Jones Paces Hawks
LOWELL -- With two starting guards injured and inactive Wednesday night, the depth of the UMass Lowell men’s basketball team was tested.
UML 72, UNH 62
Yes, the opponent was lowly New Hampshire, which entered the game with just three wins. But Bill Herrion’s squad almost always delivers maximum effort and physicality, and through the first 10 minutes of the contest, the Wildcats appeared poised to present a major challenge to the River Hawks.
That was until UMass Lowell senior guard Shawn Jones subbed in. The ultra-quick 6-foot native of Bridge City, La., totally altered the tone of the game with sensational on-ball defense and microwave-quick scoring that ultimately led UML to a 72-62 America East victory at Costello Athletic Center. The win improved UMass Lowell to 13-11 (5-4 AE) and gave the program its most single-season victories at the Division 1 level. Next up is a three-game road trip.
Jones poured in a season-high 17 points, making 7-of-10 from the field and both of his 3-point attempts. The River Hawks were plus-13 with him on the floor for his 30 minutes, which matched his career-high. It was just the 13th appearance of the season for Jones, who had been averaging 9.4 minutes per game, and it was a huge lift for a UML team without starting point guard Ryan Jones and second-leading scorer Obadiah Noel (15.3 ppg).
“I knew Obi and Ryan were out, so I knew we were going to need more points,” said Shawn Jones. “I wasn’t really expecting it. I came into the game like it was a defensive game for us, so I came in with that mindset. Then the scoring just came to me, I guess.”
New Hampshire (3-19, 1-8 AE) led 25-19 with 10 minutes to go in the first half. That’s when Duquette and the UML coaches barked out to Shawn Jones to pressure the ball full-court, which severely disrupted the Wildcats’ flow. They scored just seven points over the final 10 minutes of the half.
On the other end, Shawn Jones drilled a triple to make it 25-24 and later converted a bucket in the paint to put the River Hawks up 30-28 with 5:55 left in the frame. He made another 3-pointer to put the hosts up 33-30 with 3:16 remaining and UML never trailed again.
“Defensively, Shawn has always done that and that’s huge for us. And then when teams switch like they did today, it’s almost impossible for a forward to keep him in front,” said UML head coach Pat Duquette. “It’s always a balance between moving the ball, which we like to do. But when he’s got a mismatch like he did, he’s able to get by them and draw the help and generate easy shots.”
Shawn Jones had 14 of his 17 in the first half and the River Hawks led 44-32 at the break. Joining him in double figures for the game were junior Christian Lutete with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman forward Joey Glynn with 13 points (7-for-7 at the line) and six rebounds off the bench.
It was a particularly sweet performance for Glynn, a 6-foot-6 Portsmouth native who wasn’t recruited by his home state university despite a phenomenal career at Portsmouth High.
“It’s just a little friendly competition. It’s definitely my home state and I have nothing against them,” said Glynn, who has posted back-to-back double-digit scoring outings. “I think we had a great game. It’s a little bit of a nudge to take it to a team that kind of said no.”
The River Hawks had it locked on cruise control in the second half. Josh Gantz’s 3-pointer made it 62-41 with 9:22 remaining. The Wildcats never cut it to single digits in the final 20 minutes. UMass Lowell turned it over just six times and outrebounded UNH, 42-34. Freshman guard Bryce Daley grabbed 10 rebounds.
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