scorers with 17 points. Blakely’s absence is puzzling to say the least, as he completely took over to start the 2nd half and contributed 10 points in eight minutes before taking a seat.
7:50 remaining/2nd — It’s a different game without Marqus Blakely in there. The Vermont star took a four minute rest and the Retrievers have stayed in the game. It’s now 58-52 Vermont. Jay Greene sparked a mini UMBC run with two quick buckets on successive trips down the court to pull Randy Monroe’s team to within three, but Maurice Joseph just tossed in a 3-pointer to put the Catamounts back up by 6.
11:47 remaining/2nd — Marqus Blakely took over in the first eight minutes of the second half, with 10 points and 3 rebounds as the Catamounts have completely taken control here at the RAC, leading 53-46 with 11:47 remaining in the game. Vermont coach Mike Lonergan has just given Blakely a well deserved breather and the entire bench rose to meet him as he came off the floor. I’m not sure, but I think I saw Randy Monroe wave “thanks” to Lonergan. For as ineffective as Blakely was in the first half, he’s dominated the first 8 minutes of the second half.
17:45 remaining/2nd half — So much for that lead. So much for Marqus Blakely being quiet. In the first half, he had his right hand heavily wrapped. He scored 3 points. The hand-wrap is now gone. So is UMBC’s lead. Blakely has 5 points in the first 2:15 of the second half. It’s Vermont on an early 11-2 run to go up 41-39. Darryl Proctor just picked up his 3rd foul. Randy Monroe has called a time-out. Uh oh.
2nd half preview — I bragged for the last couple of weeks that Vermont’s Marqus Blakely would be worth the price of admission tonight. So far, if you gave the box office a quarter when you came in you got ripped off. He scored a 2-pointer 8 seconds into the game and has one foul shot from that point forward for a whopping total of 3 points. He’s the key in the second half. If the Retrievers can keep him under 20 points for the game, they’ll win. No way Vermont wins unless Blakely has a monster second half. I liked UMBC’s chances before the game and I still like them now. Gilliam and Fleming have been the difference for the Retrievers. Here we go…
Halftime — I’ve seen a lot of live college basketball in 2008-09 and that was the best 20 minutes of basketball I’ve witnessed. UMBC is holding their own, thanks in large part to balanced scoring and a terrific defensive effort on the top player in the conference, Vermont’s Marqus Blakely (3 points). Jay Greene fired in a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Retrievers and his five assists have been typical fancy passes that spark the crowd and his teammates. Chauncey Gilliam (11) points leads UMBC while Colin McIntosh has 11 for the Catamounts. This is one heckuva college basketball game and UMBC is 20 minutes away from a significant win and a semi-major upset here at the RAC.
1:58 remaining/1st — Chauncey Gilliam has poured in 11 points and Rich Fleming (10) and Darryl Proctor (9) have helped considerably as UMBC is up 32-29 late in the first half. Marqus Blakely of Vermont has been non-existent in the first 18 minutes or so with only 2 points and three total shots.
7:38 remaining/1st — To borrow a horse-racing term, Vermont “got the bit between its teeth” over the last few minutes and they now trail 24-23 with 12:22 gone in the game. Rich Fleming scored 7 points in less than a minute for UMBC and they opened a 7-point lead but the Catamounts quickly rebounded and got two straight 3-pointers from Joey Accaoui to get within one. Marqus Blakely has two points thus far — very quiet for Vermont.
11:50 remaining/1st — UMBC wants it more right now. Vermont not shooting well and the Retrievers are doing a good job of fighting under the basket. Neither team has great size, but if the first 8 minutes was a battle-of-wills, the Retrievers won. Darryl Proctor has 7 points early to lead all scorers. The crowd here is wildly into the game. Of course, it’s easy to be into the game when the home team is winning.
15:18 remaining/1st half — A spirited first 4+ minutes as the Retrievers are up early 7-6. The crowd is really into it…they are keenly aware that Vermont is really good and that this represents a chance for UMBC to make a statement of sorts in the America East’s final three weeks. Proctor and Greene both have buckets for UMBC and Vermont stud Marqus Blakely (a JUNIOR, by the way…) had the first 2-pointer of the game for the Catamounts and is a marked man when he gets into the offensive end. Back with more…
I can’t compete with Glenn Clark’s ultra-impressive Terps in-game blog so I better get this started now.
UMBC (6-7/America East) hosts conference-leading Vermont (11-3) tonight at the RAC.
There’s an outstanding crowd here already and we’re still 10 minutes from game-time.
For the record, and I know Glenn says this too, I’m calling a UMBC upset tonight. 77-74 Retrievers is my official call.
I’ll check back with 3-4 updates per-half.