When the 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles advanced to the second round during the 2013 March Madness tournament with a convincing 78–68 victory, most college basketball fans probably believed that if a 16th-seeded team were to pull off the ultimate upset in the future, the score will probably be closer than that game. They could not be more wrong, as last night, the 16th-seeded UMBC Retrievers decimated the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers in a 74–54 blowout. UMBC, short for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County became the first team in the tournament’s 80-year history to pull off the stunning upset.
The Cavaliers had gotten off to a quick start as UMBC did not have a lead until the midway mark of the first half. However, Virginia quickly collapsed in the second half, exhausting its timeouts early and also going into foul trouble. UMBC took charge from that point, going on extended scoring runs and eventually taking the game out of the Cavaliers’ reach. UMBC guard Jairus Lyles, who recorded 28 points, was named the game’s MVP.
The Cavaliers’ defence, which paced the NCAA with only 53.4 average points against all season, had chosen the worst time of the year to unravel. Their loss last night was the only game in the season in which they have given up 70 or more points, and their 20-point loss in the game was also their worst loss of the season. For the Retrievers however, their win boasted the largest margin of victory against ranked opponents they have faced this season.
The Retrievers’ victory is also only the second time the bottom-seeded team has toppled the top-seeded team in college basketball history. Twenty years prior, the 16th-seeded Harvard Crimson Women’s team also managed to pull off the upset against the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal, but with a closer score of 71–67.
But what caught my eye the most from this game was the way Virginia coach Tony Bennett handled the postgame interviews. Just fresh off realising that he was on the butt end of a historical upset, Bennett remained composed in front of the media and answered every question respectfully. He made no attempt to criticise his own team’s shortcomings and instead congratulated his opponents on their achievement. He was humble, and allowed himself a graceful exit despite suffering a humiliating defeat. This is a quality that many coaches and leaders should take note of.
With everything said and done, the Retrievers are en route to the next round. When the Retrievers face the Kansas State Wildcats on Sunday, it will be the first time in tournament history that a ninth-seeded team will be wearing their home jerseys during the March Madness tournament.
Above Photo: The UMBC bench celebrate as their team pulls away with the lead late in the game, en route to a historical upset against Virginia. (Getty Images)