UMass Lowell Falls Just Short
LOWELL -- The River Hawks celebrated their annual Senior Night before a loud and spirited crowd of 2,893 at the Tsongas Center on Saturday but the celebration was muted by the result as Hartford avenged a home loss back in January with a 75-73 win over UMass Lowell.
Assessing the loss, coach Pat Duquette said the team “has to be ready to play at the start. We played well the last 36 minutes but as has been our custom we let them put us in a hole that is hard to get out of.”
Lowell was led in scoring by senior Shawn Jones who had 16 points in his final game at the Tsongas Arena. Playing as a starter for two years Jones noted after the contest that “I have had a very good time playing here. The students and players seem to appreciate the way I played here.”
Coach Duquette also noted that “this was a really spirited crowd that tried to bring us back in the game. They really enjoyed the closeness of the second half. It was good to see and shows a trend for next year.”
The other leading scorers were Obadiah Noel with 14 points and Alex Rivera with 11. The River Hawks fell to 14-15 overall and 6-8 in the America East Conference with two road games against Maine and Vermont remainnig. With a two-game losing streak, they are tied with Albany for fifth place.
Hartford improved to 8-5 in the league and is in fourth place. Overall the Hawks are 15-13.
All five Hartford starters finished with double digits in scoring. Senior guard Travis Weatherington led all players with 18 points. Senior all-conference center John Carroll had 15 points. Forward George Blagojevich had 10 points and 11 rebounds. The two guards J R Lynch and Jason Dunne each contributed 12 points. Hartford had only 8 points off the bench.
The Hawks had a 7-0 lead before Noel scored for the River Hawks 4 minutes into the game. Weatherington made three consecutive attempts from 3-point land for 9 points and a 17-6 lead at the 9 minute mark. Lowell went on a 9-4 run to make the score 30-21 at the third timeout at the 12:45 mark. Darius Henderson and senior John Carroll accounted for all 9 points.
Hartford led 35-24 before the River Hawks went of a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 5 at 16:45, led by the 7 points scored by Alex Rivera (Lowell). Hartford led 43-39 at the half. Rivera scored 11 points total to lead the offense, Noel added 10 points.
The River Hawks cut the margin to one point on baskets by Josh Gantz and Christian Lutetia at the 4-minute mark in the second half. However, led by senior George Blagojevic, the Hartford Hawks increased their led to 50-45 at the 5-minute mark of the second half.
Lutete cut the margin to 2 points on a driving basket at 9:13 and Jones tied the game at 51 at the midpoint of the second half. The teams exchanged long 3-point baskets for a tie at 54 each. A pair of free throws by Hartford’s Jason Dunne gave them the lead again at the 13-minute mark. Two quick baskets from Weatherington on a drive and a dunk pushed the lead back to 6 points.
Lowell kept the offensive pressure on. Two fouls shots by Shawn Jones cut the margin to two with 45 seconds left in regulation, but Hartford had a basket and hit its free throws down the stretch and the hosts could not quite catch up.