Despite the pleas of America, UMBC could not capture lightning in a bottle for a second straight time Sunday night.
No. 9 seed Kansas State knocked out the only No. 16 seed to ever make the final 32 of the NCAA tournament, defeating UMBC 50-43, at Spectrum Center Sunday night.
UMBC found devastation after a remarkable 48 hours of exultation that included everything from NBA starSteph Curry sending officially unreleased Under Armour shoes to the players to UMBC’s champion chess team suddenly getting its own slice of fame.
And then it all ended. The one-and-done NCAA tournament format always sounds great to people – until you find yourself on the “done” side of things.
Still, UMBC will forever be remembered as the first team to win a “16 vs. 1” matchup in 136 tries. And the fact that it happened in Charlotte will give everyone in the building Friday night an unforgettable memory.
“I think we put our name on the map,” said UMBC point guard K.J. Maura, who is listed generously at 5-foot-8. “We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds. We’re giving hope to guys that aren’t even that tall like me.”
What happened Sunday to the little team from Baltimore Sunday was predictable. The No.16 seed that pulled off an upset for the ages Friday night over No. 1 Virginia played a lot more like a No. 16 seed again.
But it wasn’t a lot of fun unless you happened to be a Kansas State fan – and even then it wasn’t exactly graceful.
“An ugly win,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Probably hard to watch.”
Weber was right - it was hard to watch.
The teams combined for 35 turnovers and only 32 field goals. UMBC shot 29.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free-throw line. After shooting the lights out against the best defensive team in America Friday in Virginia, UMBC on Sunday looked a lot more like the team that had lost by 44 points to Albany earlier this season.
But this loss will fade for the Retrievers. What they will be remembered for is dethroning Virginia and giving hope to underdogs for years to come.
Said UMBC coach Ryan Odom of his players: “They’ve captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective.”
So the Retrievers went home Sunday night, but that’s OK. In many ways, they already had won this tournament. And when they gather for their reunions in 25 years, the UMBC players will always have Charlotte.