Sometimes we forget that young people are playing the game of college basketball. And because that is the case, the mistakes they make or don’t make usually decide games. Case in point was Saturday night, before the largest crowd to see a UMass Lowell basketball game this season. Time and score became the reason why the River Hawks (3-5, 9-14) won and why the UNH Wildcats (3-5, 10-11) lost. After Marque Maultsby (15 points) knocked down a three with seven seconds left to tie the game at 75-75, his teammate, Meekness Payne, forgot time and score and fouled Christian Lutete with six seconds left in the game. The bad decision allowed Lutete to step to the line and sink two free throws to give the River Hawks the lead back at 77-75. The Wildcats had one more chance to either tie or steal the game in the last six seconds, but Chris Lester’s (13 points, eight rebounds) three-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the back of the rim. UMass Lowell gets a much-needed win and stops a four-game losing streak, 77-75 over the UNH Wildcats.
River Hawks head coach Pat Duquette was both happy and unhappy after the game. He thought his team played a great first half, “the best defense we had shown all season long.” He was not happy with the last three minutes of the game. He thought his team “played to the crowd and did not execute at all.” The result was that the Wildcats were able to get back into a game. At one point early on in the second half, they were down seventeen. The coach did give the Wildcats credit for staying in the game. He told his team “they are not going away.” But he was quick to point out he believes his team is better than the way they played down the stretch. Film work on Monday will be the order of the day.
That first half that coach Duquette talked about, started close. The Wildcats scored the first five points behind two baskets by Jayden Martinez (18 points, seven boards). The game was tied three times before the contest was nine minutes old. The River Hawks then went on an 8-0 run. Back to back three’s from Kalil Thomas and Obadiah Noel (21 points, seven rebounds) followed by another Noel bucket in the paint gave the River Hawks an eight-point lead at 24-16 with 8:26 left in the half. UMass Lowell would go up by double-digits for the first time on a Lutete three-pointer to make it 34-24 with 2:40 remaining in the half. Lutete now has twenty point games in eight of his last nine. The River Hawks took a thirteen point lead with them to the break at 39-26.
The second half started out looking like UMass Lowell was going to blow out the Wildcats. An 8-4 spurt gave the River Hawks their biggest lead of the night at seventeen at 47-30 with 17:31 to play in the game. UNH came right back with an 11-0 run of their own to get themselves back into the game at 47-41 with 13:28 to go. Lester had seven of those points. The River Hawks jumped the lead back to nine on a Connor Withers layup and it was 56-47 with ten minutes to play. They increased their lead back to double figures on a Noel layup. 66-54 with 5:49 left. If you thought the game was over at that point, guess again. The Wildcats keep grinding and when Josh Hopkins hit his only three-point shot of the night, it was now a five-point game at 74-69 with 43 seconds left. After Noel was fouled and missed both free throws, Martinez came back down the court and knocked down a jumper to make it a two-point game at 74-72 with 24 seconds left. Noel was fouled again and made one-of-two to make it a three-point game at 75-72, The Wildcats did not call timeout, and instead, Martinez hit a game-tying three with seven seconds left 75-75. But then Payne made a terrible mistake and fouled Lutete right in front of the Wildcats bench. Lutete hit the two free throws to give his team the lead at 77-75. UNH had one last chance but Lester’s game-winning shot hit the back of the rim and Lowell came away with the win 77-75.
The River Hawks also got a contribution from Withers who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, and Josh Gantz who had 11 points. Nick Guadarrama finished with 12 points and seven boards for the Wildcats. UMass Lowell is back in action on Wednesday night when they hit the road for a game at Stony Brook. When the two teams met last Wednesday night, the River Hawks lost by eight 84-76 in Lowell.
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