UML Left Feeling Frigid by Setback
LOWELL -- It was difficult to decipher which was plummeting at a faster rate on Wednesday night: the temperature outside the Tsongas Center or the play of the UMass Lowell men’s basketball team inside the arena.
Maine 78, UMass Lowell 59
It’s a good bet that the 1,232 spectators inside the warm Tsongas, sheltered from the intense snow squall and bitter wind chill, would give the nod to the River Hawks, whose 20 turnovers and total lack of resistance on the defensive end resulted in a brutal 78-59 loss to Maine.
The River Hawks played uninspired basketball. They never led and trailed by as many as 26 on their home court against a Maine (4-18, 2-5 America East) team that entered the contest in last place in the America East.
Maine junior forward Andrew Fleming absolutely had his way with UML.
The 6-foot-7, 222-pounder put up a season-high 38 points on 18-for-20 shooting.
Fleming, who was averaging just 12.9 points per game, also had eight rebounds, four steals and four dunks.
He did the bulk of his offensive damage on a basic high-low play that the River Hawks couldn’t stop on this night if their lives depended on it.
“We’ve had a lot of good moments this year, but this was not one of them,” said UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette. “We never got into sync and didn’t show nearly as much fight as we need to. (Fleming) played a fantastic game, he’s a very good player. But he can’t shoot that high of a percentage and have us not put him on the free throw line. We’ve got to make him work a little harder for his points.
“I’m real disappointed in the loss. I had an honest conversation with (the players). Hopefully we can bounce back quick.”
The River Hawks (12-10, 4-3 AE) had won four straight.
Had they handled their business against the bottom-dweller of the league, it would’ve made Saturday’s game at the Tsongas against AE perennial power Vermont (5:30 p.m.) a showdown for first place.
Now, UML has to hope it can recover and avoid losing more ground in the conference standings.
Duquette was asked if it’s beneficial to have a humbling moment for his team at this junction of the season.
“I hope,” Duquette said. “That’s what you’re thinking if there’s any silver lining. I just don’t know why we need any humbling. With where we’ve come from and where people picked us (last in the AE preseason poll), we should be continuing to fight as if we’re an underdog every night. That was my message after the game. If we’re going to be any good, that’s the mentality we have to have.”
Junior guard Christian Lutete led UMass Lowell with 26 points (10-for-15, 6-for-9 from deep) and six rebounds.
But the physical Black Bears mostly shut down Lutete when it mattered as he scored 13 in the final three minutes when the game was already decided.
Freshman forward Darius Henderson had a career-high 12 points in 17 minutes for UML. The bench, however, provided zero points.
Maine established its presence early on the back of Fleming, who got wherever he wanted to go on the floor.
The only shots he missed were from the perimeter. The Black Bears made a major effort to punish the smaller River Hawks down low and it worked to perfection.
When UML switched to a zone to force Maine out deeper, it didn’t help a whole lot. The Black Bears moved the ball and assisted on 22 of their 32 made baskets.
“It wasn’t like one or two guys played well or we did a handful of good things, it was a bad game altogether for everybody on the team -- coaching staff, we’ve all got to own up to it,” Duquette said. “We’ll try and erase whatever caused it and move on.”
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone