As Retriever Nation erupted with joy for UMBC’s 74-54 upset victory over the University of Virginia—a team thought unbeatable just hours before—millions of new fans learned for the first time what UMBC stands for: University of a Million Brackets Crushed. Or U Must Be Cinderella. Or, as longtime Retriever fans will tell you, U Made the Best Choice.
Friday’s game wasn’t just record-setting, expectation-smashing victory for UMBC. It was also a major first for the NCAA. Never before has a no. 16 seed bested a no. 1 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, until UMBC, as NPR noted, “beat the stuffing out of Virginia, the best team in the country.” Then again, UMBC is used to achieving what no one knew was possible for such a young public research university.
News of the historic victory immediately flashed on the homepage of the New York Times, which wrote that UMBC “played loose and fearless” and that although Virginia had the nation’s top defense going into the game, UMBC shot 54.2 percent from the floor.
Arguing that “college basketball has never seen a bigger upset than Maryland-Baltimore County 74, Virginia 54,” USA Today wrote, “When most uber-longshots in the NCAA tournament get tight, the Retrievers instead went to the rim with reckless abandon.” As UMBC’s lead over Virginia ballooned, the Cavaliers “played with nervousness while the Retrievers’ confidence grew.“
UMBC star guard Jairus Lyles ‘17, sociology, M.A. ‘18, education, again helped lead his team to victory, finishing with 28 points (82 percent from the floor). “UMBC needed a big bucket or Virginia seemed like it was going to make a run,” USA Today noted, “Lyles would carve through defenders for a tear-drop lay-up or hit a clutch jumper.”
As Bill Raftery said during the TNT broadcast, “The kid’s on fire.”
For Lyles, whose parents are actually UVA alumni, it’s all about his coaches and fellow players. “I’m playing at a high level. But my teammates put that confidence in me,” he said just after the win. “We believe in each other.”
Today, Retriever fans are watching the game on repeat and catching up on posts from @UMBCAthletics, which also made headlines for its joyful, and often cheeky, tweets throughout the evening, calling out doubters, thanking fans, and lamenting a shortage of cookies in the media room.
At one point, account manager Zach Seidel ‘12, media and communication studies, M.S. ‘15, human-centered computing, reminded viewers:
Second Half about to start, no matter what happens we just want you all to remember……we are conveniently located just outside of Baltimore and have stellar academics
— UMBC Athletics (@UMBCAthletics) March 17, 2018
Luckily, there’s no risk that new or longstanding Retriever fans will forget the night. By the end of the evening — as the Washington Post shared with the world, “They did it. And it wasn’t even close” — UMBC was the number one topic people were talking about on Twitter…worldwide.
UMBC now advances to play ninth-seeded Kansas State on Sunday, March 18. As Head Coach Ryan Odom told the team just after their historic win, “The key now is you don’t have long to get ready for the next one.” That’s our Retrievers: always showing their grit and reaching together for greatness.
Game updates will be available soon on the Retriever Nation webpage.
— Dinah Winnick
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Header photo: Mitchell Layton
Additional photos: Ian Feldmann, UMBC Retriever Weekly