Coming off a great road win on Saturday at Maryland-Baltimore County, the UMass Lowell River Hawks (7-10, 1-1 in AE) were looking to put together back to back solid games. Too bad the idea had some holes in it. They turned the ball over far too many times, 16 for the game with 11 of those in the first half. They did not shoot the ball well from either the floor or from three-point land. Entering the contest, the River Hawks were the best scoring offense in the league (74 points a game) and were second in field goal percentage at 45% a night. On Wednesday night, neither held true as the Hartford Hawks came to Lowell and improved to 9-8, 2-0 in league play with an 80-68 win.
For Hartford, the 2-0 league start is the first time they have been this way since 2012-13. It’s the first time the team has been over .500 since November 21 when they defeated Emerson 78-63. They have now won five of their last six games. How did they do it you asked? They did it with a size advantage that allowed them to score 40 points in the paint and with second-half shooting from three-point land (5-of-8, 62%). Not to mention, a double-double game from Grad student Malik Ellison of 26 points and 13 rebounds. Ellison was clearly the best player on the floor all night long and his teammates knew it and did the right thing in feeding him the ball.
Lowell had no answer for Ellison and River Hawks head coach Pat Duquette said as much after the game. He was also unhappy with the overall effort of his team. With only 10 able bodies to work with. UMass Lowell has to come to play every night if they want to give themselves a chance. On Wednesday night, that was not the case and they paid for it. The only stat line the River Hawks had an advantage in was second-chance points and that was only slightly at 12-10. Everything else was all Hartford.
The game did have six ties and seven lead changes. Both teams did make runs in the game. On this night the Hawks, playing only seven guys, were getting to every loose ball and knocking down shots from the floor as well as from the free-throw line. They were 12-of-15 for the game and also came away with 11 steals on the night. They lead the conference in that stat and in three-point FG defense, Lowell was only 8-for-26 from deep. Still, despite all of this, the River Hawks had a shot at winning this one, but could not make enough plays to do so.
The first half, for the most part, was a back and forth affair. Hartford went on an 8-0 run to give themselves a 34-26 lead. Freshman big man, Miroslav Stafl, had four of those points on two free throws and a layup. In the final four minutes of the half, the Hawks were able to keep the River Hawks at bay and went to the locker room up seven at 41-34.
The start of the second half saw some life in the home team. They went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to one at 41-40 with 17:59 to play. The big three for Lowell did the work. Obadiah Noel with two from the foul line had 19 for the game. Christian Lutete with a layup in the lane ended up with 26 on the night for him. And Josh Gantz with his own layup to finish with six points and three steals for him. Lowell was back in the game. They tied the game on a fast-break layup by Jordyn Owens at 47 all with 14:12 to go. They took a very short lead of one on a Lutete fast-break jumper at 51-50 with 13:42 to play. They took their last lead of the night on a putback by Joey Glynn at 52-51 with 12:30 left. From there on out, it was all Hartford. A 15-2 run took some of the breath out of the River Hawks They hit four three-pointers in the run to get back a double-digit advantage at 65-54. Lowell, to their credit, never stopped trying to get back in the game. They whittled the lead down to four at 70-66 on a 12-5 spurt and with 4:52 left there was still some life in the building and in the team.
Hartford made sure they would head home with the road victory with a 10-2 run to ice the game. The run started with an and-1 from Ellison and was ended by another grad student Traci Carter who knocked down a couple of foul shots on his way to a 17 point, five-assist, three steal night. Hartford gets the win 80-68 and can enjoy the upcoming weekend off. For Lowell, it’s back to work on Saturday as they will host Binghamton.