The losses are starting to mount and so is the frustration for the UMass Lowell (9-16, 3-7) basketball team. Junior forward Obadiah Noel said it best following the loss. “it sucks to lose.” The River Hawks have now lost five of their last six games and a pattern is starting to develop. Have a lead for most of the game, then find a way to lose it down the stretch. It happened again on Saturday afternoon. UMass Lowell led this one for over thirty-one minutes of game time. But it would be the last five minutes that would do them in. Maryland-Baltimore County (11-14, 4-6) scored the last twelve points of the game to win their third game on the road this season and second in conference play 60-50 over the River Hawks.
After the game, UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette said ‘we had multiple chances to win the game.” However, when you shoot 30% from the floor (19-for-62) it’s hard to do so, and it becomes even harder when you shoot only 17% from behind the arc (5-of-28). Numbers like that usually do not add up to a victory and on Saturday they did not. The Retrievers were not much better as they shot 42% from the field (22-of-52) and 31% from deep (7-for-22). The difference here was when it mattered most, Maryland-Baltimore County made shots when they needed to and the River Hawks could not.
A nip and tuck first half had the River Hawks in the lead for sixteen minutes of it. An 8-3 run by UMass Lowell gave them a six-point advantage at 20-14 with over five minutes to play in the first half. An Allen Blunt three (seven points off the bench), an and-1 from Noel (24 points, eight boards, ninth games of the season with 20 or more), followed by a lay-in from Christian Lutete had the River Hawks in a nice offensive flow. The Retrievers would end the first half on an 11-3 run to go to the locker room down only two at 27-25. K.J. Jackson (16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) had seven of those points in that spurt. His coach Riley Odom thought his senior guard was “solid all game long.”
The River Hawks got the second half off to a good start for them. A 7-2 run gave them an eight-point advantage at 35-27 with fourteen minutes left to play. Noel had five of those points on a layup and a three-pointer. UMass Lowell maintained the eight-point lead on a bucket by Blunt and it was 39-31 with twelve to go. Maryland-Baltimore County then went on a spurt that would get them even at 39-39 with ten and a half left in the game. The 8-2 run started with a three-point play from Jackson. Then, it continued with baskets by Keondre Kennedy and Brandon Horvath (11 points, seven boards). The River Hawks again gave themselves another eight-point lead at 47-39 with just under eight to play. Grad student Josh Gantz provided five of those points on a layup in the paint, then a three-ball from the top of the key The Retrievers then ripped off seven points to make it a one-possession game at 50-48 with five to go. Three balls from R.J. Eytle-Rock (10 points) and Horvath got them back into the game. The final five minutes was all Maryland-Baltimore County. L.J. Owens came to life for the Retrievers as he would score seven of his ten points in those last five minutes. Owens got it started by knocking down a three to give his team the lead at 51-50 with 2:55 left in the game. Jackson then knocked down a jumper to increase the lead to three. Owens pushed it to five with a dunk off an assist from Jackson. Then the Retrievers finished it at the foul line by going five-of-six in the closing seconds. The final score was UMBC 60 UMass Lowell 50.
After the game, Coach Odom said “his defense was solid down the stretch” he thought his team “played timely defense and made timely shots.” And his defensive unit was better at helping towards the end of the game, especially on Noel. For the River Hawks, they need to get it straightened out and fast. They have six games left in the regular season to finish strong and play for something in March. The last six starts with a home game vs Maine on Wednesday night.
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