UMBC made history in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, becoming the first No. 16 seed to topple a No. 1 when it stunned Virginia. Four seasons later, the Retrievers have a perfect symbol for their David vs. Goliath ambitions: 5-foot-2 Darnell Rogers, believed to be the smallest scholarship player in Division I history.
Wednesday night when UMBC (5-3) travels to Washington, D.C. to play Georgetown (3-4), the Retrievers will look to Rogers for inspiration.
The point guard averages 13 points, 3.9 assists and has made 23 of 25 free throws for the best accuracy (92%) in the America East. Last month, when the Retrievers took a bite out of a big-conference school, 87-77 at Pittsburgh of the ACC, Rogers played a key role with 10 points and eight assists.
Now he and UMBC get a shot at Georgetown of the Big East. The Hoyas have beaten the Retrievers the last two years but might be more vulnerable this time, having lost to lowly Dartmouth.
Perimeter players Dante Harris (14.2 points per game), Aminu Mohammed (13.8) and Kaden Rice (12.7) pace Georgetown. But the Hoyas are thin inside, especially after losing 7-footer Timothy Ighoefe to a hand injury. His absence was apparent in an 80-67 loss Sunday at South Carolina.
“I thought they out-physicaled us,” said Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing. “They had 42 points to our 30 [in the paint]. We have to do a much better job in there.”
Ewing was prepared for a trying season after losing his top four scorers and rebounders, including three to the pros and Qudus Wahab, who transferred to Maryland.
UMBC was in similar straits last year after the departure of coach Ryan Odom as four of its top five scorers entered the transfer portal, including two who eventually followed Odom to Utah State. But Rogers and UMBC’s top scorer this year, Keondre Kennedy (15.1 points per game), decided to stick with new coach Jim Ferry.
Before the year, Ferry talked of his desire to play four guards in a “small ball” scheme. Who better to run that than Rogers?
“When we play the right way, we can be dynamic offensively because we share the basketball, we have speed, we have guys who can pass, dribble and shoot,” Ferry said.
-Field Level Media