VESTAL, N.Y. – Despite erasing a double-digit deficit and knotting the score with less than a minute to play, the UMass Lowell River Hawks men’s basketball team (11-17, 5-8 AE) came up just short of completing the comeback in an 86-84 decision at Binghamton (9-17, 3-10 AE) on Thursday.
After trailing by 11 inside of the final five minutes, the River Hawk offense ignited for a 13-2 run that was capped off by a three from graduate student Josh Gantz (Grove City, Ohio) to tie the game at 80-80 with just 42 seconds on the clock. However, Sam Sessoms hit what would be the game-winner on the next possession and then helped his team seal the outcome at the foul line.
“I thought it was a great college basketball game,” said Head Coach Pat Duquette. “We showed a lot of guts coming back on the road. Sessoms was as good of a player as I’ve seen in this league. He didn’t just score the ball, whenever we double-teamed him, he found his open teammates and made easy, high-percentage plays. He also hit the game-winning shot and it was well-defended. But overall, this was a great college game. I think we did a lot of good things. I’m proud of my guys and credit to Binghamton.”
Gantz had a career night with a personal-best eight field goals and 23 points. Classmate Christian Lutete (Silver Spring, Md.) added to the offense with 18 points, while freshman Connor Withers (Manassas, Va.) chipped in with 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Junior Obadiah Noel (Frederick, Md.) rounded out the double-digit scorers with 14 points, as well.
The River Hawks built a five-point margin in the opening minutes with the help of a three from the top of the key by Gantz. The Bearcats would pull within one twice before scoring seven in a row to create their first lead of the night, 20-16, with 9:27 remaining in the first half.
Gantz and freshman Ron Mitchell (Philadelphia, Pa.) answered with back-to-back buckets to erase the difference and sophomore Allin Blunt (Bowie, Md.) would even the board once again at 22-22, although Binghamton followed with a 9-2 spurt to pull ahead, 31-24, at 3:25. Lutete snapped the run, though, as the River Hawks followed with an 8-2 stretch of their own to pull within one, but a three in the waning seconds gave the Bearcats a 36-32 edge at the break.
Coming out of halftime, the home team outscored UMass Lowell, 10-4, to take the first double-digit lead of the night. Gantz and Withers would combine for five straight to make it a two-possession game, but the Bearcats eventually extended their advantage as far as 13 at 63-50 with 9:56 to go. Binghamton was then able to maintain at least a nine-point buffer until the River Hawks began their final march back.
UMass Lowell leads the all-time series against Binghamton, 13-5. The River Hawks will now host UAlbany following the bye weekend on Wednesday, February 26 at 7 p.m.
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