All Sections

Home | College Sports

NCAA History: UMBC pulls off biggest tourney upset ever, and NH's Max Curran helps out

By JOE DUBALL
New Hampshire Union Leader
Staff and Wire Report

March 17. 2018 1:56AM

UMBC Retrievers forward Max Curran (23), from Hooksett, grabs a rebound against Virginia Cavaliers center Jack Salt (33) during the second half in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., March 16, 2018. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)



Friday night's historic NCAA Division I Tournament upset by 16th-seeded University of Maryland-Baltimore County over top-seeded Virginia came with a little help from New Hampshire.

Max Curran, a Hooksett native and former Pembroke Academy standout, registered two rebounds and two assists across 10 minutes off the bench in the astounding 74-54 triumph for the Retrievers. The win marked the first time in D-I men's tournament history that a No. 16 seed has ousted a No. 1 seed.

"It was definitely an experience where I don't want to be woken up to someone telling me that the game is really later on that day," said Curran in a phone interview on Saturday. "I really was thinking that once we got back to the locker room. It ended up being a real day and definitely one of those moments you just have to sit back and be grateful to be a part of it all."

The upset itself is shocking to many, but the manner in which Curran and UMBC dismantled Virginia was the epitome of "March Madness." The Retrievers' 53 second-half points were one shy of Virginia's final score, which all came to be after a 21-21 tie at halftime.

The team stats spelled out UMBC's dominance. UMBC shot 54 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc while Virginia finished at 41 percent overall and 18 percent from 3-point range. The Retrievers also had advantages in assists (16-5) and rebounds (33-22) while losing the turnover battle 12-7.

Curran said the Retrievers went into the game with little hesitation that they could keep up with the Cavaliers. That confidence only grew when UMBC's up-tempo style began to wear on Virginia.

"Once we got up by 10 points, we kind of felt them go into panic mode," Curran said. "There style is to play slow basketball and try to lull you to sleep. They had to start moving more once we got up, which really put them out of their comfort zone, I think. Then once we stayed at 10 and got up to 14 and more, we just really felt like we had it."

Curran played a five-minute stretch in both halves, amassing both of his assists and one rebound in the first-half appearance. The sophomore appeared in 27 games during the regular season for the Retrievers, averaging 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds over nearly 12 minutes a game. Carving out a role and getting regular playing time over the course of the season left Curran far from nervous once his number was called in Friday's game.

"I just kind of told myself that I wouldn't be here if I wasn't supposed to be," Curran said. "I just wanted to do all I could do for my team defensively and on the boards. . I wasn't really concerned about my scoring because my guards would take care of that."

The backcourt certainly did dictate UMBC's offensive fortunes with a combined 52 points between Jairus Lyles (game-high 28 points), Joe Sherburne (14) and K.J. Maura (10).

The Retrievers have little time to bask in their historic work as they play today's second round game against No. 9 Kansas State at 7:45 p.m. in Charlotte, N.C.

"We're just really going to have to come in (on Saturday) for practice focused and ready to prepare," Curran said. "Last night shows anything is possible. We took out a team that beat Duke and North Carolina a combined five times during the season. We just need to stick to what we know and what we do well here."

jduball@unionleader.com

UMBC Retrievers players, including Max Curran of Hooksett, left, celebrate beating the Virginia Cavaliers in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., March 16, 2018. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)


NH People Sports College Hooksett