Things didn't look so good for the Hartford Hawks as they went into their matchup against the UMBC Retrievers. They had lost their last two games, one of which many feel they should have won.
Tuesday night, they laced up against a Retrievers team down to only seven players. With a veteran team and a desperate need to break out of their losing streak, Hartford was a shoo-in to add a win to their repertoire, or so we thought.
The first half for the Hawks was dismal at best. UMBC's Devarick Houston started the game with a two-handed dunk, taking only six seconds off the clock. Hartford's Mark Nwakamma picked up two quick fouls while Taylor Dyson, Nate Sikma, and Jack Hobbs, all missed 3-point jumpers. For a team that's made its reputation as a 3-point shooting team, the shots were far from falling. The Hawks ended the game having made only five of their 22 attempts shots from beyond the arc.
"[In the first half] we were 2 of 15 from three and those shots that we missed were some really, really great looks at the rim, " said Hartford head coach John Gallagher. "In the first eight minutes of that game we missed nine beautiful looks."
Dyson ended the game scoreless, something almost unheard of as one of the best 3-point shooters on the team.
But Gallagher and his squad are optimistic about what is to come in the next few weeks.
"Something's gonna happen this year. I don't know what it is, but something's coming," he said. "We're going to have a breakthrough here. I really believe in the group. All I know is that the basketball gods don't allow this to happen for a season. It's just not allowed."
Finding the right players to work together is always a problem and this time there was a change up to the usual starting five. Sophomore guard Justin Graham earned his first collegiate start. Graham's confidence has grown throughout the season, and that has turned into more aggressiveness on the court.
"Justin Graham made his first college start and I just can't tell you how impressed I am," Gallagher said. "He just keeps getting better and better. I've said this to him privately and I'll say this publicly: he can be one of the best guards in this league."
Wes Cole was the glue that helped hold the team together. He hit quite a few key shots when the team needed it.
"When I'm in the gym by myself I always mess around and shoot crazy shots," Cole said. "Tonight no one was expecting me shoot a fading sideways shot from the elbow."
That shot is what gave the Hawks a two-possession lead with 40 seconds left, grabbing them the win that they needed.