UMass Lowell arrived at Senior Day with their collective backs against the wall and with a slim chance to host a post-season game still on the tablet. A forty-minute effort would be needed to keep that possibility alive. Instead, the Riverhawks (14-15,6-8) played about thirty-five minutes and it would not be enough. The Hartford Hawks ( 15-13, 8-5) came to Tsongas Center and won an important road game 75-73.
Hartford is an experienced team starting four seniors who have seen and played lots of basketball in America East. That maturity paid off as they were able to hold off a furious Riverhwaks rally in the last five minutes of the game to maintain their hold on the fourth and final home spot in the quarterfinal round.
After the game, coach Pat Duquette talked about his team needing to play forty minutes if his team was to come out on top. He also thought his team needed to be sharper on both ends of the floor. He mentioned a “two to three minute period of time where things got away from them”. He did like the way his team “fought back”. But it was an uphill battle all game long as the Riverhawks never had the lead in this game. There were only two ties and both came in the second half.
The Hawks got off to a good start. A 9-2 run before the game was five minutes old started it off. A John Carroll (15 points, three rebounds) lay up gave the visitors a double-digit lead at 14-4 with 14:20 left in the first half. The Riverhawks got themselves back into the game behind the hot shooting of Alex Rivera who’s eleven first-half points kept the game from getting completely out of hand. At the break, Hartford was up 43-39.
The second half saw Lowell tie the game on two separate occasions. First, a Shawn Jones lay up tied the game at 51-51 with 9:14 to play. After a three-point bucket by Travis Weatherington (18 points) broke the tie, Josh Gantz (9 points before fouling out with 1:27 left) tied the game for the final time with a three of his own. With eight and a half minutes left, the game was tied up at 54-54.
That’s when Hartford experience took over with a 9-0 run to give the Hawks control of the game once again. Two free throws by Jason Dunne (12 points, four assists before fouling out) were followed by two more and a dunk by Weatherington. A three from J.R. Lynch ( 12 points) finished the run and gave Hartford a 63-54 lead with five nineteen left.
Lowell would not go quietly and over the last five minutes of the game gave Hartford a scare. They cut the lead to four on a three-point play from Allin Blunt to make it 69-65 Hawks. Then, with two free throws from Jones, the lead was down to just two at 69-67 with forty-five seconds left.
Hartford hit their free throws down the stretch and got a FG in the paint from Lynch to win 75-73. The road win gives the Hawks an above .500 record on the road in the conference at 4-3. They have a favorable schedule to finish the season with two of their next three at home.
The same cannot be said for the Riverhawks who now must end the season on the road at Maine on February 27, then travel to Vermont on March 5. Obadiah Noel was the other Riverhawk in double figures with 14. Hartford big man, George Blagojevic finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds (his sixth of the season, third in league play).
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