Everything – all of the breath, the noise, the life – had been sucked out of the Virginia locker room.
First some context: Never before in history, not in 135 prior tries, had a No. 1 seed lost to a No. 16 seed. There have been scares over the years, games that came down to the wire, but still. Never. This was the one thing you could always count on.
It was chalk.
Then, in the span of three hours Friday night, it wasn’t.
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But there’s something that cannot be lost or forgotten in the aftermath of No. 1 Virginia’s 74-54 loss to No. 16 UMBC – these are kids. To fans, they may just be characters or numbers, but make no mistake: that was real, human pain in the Virginia locker room after the game.
That was real, human hurt.
After all, how do you explain this away? Not just that the upset was historic, that it will endure for as long as college basketball, but the way it happened? To lose by 20 points – by far your worst defeat of the season – in front of essentially a home crowd?
There is so much that could be said, and none of it will do the Cavaliers’ pain justice.
“There's not really a whole lot that can prepare you for this kind of feeling,” Virginia guard Kyle Guy said. “There's not really any answer to make you feel better.”
The way the game played out, you could tell something was off for the Cavaliers from the onset. Obviously their shots weren’t falling, but that wasn’t it. They lacked the attention to detail, the intensity that had helped them steamroll through this season and emerge with as many losses (two) as titles (the ACC regular season and tournament championships).
And in the end, they paid for it. You cannot shoot 18.2 percent from 3 and expect to win in the NCAA tournament, no matter the opponent.
So while the Retrievers danced on the court at the Spectrum Center, and the arena erupted around them, Virginia was left to just watch. They bent over and buried their heads in their hands. They looked around in awe, waiting for the nightmare to cease. They solemnly walked off the hardwood, in silence, feeling more like they were headed to a funeral than the locker room.
“We talked about a few things (postgame), but you know, heads are down,” Bennett said. “And again, that’s the reality of it. You can say all the soothing things or whatever, and time will heal.”
Bennett, to his credit, answered the questions like a professional.
Guy and Ty Jerome, however, they were the kids on the other end of history. Forever, they’d be associated with the team that blew it. As they sat at the podium, their eyes bloodshot and weary, they did their best to answer questions.
“I don't know why,” Jerome said. “Maybe we didn't come ready to play today. We didn't shoot well, that definitely doesn't help.
“I guess we didn't move the ball well, didn't shoot well. We probably should have gone into the post more. I don't have the answers.”
And then, the locker room. It was a postmortem. Every footstep, every deep breath roared through the silence and only heaped onto Virginia’s misery. Jerome took more questions. His teammates packed their bags, drowned out the moment with headphones and earbuds.
Then there was Guy. Alone in the corner, he looked down at the ground and let his emotions overcome him. Gracious reporters thanked him for his candor, his honesty in the face of one of his worst moments. He extended a handshake, but no more – he could not answer back.
There were no words.
There was nothing to say.
It hit, then, in that moment. It was over. He – they – had lost.
There was only one thing left to do.
Kyle Guy covered his face with his hands, and he began to cry.
UMBC 74, VIRGINIA 54
UMBC (25-10): Akin 1-3 0-0 2, Maura 3-6 2-2 10, Sherburne 5-11 1-1 14, Lyles 9-11 7-9 28, Lamar 5-9 0-2 12, Curran 0-2 0-0 0, Gerrity 0-0 0-0 0, Grant 3-6 0-0 8. Totals 26-48 10-14 74.
VIRGINIA (31-3): Wilkins 3-7 0-0 7, Salt 0-1 0-2 0, Jerome 6-16 1-1 15, Hall 1-9 0-0 2, Guy 7-11 1-2 15, Diakite 2-2 2-3 6, Johnson 4-10 0-0 9. Totals 23-56 4-8 54.
Halftime—21-21. 3-Point Goals—UMBC 12-24 (Lyles 3-4, Sherburne 3-8, Maura 2-3, Grant 2-4, Lamar 2-4, Curran 0-1), Virginia 4-22 (Jerome 2-9, Wilkins 1-2, Johnson 1-3, Guy 0-2, Hall 0-6). Fouled Out—Wilkins. Rebounds—UMBC 31 (Lamar 10), Virginia 21 (Wilkins 5). Assists—UMBC 16 (Maura, Lamar, Lyles 3), Virginia 5 (Jerome 2). Total Fouls—UMBC 13, Virginia 16. A—17,943 (19,077).