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UMBC men's basketball coach: Loss to UAlbany played key role in NCAA tournament upset

UMBC men's basketball coach: Loss to UAlbany played key role in NCAA tournament upset

83-39 loss to UAlbany removed "fear" for UMBC
UMBC men's basketball coach: Loss to UAlbany played key role in NCAA tournament upset
UMBC head coach Ryan Odom is shown during last March's game against Virginia.
Photographer: Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports

ALBANY — With one fantastic victory last year, UMBC raised its men’s basketball profile and became a part of March Madness lore.

Ten months later, University at Albany head coach Will Brown said the benefits of that UMBC win against Virginia — the first in the NCAA men’s tournament for a 16-seed against a No. 1 squad — continue to exist for the America East Conference.

“They’re still talking about it months and months later,” Brown said Friday, a day before UAlbany’s 1 p.m. game at UMBC. “It’s awesome what UMBC did.”

And UAlbany played a key role in making UMBC’s 75-54 drubbing of Virginia — “UMBC absolutely throttled them,” Brown said — happen. That’s according to UMBC head coach Ryan Odom, whose team suffered an 83-39 loss at UAlbany last January.

“That game was etched into our minds throughout the rest of the season because you never want to lose that way. Albany was phenomenal that day, and we were the polar opposite,” Odom said. “Good teams have days where you just can’t do anything, and that was one of them for us — but I thought that one really helped us. We didn’t have any fear after that.”

Instead, UMBC won 12 of its next 14 games — including a 68-60 win against UAlbany — before seeing its season end with a loss to Kansas State. That game last January at SEFCU Arena, Odom said, helped make possible his program’s strong finish and once-in-a-lifetime win vs. Virginia.

“What I think that loss did for us down the stretch was we had no fear of losing anymore,” Odom said. “We’d already been embarrassed in a game. So going into the Vermont [America East championship] game or the Virginia game, we really didn’t have any fear about getting beat because it had already happened to us.”

From a conference perspective, Brown said the best thing about UMBC’s NCAA tournament win last year was how the history-making aspect of it leads to UMBC — and, by extension, the America East — regularly getting mentioned within national media. For the foreseeable future, Brown said that will continue every year on Selection Sunday.

“When those brackets come out,” Brown said, “it’s going to be, ‘Is there another UMBC?’”

In particular, UAlbany’s 83-39 win against UMBC last year earned the Great Danes a fair amount of publicity in the immediate aftermath of UMBC’s national tournament win.

“I mean, shoot, we got exposure from it because they must have said five times [how] Albany beat them by [44] points at home,” said Brown, whose program once flirted as a 16-seed with knocking off No. 1 UConn in the 2006 tournament. “I don’t know what it’s done for us, but, you know, they say UAlbany on national TV.”

This season, UAlbany and UMBC are both much different teams from last season. Mostly, the key players from last season’s games are gone for each team, and neither UAlbany (0-3, 5-13) nor UMBC (2-2, 10-9) is off to a particularly strong start in conference play.

“We’ll always be proud of last year,” Odom said, “but this is this year’s team, and we’re trying to make our way.”

Last year’s UMBC team snapped a 135-game winning streak for top seeds against No. 16 teams in the NCAA tournament. Brown said he expects power programs to go on a similar winning streak in future years, leaving UMBC’s accomplishment to remain a singular one within the sport for years.

“As long as it took for that to happen,” Brown said, “I think it will take just as long for it to happen again.”

With the impending snowstorm set to hit the Capital Region, the start time of Saturday’s UAlbany’s America East women’s basketball game against UMBC at SEFCU Arena has been changed from 1 p.m. to 11 a.m., the Great Danes announced Friday.

Doors will open at 10:30 a.m.

Fans who are unable to attend the game can exchange their tickets for another women’s game. Tickets can be exchanged by visiting the UAlbany ticket office Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or at the SEFCU Arena box office on game day.

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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