It was a game that UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette said was a “good hard fought college basketball game.” The River Hawks (2-3) dropped the opening game of the River Hawks Invitational to the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-2) 80-78. Timely three-point shooting by the Dolphins down the stretch to go along with strong inside play from center David Bel, a senior who began his career at Ohio State (13 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots). They also got two clutch free throws from Amamhne Santos with three seconds left allowing Jacksonville to even their record. UMass Lowell did have one last chance, but a half-court heave by Jordyn Owens (11 points, two assists) was wide left.
The River Hawks did make a change in their starting lineup for this one. Freshman Connor Withers (14 points, four rebounds, two assists) replaced Darius Henderson. Withers scored four early points to help his team jump out to an early 11-6 lead five minutes in. With the score tied at 19-19, the Dolphins went on a 9-3 run to take a seven-point lead at 29-22 with 4:16 left in the first half. Christian Lutete (24 points, nine rebounds, three assists) began to heat up as the half was coming to a close. He would score eight points in the final four minutes, including a beat the clock jumper to bring the River Hawks back to within two at the break 36-34.
The second half started with the Dolphins racing out to a five-point lead at 44-39 three minutes in. Bell was a force inside with a layup and a dunk. The River Hawks tied the game on a Josh Gantz (15 points, three rebounds, four assists) three from the top of the key to tie the game at 46-46 with 14:47 to play. A 7-0 run by Jacksonville gave them their biggest lead of the night at 53-46 with 13:14 to go.
The River Hawks would fight back, and when Gantz hit two free throws, UMass Lowell had the lead back at 61-60 with nine minutes to go. The game would be tied three more times over the next four minutes. Two free throws by Santos (16 points, 6 assists) broke the third tie and gave his team a 68-66 advantage with five to go. A Santos jumper increased the lead to five at 73-68 with 3:40 to go in the game. Once again, the River Hawks came back to force another tie at 78-78 with18 seconds to play. Lutete had five and Gantz with a big offensive put back had UMass Lowell in position to win the game. Santos was fouled by Obadiah Noel (11 points, five rebounds, five assists) with three seconds to play. He went to the line and knocked both free throws down to give his team the final margin of victory.
Jacksonville got double-figures efforts from Kevin Norman with 21 points, seven rebounds and Destin Barnes who had 17 points, five boards. The Dolphins will meet Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon. The River Hawks will take on Merrimack.
In the first game of the event, The Big Green (3-0) defeated the Warriors (1-2) 55-46. Dartmouth was able to control the paint against the smaller Merrimack team They had 26 points in the paint and had 11 second-chance points. Still, the Big Green had trouble trying to score against the 2-3 zone Merrimack used. Junior Chris Knight had a big night inside for Dartmouth with 13 points and eight rebounds. He got help from another junior in Aaryn Rai who had 10 points and nine boards. The Big Green defense stepped it up in the second half by holding the Warriors to 6-of-24 shooting from the field for 25% and 4-of-15 from three (26.7%). Merrimack had only one player in double-figures, Juvaris Harris a senior, who had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and four steals.
Play resumes on Saturday with two games and concludes on Sunday with two more.