If the words must win ever applied, Wednesday night at Costello Athletic Center may have been the night for the UMass Lowell Riverhawks. Their match up with the UNH Wildcats was the end of a three-game homestand in which the Riverhawks were zero and two. Before heading out on a three-game road trip that begins on Saturday, a win was in order to get that trip off on the right foot.
Led by the eighth double-double of the season, and third in league play by Christian Lutete (18 points and 10 rebounds), the Riverhawks (13-11, 5-4) salvaged the final game of the homestand, 72-62 over the UNH Wildcats (3-19, 1-8). This game was won by the Riverhawks bench which produced 33 points. Two members of that bench took care of most of that production. Senior Shawn Jones, who has been seeing more time of late because of injuries, poured home a season-high 17 points. Jones was seven of ten from the field, including two for two from deep. Maybe Jones’s best stat of the night was one turnover in thirty minutes. Freshman, Joey Glynn, who for the second straight game came off the bench, delivered 13 points and six rebounds. Coach Pat Duquette called the play of both of these guys “fantastic”.
Their solid effort, and that of the rest of the team was badly needed. Not only was Lowell trying to snap a mini losing streak, but they were also down two starters vs the Wildcats. Guards Ryan Jones and Obadiah Noel were both out with injuries. Their status for the upcoming road trip is unknown, so the coach had to go deeper into his bench on Wednesday night and it paid off.
What the coach was not happy about was the first ten minutes of the game, where a repeat of the Maine game looked to be taking place. The Wildcats had a six-point lead at 25-19. UNH was shooting 57 % from the field with Josh Hopkins (12 points) leading the way with seven early points on three for three shooting. A five nothing run by UMass Lowell got them back to within one at 25-24 with eight minutes left.
From there, the home team started to pick things up on both ends of the floor. They would erase the deficit and race out to a double-digit lead at 40-30 on a Josh Gantz jumper with under two minutes left in the half. A Lutete layup with seconds left in the half would give Lowell their biggest lead of the first twenty minutes at 44-32. The Riverhawks finished the half on an 11-2 run to take the lead with them to the locker room.
The second half was all Riverhawks. They led from beginning to end. The lead never got below ten points and reached its highest point of twenty-one on a Gantz three-point make from the top of the key to make it 62-41 Lowell with nine minutes left.
UMass Lowell was able to put it on cruise control for the rest of the way to win by ten, 72-62 and get at least one at home before heading out on the road. For the Wildcats, a tough season got even tougher. Wednesday’s loss was their seventh in a row. Their last win, ironically, was aganist the Riverhawks at home back on January 9th, 68-64. The Cats are now winless in their last twelve road games.
The thirteen wins for the Riverhawks set a new bench mark for the program since it became a Division one member. Now the tough part of their schedule kicks in. They will finish the conference with five of their last seven games on the road. Still in play for them is a possible quarterfinal-round home game in the league’s post-season tournament. First things first, and that’s a road game this Saturday at Stony Brook.
For UNH, Jordan Reed had eleven points, and Nick Guadarrama had twelve.