PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Senior Ryan Jones (Rio Rancho, N.M.) and freshman Alex Rivera (Lowell, Mass.) logged season highs of 23 and 20 points, respectively, to overcome 12 lead changes and propel the UMass Lowell men’s basketball team (3-3) to an exciting, 94-90 victory against Sacred Heart (2-3) on the final day of the Brown Bears Tip-Off Classic.
With the decision, the River Hawks finished the weekend tournament with a 2-1 record. The team shot over 50 percent from the floor for the second straight game, in addition to shooting a season-high 52 percent from three-point territory. Jones, who went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc, while adding six assists, surpassed the 1,000 career point milestone in the outing, becoming just the third UMass Lowell player to do so at the Division I level. Redshirt-junior Christian Lutete (Silver Spring, Md.) and sophomore Obadiah Noel (Frederick, Md.) added to the offense with 19 and 11 points, respectively, as well.
“Another gutsy win for our team with a lot of scoring,” said Head Coach Pat Duquette. “This was a great game to watch as a fan. A lot of good performances from us. We overcame a lot of foul trouble at the end. It was really hard to find a lineup late in the game, so we had to get creative and the guys answered the call. I’m real happy for this young group at this stage in the season to be able to come on the road and win two out of three games.”
The River Hawks won the tip and jumped out to a quick, 7-3 edge with the help of a three in transition by Lutete. The Pioneers erased the difference, though, and the teams fought for the momentum early, as the lead changed hands six times until UMass Lowell scored nine in a row, including Jones’ 1,000th point, to pull ahead, 22-15, with 12:32 remaining in the first half.
After making it a one-basket game at 24-22, SHU was able to keep the buffer within seven for the majority of the period before redshirt-senior Josh Gantz (Grove City, Ohio) and Jones drained shots on consecutive possessions, giving the River Hawks their largest lead, 38-30, at 3:42. The Pioneers responded with 10 unanswered to take the upper hand, 40-38, but free throws proved to be the difference in the last two minutes, when Noel, freshman Allin Blunt (Bowie, Md.) and Rivera converted at the line to put their squad on top, 43-42, at the break.
The River Hawks recorded seven of the first nine points of the second, although Sacred Heart would use a 16-7 spurt to regain the advantage, 65-62, at 10:31. Triples from Rivera, Jones, and Gantz then tied the score three more times, and Noel drove to the hoop for back-to-back layups, putting his squad ahead, 80-76, with less than six minutes to go.
SHU knotted the score once more in the final minutes, but Rivera and Noel scored big baskets on consecutive possessions to give the River Hawks the lead for good, while free throws in the final seconds from Lutete and Jones secured the 94-90 win.
The Pioneers still own a 25-19 edge in the all-time series. The River Hawks return to action after Thanksgiving, when they host UMass Boston at 2 p.m. on Friday, November 23.
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