On Saturday night, the best team in the America East conference came to Tsongas Center. The Vermont Catamounts (17-5, 7-1) rode a terrific return performance from junior Anthony Lamb to defeat the UMass Lowell Riverhawks 85-74. Lamb, who had missed the last week and a half due to injury looked like the player who was picked for the Preseason All-Conference team. He played thirty-five minutes in his return to the lineup and posted his fourth double-double of the season (29 points and 12 rebounds). It was his second in America East play. Afterward, his head coach John Becker said: “It was great to have him back”. He also pointed out “he’s a tough kid who did get tired playing all those minutes”.
For the Riverhawks, this was a bounce-back game. After the horrific outing against Maine on Wednesday night, head coach Pat Duquette was looking for effort and passion from his team. On Saturday night, he got both. At the outset, both teams struggled on the offensive end. The Riverhawks would take their only lead of the game on a Christian Lutete (18 points) fastbreak layup. Lowell led 5-4 with 16:46 left in the first half.
Vermont would retake the lead and never give it back on a layup in the paint by redshirt senior Samuel Dingba. It made the score 6-5 Catamounts with 16:28 to play in the first half. Vermont reached double-figure lead for the first time in the game on two free throws by Ernie Duncan 18-7 Vermont with seven minutes left. The Catamounts were very good from the charity stripe all night going 23-for-28.
The UMass Lowell bench was asked to contribute in a big way on this night. First, the Riverhawks lost the services of Obadian Noel a little over a minute into the game with an apparent ankle injury. It forced coach Duquette to go deep into his bench and for the most part, it paid off. Freshman forward, Joey Glynn, came off the Lowell bench and put forth his best effort since the season opener against Massachusetts. He scored 12 points in eighteen minutes and played solid defense. His layup in the paint with five minutes to go in the half brought the Riverhawks back to within four at 22-18. Vermont would end the half outscoring Lowell 12-7 to go to the intermission up 34–25.
Vermont started the second half like they were going to blow Lowell out of the building. They would increase the lead to sixteen points on a Lamb three-point make to make it 43-27 Cats with 16:54 to play. The advantaged would balloon to eighteen on a Ryan Davis three-pointer from the top of the key, 65-37 Vermont with 12:39 to play.
Unlike Wednesday night, the Riverhawks would put up a fight and tried to get back into the game. A key substitution made by Duquette was inserting senior guard Shawn Jones into the Riverhawks lineup. He came into the game with nine thirty-seven left and his team down fifteen 59-44. Jones only scored two points, but he settled things down and would help his unit get back into the contest. They would trim the lead to eight on an Alex Rivera (15 points) three. With six and a half left, Lowell was trailing 61-52. Later, a steal and fast break finish at the rim by Rivera, followed by a terrific feed to Bryce Daley for another lay-in made this a one-possession game at 67-65 Vermont with a minute and twenty seconds to play.
Vermont would then close the game out on an 8-0 run to win by nine 74-65. The Catamounts received fourteen points from Stef Smith. For the Riverhawks, they got twelve from Josh Gantz.
After the game, coach Duquette was proud of the effort from his team calling the play of both Jones and Glynn “fantastic”. However, the Riverhawks came into this three-game homestand looking to improve their standing in the conference. Instead, they will need to win Wednesday night vs UNH to keep their position within the top four if they want to have home court in the first round of the league playoffs.