ORONO, Maine – In a game that saw 16 lead changes and 16 tied scores, the UMass Lowell River Hawks men’s basketball team (8-11, 2-2 AE) came up just short, dropping a 104-98 overtime battle at America East foe Maine (5-13, 1-3 AE) on Wednesday evening.
Trailing by three with under a minute to play in regulation, junior Obadiah Noel (Frederick, Md.) finished an and-1 to knot the game at 86-86 and force overtime. Graduate student Christian Lutete (Silver Spring, Md.) and freshman Ron Mitchell (Philadelphia, Pa.) put the visitors on top by a basket in the extra period, but Sergio El Darwich gave the Black Bears the lead for good and would tally six more points at the line in the final minute and a half to help secure the outcome.
“The first thing that comes away is what we can control,” said Head Coach Pat Duquette. “There were some things outside of our control tonight that worked against us, but we have to play better defense. We can’t give up that many points. I thought we had earned the game and with about three minutes left we had control of the game, but we couldn’t get stops. They hit some big shots, but they were uncontested shots and we have to be better on defense.”
Lutete registered 29 points in the outing for his sixth consecutive 20-point performance. Noel added 26 points, including a season-high, four three-point field goals. Freshman Connor Withers (Manassas, Va.) and graduate student Josh Gantz (Grove City, Ohio) chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Mitchell rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11. Junior Jordyn Owens (Montclair, N.J.) tallied a career-best nine assists, as well.
The teams battled right from the start with five lead changes before back-to-back steals by sophomore Allin Blunt (Bowie, Md.) led to an and-1 from Noel that knotted the score at 16-16 with 10:34 remaining in the first.
Blunt would drive to the hoop to knot the score again before Mitchell and Lutete each added layups to put the visitors on top by four, but Maine answered with a 10-3 burst to pull ahead, 32-29, at 6:31. The River Hawks fought to regain the upper hand twice more in the period, including at 42-39 thanks to a triple from Gantz and free throws by Owens, although the Black Bears closed the first with a 10-1 run to take a 49-43 edge into the break.
The River Hawks came out of halftime on the offensive, scoring seven of the first nine points. Maine was able to maintain the lead until UMass Lowell put together a 10-3 spurt that was capped off by a bucket from Noel to give his squad a 60-56 buffer with 11:54 still to play. The Black Bears were able to sneak back ahead by one, but the River Hawks then held onto the advantage until the final minute of regulation.
UMass Lowell leads the all-time series against Maine, 10-5. The River Hawks will now have a bye weekend before heading to UAlbany on Wednesday, January 22 for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
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