Some nights are harder to explain than others. The UMass Lowell Riverhawks returned to Tsongas Center on Wednesday night riding a four-game winning streak. Included in that stench were back-to-back road wins for the first time this season. But all that came to a crashing halt. The Maine Black Bears (4-18, 2-5) behind a career night from Andrew Fleming of 38 points, eight rebounds, and four steals defeated the Riverhawks (12-10, 4-3) 78-59. It snapped a three-game losing streak in the process for Maine.
This was the Andrew Fleming show from start to finish. He was 18-for-20 from the field and many of his shots and makes were within five feet of the basket. He attempted only one outside shot, a three-pointer in the first half. It was a miss and he never try it again. The Black Bears played a simple high-low offense and it worked. After the game, head coach Pat Duquette of the Riverhawks, said: “the team never got in sync”. When asked about Fleming’s night, he said: “we never made him work hard for his points”.
In the first half alone, Fleming was 10-for-11 from the field as the Black Bears ran the same set time after time. The Riverhawks had no answers on defense to either stop the pass down low or stop Fleming from scoring. The man to man defense used by the home team was being carved up by the visitors from Orono, Maine.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Riverhawks shot 40% (10-for-25) and had as many assists as turnovers (8 and 8). They would end the game with more turnovers, 20 than assists, 18. They finished the game shooting 46% while Maine shot 51.8% for the night. The most shocking stat of them all was no bench points for the game for UMass Lowell. The Black Bears bench outscored the Riverhawks 19-0.
The Black Bears held the lead for the entire half and game. There was one tie at 15-15 on a Josh Gantz (10 points) layup. The Black Bears had a double-digit lead on two occasions in the half. The first time on a Fleming fastbreak dunk, and the second time on a putback at the buzzer by Fleming. Maine went to the break up 37-27.
The Riverhawks started the second half on a 5-0 run. A basket by Darius Henderson (12 points) cut the lead to five at 37-32 and forced Maine head coach Richard Barron to call timeout with eighteen minutes left in the game. Another Henderson bucket cut the lead to three at 39-36 with 15:59 to play. The Riverhawks would get no closer than that.
The Black Bears ended any hopes of a Lowell come back by going on a 22-0 run after Henderson’s hoop. It put the game out of reach and sent the fans heading out into a bitterly cold night. It was a disappointing performance and loss by the Riverhawks of 78-59.
Isaiah White was the only other Black Bear in double figures. He had 10 points. For UMass Lowell, Christian Lutete had team honors with 26 points. Many of them came after the game was already decided.
The Riverhawks will have to get this out of their system in a hurry. On Saturday, they host the first place Vermont Catamounts.
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