For the second straight game, the UMass Lowell River Hawks (2-4) lost a game in the final seconds. On Friday night vs Jacksonville, the game was decided at the foul line. On Saturday, it was a drive to the basket by Merrimack Warriors (2-2) guard Javaris Harris (10 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds) who beat his man off the dribble and laid it in just before time ran out. It gave Merrimack a 60-58 victory and with it restored a rivalry that was last seen on the hardwood back in February of 2013 when both schools were division two members.
River Hawks head coach Pat Duquette called the loss “twice as tough.” He thought the Warriors were a “hungry team” that is hard to play against because of their style of play. Still, on both nights, UMass Lowell had chances to win and could not make the plays down the stretch to do so. The Warriors were helped out by 20 River Hawk turnovers that they converted into 19 points and they had a big advantage off the bench outscoring the River Hawks by a 27-6 margin.
For the second straight game, coach Duquette made an adjustment in the starting lineup. Freshman Jordyn Owens made the start in the River Hawks backcourt. Meanwhile, Merrimack repeated what they did on Friday vs Dartmouth. They jumped out fast grabbing a 16-7 lead seven minutes into the game. They would increase that lead to 12 twice, the first time on a layup by Jordan McKoy, his only basket of the game. Then again on a hoop by Ziggy Reid (11 points, 8 boards) with 9:47 left in the half. When Reid knocked down two free throws, the Warriors had their biggest lead of the half at 14, 29-15 with 4:53 to go before the break. Before the half came to a close, UMass Lowell would chop six points off the Merrimack lead to go to the locker room down eight at 33-25. Christian Lutete (24 points,12 rebounds, his second double-double of the season) had eight points before the half ended.
The second half saw the River Hawks take the ball to the basket and they had good results doing it. Owens did it on back to back offensive sets. Josh Gantz and Connor Withers and Obadiah Noel did the same. The River Hawks trimmed the lead to one at 36-35 four minutes into the second half. They would grab the lead on an and-1 by Lutete who next time down the court nailed a three-ball to give his team a four-point lead at 44-40 with eleven minutes left in the game.
Merrimack took the lead back on a three-pointer by Mikey Watkins, 48-47 with nine to play. An 8-2 run by the Warriors had them up by five at 56-51 with 2:46 to play. River Hawks put up a quick five points of their own to retie the game at 56-56 with a minute left. Both teams swapped free throws to keep the game tied at 58 all with 18 seconds left. The Warriors called time to set up the game’s final play. Hayes took the ball to the basket and falling away to his right, made the shot that won the game for Merrimack 60-58.
The first game of the day was all Jacksonville (3-2). Senior big man David Bell was too much for the Big Green (3-1). He had 18 points and eight rebounds to lead his team to a twenty point win 57-37 over Dartmouth who was 3-0 for the first time since 1996-97. They held the Big Green to 26.9% shooting from the field and 21.9% from three. They had a huge advantage in the paint, 36-8 and led for thirty of the fourth minutes played. Diante Wood had 11 for the Dolphins. Dartmouth had only one player finish the game in double-figures, Trevon Ary-Turner had 13.
The final day of the River Hawk Invitational is on Sunday. The first game has Jacksonville taking on Merrimack, then UMass Lowell plays Dartmouth.
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