On Thursday night, two teams boasting a combined record of five wins and 53 loses met in an empty, echo-filled arena in West Hartford. In the shadows on the outskirts of the State capital, the two lowest ranked teams in one of the lowest ranked conferences in the country faced off in front of the deserted chair backs and barren bleachers in the play-in game of the America East tournament.
The game featured air-balls and missed free-throws, blown dunks, blown leads and flagrant fouls.
The match-up between eight-seeded UMBC and ninth-seeded Binghamton was some of the ugliest basketball imaginable.
It was beautiful.
Thursday night’s game was all that remains good in the America East Conference – one of the last bastions of true amateurism in the increasingly dark and seedy world of college basketball. Two teams with seemingly nothing left to play for, refusing to let their seasons end. Powered by guts and heart, the Retrievers and Bearcats left everything they had on the floor, for just one more day toiling in basketball obscurity.
When the dust cleared, the Bearcats, who had crawled through a 1-28 record in the regular season, celebrated their 73 to 67 overtime win as if they had just won the league title.
Jake Wasco, a senior forward for UMBC who lost 94 games in his career, and tasted victory just 13 times during his final three-seasons, left the floor with tears in his eyes. He didn’t want it to end.
None of them did.
“It’s about winning one game and buying another,” remarked Binghamton head coach Mark Macon after the game. “To come in there where they could have put their heads down and walked away… it’s about the team and not myself.” (more…)