UNCASVILLE, Conn. – After a historic, 264-day offseason, senior Obadiah Noel (Frederick, Md.) turned in 22 points and eight rebounds to lead the UMass Lowell River Hawks men’s basketball team (1-0) to a 76-68 victory against San Francisco (0-1) in the 2020-21 season opener at the Mohegan Sun Bubbleville Tournament.
A 17-0 run in the middle of the second half proved to be the difference-maker in securing the River Hawks’ first season-opening win at the Division I level.
“Just getting to play this game under these conditions meant so much to my guys,” said Head Coach Pat Duquette. “The pre-game talk was full of gratitude. I think our players did a great job being patient through this process, adapting and adjusting. We didn’t know much about San Francisco other than they are a very good team and are well-coached out of a great league. So I think this was as good of a win, especially early in the year, as we’ve had in our program.”
Noel, who scored 14 of his 22 points at the foul line, added four assists to his stat line for the night. Sophomore Connor Withers (Manassas, Va.) chipped in with 15 points, going 3-for-3 on three-pointers. They were joined in double figures by freshman Max Brooks (Waldorf, Md.), who tallied 12 points in his collegiate debut. Sophomore Kalil Thomas (New Orleans, La.) added a career-high eight rebounds on the night, as well.
The River Hawks got off to a hot start offensively and did not miss a shot for the first seven minutes of the game to take an early, 14-10 advantage. However, a streak of seven UMass Lowell turnovers allowed the Dons to string together a 17-3 run and pull in front, 27-18, with less than four minutes remaining in the first. Sophomore Ron Mitchell (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Noel logged consecutive points to break up the stretch before Withers knocked down a triple to put his squad within six, 30-24.
The Dons stretched their buffer to nine in the opening minutes of the second half, but the River Hawks made quick ball control improvements, with just four miscues in the latter period, compared to 15 in the first.
Beginning at 16:09 in the half, Brooks would hit three straight buckets that were pivotal to sparking 17 unanswered points for the River Hawks in the next eight minutes, as the team regained the upper hand at 50-42. San Francisco then snapped the silence and cut the difference to two possessions with 5:16 to go, but six consecutive UMass Lowell free throws put the squad up 12 for its largest lead of the night, en route to the 76-68 decision.
The River Hawks will now head to Columbus, Ohio for a pair of games against Illinois State and Ohio State on Saturday, November 28, and Sunday, November 29, respectively.
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