BOSTON – Just after the calendar turned over to 2012, UMBC seemed to have a new beginning of sorts. Their non-conference struggles meant nothing after a trip to New Hampshire led to a conference-opening win and an early lead in America East. It didn’t matter that they weren’t close in many games; for the moment, they were tied atop their conference and that was all that mattered. It was only one game, but perhaps that would help their confidence and ultimately their fortunes.
Three weeks later, the Retrievers are nowhere near the top of the conference, and look like a team that is going nowhere fast. Tuesday night’s 83-48 thrashing at Boston University might be as illustrative as anything of where this team is and how far they have fallen from their conference championship days of a few years earlier.
It’s one thing to lose games. It’s another to lose the way this team has. The Retrievers have lost 17 games on the season, 14 by double digits. Every America East loss has been by double digits, with the closest ones being a pair of 17-point losses. They lost by 38 at Rutgers and 40 at home against Stony Brook earlier this season. In conference play, they are being outscored by 18 points per game.
Simply put, UMBC looked out of their league on Tuesday night. You can chalk some of it up to something we see a few times every season: one team plays very well in the same game that the other team plays very poorly. If it were an isolated event, perhaps a lot of the result could be chalked up to that. But Tuesday night’s event is hardly an isolated case, and while it’s true that Boston University is the hottest team in America East, that hardly guaranteed a humbling like what the Retrievers were given at Case Gym.
It’s hard not to think the bottom isn’t falling out on the program. Lots of programs, even the powerhouses, have had down years and stretches where they weren’t very good. Brighter days are surely ahead for the Retrievers, if only because things don’t look like they can get much worse, at least as far as the bottom line goes. Certainly, the hope is that they are hitting rock bottom now, if they haven’t already.
Sure, the Retrievers are young, having become younger as a result of a defection early on from one of the two seniors they had on the team. But that alone can’t explain it, especially since it’s not like Boston University is a team of only juniors and seniors.
“I hate using the word ‘young’, but I think that’s how we play, and it shows at times,” said head coach Randy Monroe.
You have to look far to find bright spots on this team, aside possibly from Chase Plummer’s emergence this season. The Retrievers are allowing America East opponents to shoot nearly 52 percent from the field, including over 40 percent from long range. They are allowing 81 points per game in conference play. Their offensive numbers are better in conference play, but most are not up by much. On the season, they have been close to even on the glass, but on Tuesday Boston University had a 45-28 edge in that department.
Monroe is a fiery, competitive coach who demands effort from his players. He speaks of often about opportunities, including the one his team had to pull off a good win on Tuesday. He’s a caring man who wants his players to be good students and productive citizens as well when their basketball playing days are over. The unfortunate thing is that his team doesn’t always take on his passion in how they play, and the bottom line is reflecting that right now.
UMBC looked like they might have been ready to improve on their non-conference showing at first. But the games ever since then, capped by Tuesday night’s thumping in Boston, give the appearance that they still have a long way to go.