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UMBC vs. Virginia: The instant oral history of the NCAA tournament’s most historic upset

Relive the stunning upset through the words of the players and coaches involved in the first 16-over-1 upset in men’s tournament history.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia vs UMBC Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

“I’m trying to put it into words .... ”

We all felt like Nolan Gerrity in the moments after the impossible happened. What could we say? How could we capture the magnitude? Was it Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson? Was it the Miracle on Ice? Or was it actually like Fortnite?

No matter the correct words, UMBC had done it.

Who? The University of Maryland Baltimore County. A No. 16 seed in the 2018 NCAA tournament did what had never been done, what 135 teams before them had failed to do. They upset a No. 1 seed. They upset No. 1 overall seed Virginia. And they did it convincingly, 74-54, in Charlotte on Friday night.

While the words and sentences and epic poetry needed to properly convey the historic significance of the game may take longer to be uttered or written, here are the immediate thoughts and statements — alternately ebullient and crestfallen, depending on which locker room they hung their jerseys in — of the players and coaches involved from the court, their post-game press conferences, and inside their locker rooms:

(All post-game press conference transcripts via

You know you just made history?

Virginia guard Ty Jerome: I think everyone is aware of that. Thanks for bringing that up again. But, you know, I was aware of it.

UMBC guard Jairus Lyles: Yeah, definitely. We were talking about it before the game, just trying to go out here and make history, doing it for our program, our teammates, our coaching staff. We just wanted to make history today.

UMBC forward Joe Sherburne: I think we kind of all wanted to be in the “One Shiny Moment” video. We were all in the locker room singing the first line because that’s all we know, but I think we’re going to have to learn the rest of the song, too.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: I told our guys, we had a historic season. A historic season in terms of most wins in the ACC. A week ago we’re cutting down the nets and the confetti is falling. And then we make history by being the first one-seed to lose. I’m sure a lot of people will be happy about that. And it stings. I told the guys, this is life. It can’t define you. You enjoyed the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times. When you step into the arena, the consequences can be historic losses, tough losses, great wins, and you have to deal with it. That’s the job.

When did you realize THIS was happening?

UMBC guard K.J. Maura: I think the first media time out we took 7-point lead. I think at that moment we started believing more in ourselves and gave us confidence to keep getting the shot selection we needed and put them in.

UMBC forward Joe Sherburne: I think we were up 6 right away early in the second half and -- 7 right away in the second half, and we were getting real excited on the bench but there was still like 16 minutes left in the second half. I personally was trying to stay really level-headed and you know that they can come right back right away real quick because they’re the number 1 team in the country for a reason.

What were you thinking when the game was tied at halftime?

UMBC forward Joe Sherburne: I think at halftime when we were tied at 21 and we hadn’t shot particularly well, we made some silly turnovers, then we felt there’s no way we’re not going to win this game. All we have to do is start hitting shots.

Virginia guard Ty Jerome: It’s tough to remember but I think we just said every possession was going to matter. It was 21-21 and they had a 3 off an offensive rebound and a 3 when we didn’t scramble correctly and make a right rotation. That’s 6 of their 21 points. Every possession is going to be matter, we’re going to be in for a battle and we had to buckle down, especially defensively, and offensively just be more aggressive, spread the floor a little more. And we didn’t do either one of those things.

UMBC guard Jairus Lyles: I think we had the confidence coming into the game. I don’t think there was any point in the game that we thought we couldn’t play with them. We knew we could play with them before the game. Tying up with them at halftime definitely gave us more confidence. And like Joe said, like K.J. said, we didn’t have a lot of shots, we had a lot of turnovers, me myself included. We definitely went into the second half with a lot of confidence.

Dispatches from the @UMBCAthletics vs. Seth Davis subplot

How did UMBC dominate the second half?

UMBC head coach Ryan Odom: We continued to get stops, and then all of a sudden we began to run much better than we did in the first half and our spacing was tremendous and we were able to get some shots off in transition that would not normally happen had we not been able to get a stop. You know, obviously, you know, these guys right here, Arkel was tremendous, Jordan was tremendous. Throughout the game, our big guys came in and did what they typically do and defending, you know, really well and rebounded.

Virginia guard Ty Jerome: They spread the floor, they made shots. I don’t think we defended well. We didn’t pass the ball well. We didn’t come off screens well. We didn’t do anything well tonight, to be honest. And give credit to them, too, because they played well. They’re a good team, but we didn’t do anything well.

And how did UMBC’s Jairus Lyles become a legend?

UMBC head coach Ryan Odom: I always let him play. I never try to hold him back at all. With Jairus it’s all about just reading the plays. He’s got an amazing nose to score the ball. He’s unbelievable. But his teammates have so much confidence in him, and when he gets going like that, it breeds confidence into the other guys and I think you saw that tonight.

Virginia guard Kyle Guy: He was, you know, a tough player to guard. He’s very shifty and could hit tough shots. And the first half, honestly he wasn’t being all that aggressive. You know, Devon was playing pretty good defense but other guys were hitting shots so didn’t need to do much. The second half he got it going, and, you know, Coach said when you let a team hang around for awhile, they get a lot of confidence and he definitely had that.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: I mean, he’s really great. He went to VCU, obviously. I think he came back for his fifth year. I wish he wouldn’t have done that now. But really good. One heck of a senior year or fifth year and dangerous. You saw the shot he hit to get them into the NCAA Tournament and again the way they play with the 4 guards and the spread and the quickness and their point guard did a heck of a job.

UMBC guard Jairus Lyles: They did a really good job of me in the first half, but I had to be patient and slow down, read the plays better. And I did that in the second half and my shot was falling. So, credit to my teammates for finding me.

How about that UMBC defense? Especially K.J. Maura?

UMBC head coach Ryan Odom: To me it was pretty much same old K.J. He’s a pest. That’s what we encourage him to do each and every night. Obviously he’s giving up a ton of size, ton of weight, but his heart is as big as there is in this country and he’s not afraid of anything and -- or anyone and he just attacks. We felt like from a pressure standpoint, that was the key to the game for us going in. We had to try to wear them down and pressure their guards. And they’re really good at getting under the basket and coming off of screens, and their big guys are very good as timing when to screen. And that can wear you down, and we felt like we had to wear them down more in the full court, you know, before they got to half court, and K.J. is a big reason why we were able to do that.

Virginia guard Kyle Guy: Defensively they were very quick and were beating the screens and were cutting and stuff. Just hard to get in a rhythm. Once we got down 8 or 10 we we’re trying to make home run plays because you don’t want to be in this position and so ...

And what about UMBC’s offense?

UMBC head coach Ryan Odom: I think it starts with our defense. We were able to get stops, and when we’re able to get stops, our guys are able to run and push the ball. And K.J. and Jairus are very, very good in transition, and we’re hard to match up with, you know, when the guys -- they’re sprinting it up the court. He’s a little wizard with the ball and finding guys and, you know, our guys are in sync, you know, right now. They know where each other are going to be on the court. And we knew going into the game, you know, a big key was going to be the 3-point line. For us, we had to dominate that stat right there in order to even have a chance and, you know, certainly that proved to be true. Our defense, while the shots were great, our defense was magnificent.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: We’ve at times had a little trouble with 4 perimeter teams, 4 guard teams. And this is not an excuse, but without De’Andre, I thought we had enough with what we had, but that allowed us to sometimes switch and he could -- his versatility helped us. When we didn’t have that, we were always a little nervous. I think again their quickness — their size is small and we couldn’t — couple times we couldn’t take enough advantage of that. They did a great job blocking out, but again they put a lot of pressure on you with that and they run their offense. That’s why I wanted to give credit to Ryan. They run their offense so fast. That ball just pop, pop, pop and they do the dribble handoffs, keeping it and moving it. If you’re not really disciplined and really sound — and we worked as hard as we could preparing for it, but it’s like you can’t mimic that until you go against it.

We lost our way. I think it was a good point, tried to get it back in one shot and got out of character. And I’m sure I’ll look at the tape and I probably made a lot of poor adjustments and that’s part of it. I’ll grow from it as a coach, but our young men tried. They battled. It wasn’t a lack of effort, but it was a hard team for us once they got ahead of us.

What was it like in the UMBC locker room after the game?

What can you compare this to?

On fans and family

UMBC guard Jairus Lyles: I just wanted to give credit to our fans. They traveled a long way to come here and support us. They were in the game the whole time. It really helped us throughout the game. Credit to them. We were just having a moment saying we did it. We knew we could do it. It’s a special moment we shared right there.

UMBC guard K.J. Maura: I carry Puerto Rico in my heart. It’s a very special moment for them right now, making history as a team, but I’m also making history for my country. I play for them, especially after what happened with the hurricane and all that stuff. We’ve been hurting lately. This moment give them a little bit of life to my country, and I’m very proud and happy for that.

How does it feel, UMBC?

How does it feel, UVA?

What are the life lessons here?

Virginia coach Tony Bennett: So, that’s life. We talk about it all the time. The adulation, the praise, it comes and we got a lot of that this year. Then on the other side, they’ll be blame and people pointing that out. That can’t, in the end, you know, define these guys and our team or us, because it was a remarkable season but we got thoroughly outplayed. That’s the reality of it. And I hate for this team, the way they played to lose like this, but for Devon and Isaiah to go out like that and Nigel being a fifth year for us.

So, with that, if you play this game and you step into the arena, this stuff can happen. And those who haven’t been in the arena or in the competition, maybe they don’t understand that. But there’s chances for wonderful things to happen, but when you’re in the arena, stuff like this can happen and all those who compete take that on. And so we’ll accept it. And again I want to congratulate the job that Ryan and his staff did. They played well and we did not.

Virginia guard Ty Jerome: I mean, if you’re worried about the outside world, Coach Bennett and the staff told us earlier in the year that it’s a flip of a coin. It’s the same people that will tell you how great you are and praise you, you know, when you’re on top, you feel like you’re on top of the world, will the same people are going to kill you when you’re at this point.

But to be honest, I don’t think this team has never been worried about you guys, the media, the outside world. But it just shows you that really anybody can beat anybody and if you don’t come to play you’re going to get beat. It’s basketball.

Virginia guard Kyle Guy: You know, it’s all a blur right now. It’s really hard to answer these questions as you guys know. And one thing this team is really good at and built on is resiliency. I think bouncing back from something that’s so heartbreaking will be a huge key for us. I just, you know, just feel so bad for Isaiah and Devon and Nigel because it’s not how we wanted to send them out.

Any closing thoughts words from @UMBCAthletics?