River Hawks Hang Tough Vs. UMass
AMHERST -- As his team took the Mullins Center floor on Tuesday night for the 2018-19 season opener, UMass Lowell men’s basketball head coach Pat Duquette wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
UMass 83, UML 75
Such is the case when you have just two returning starters and eight new players, seven of whom are freshmen. But the River Hawks didn’t look the part of a wide-eyed, inexperienced team. Instead, they were prepared and unintimidated.
It didn’t add up to a victory, but it did allow Duquette to feel encouraged and bring plenty of positives back to Lowell.
UMass got a game-high 21 points from sophomore guard Carl Pierre and defeated UMass Lowell, 83-75, in front of 2,976 fans at Mullins. The River Hawks, who once trailed by 16 in the second half, cut the deficit to 77-73 on an Obadiah Noel 3-pointer with 2:31 left. But a pair of costly turnovers down the stretch and some Minutemen free throws iced the game.
“Despite the outcome, I was pretty pleased with our team and our effort,” said Duquette. “We got contributions from a lot of new guys --their first time in a college basketball game. And we played what I think is an improved UMass team from a year ago, and handled it pretty well.
“The most important thing for me in a game like this is that our guys stick together, we don’t make it any worse than it is. There was a time when they stretched the lead and we responded great. We didn’t back down one bit. We got back in the game and made it close and gave ourselves a chance to win. I really wasn’t sure, with the number of young guys we’re playing on the road and in this type of environment, if we were put in that situation that we would react as positively as we did.”
Freshman forward Joey Glynn led UML with 18 points in 28 minutes off the bench. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder from Portsmouth, N.H. also often had the unenviable task of guarding UMass’ 6-foot-11, 310-pound big man Rashaan Holloway (six points, 11 rebounds).
“You can’t have a better freshman first game than Joey had,” said Duquette. “He was composed on offense, he scored 18 points. He made open shots, didn’t force anything. It was great. We have a number of freshmen and one of the hard parts for us is they progressed and they all contributed in our preseason, so we weren’t sure which ones to give the opportunity to. Tonight, it fell his way.”
Junior guard Christian Lutete, who sat out all of last season after transferring from Radford, had 17 points (7-for-14) and 11 rebounds for the River Hawks. Senior forward Josh Gantz had 16 points and six rebounds, and knocked down 3-of-6 from deep.
UMass Lowell’s only lead of the contest was when Gantz hit three free throws to put the visitors up 19-18 midway through the first half. The River Hawks closed the first half on a 14-8 run to make it 42-39 at the break.
Last year, these teams also met in the opener and the Minutemen won a tight one, 74-69.
“They won every loose ball. When the ball was on the ground, they got it,” said UMass head coach Matt McCall of UML. “I thought last year we were completely shell-shocked with how hard they play. I don’t think we were shell-shocked tonight. I just think coach Duquette is getting his players to play extremely hard. They’ve got a system, and it works.”
Freshman guard Bryce Daley chipped in five assists and five rebounds in 15 minutes off the UML bench, and freshman forward Darius Henderson had six points in 10 minutes.
One freshman who didn’t see the court for UMass Lowell was Lowell native Alex Rivera. The guard was serving a one-game suspension for playing in a charity game last summer. Because he was already enrolled in classes at UML at that time, he was considered a student-athlete and the NCAA hit Rivera with the rather baffling one-game suspension.
“Alex is going to be another really good player for us as well,” said Duquette.