COLUMBUS, Ohio – The UMass Lowell men’s basketball team (1-0) will take part in a three-team MTE hosted by Ohio State this weekend, squaring off against Illinois State in a neutral-site contest on Saturday before facing the Buckeyes on Sunday.
A WIN WOULD
A win against the Redbirds would mark the River Hawks’ best start since 2012-13. A win against Illinois State would also give the team its first victory against a Missouri Valley Conference opponent in its first-ever matchup.
LAST TIME OUT
Senior Obadiah Noel turned in 22 points and eight rebounds to lead UMass Lowell to a 76-68 victory against San Francisco 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. 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 chipped in with 15 points, going 3-for-3 on three-pointers. They were joined in double figures by freshman Max Brooks, who tallied 12 points in his collegiate debut. Sophomore Kalil Thomas added a career-high eight rebounds on the night, as well.
LEADING THE FLOCK
Obadiah Noel returns as the squad’s lone senior for his final season, after turning in his best individual campaign yet in 2019-20. Last year, he became just the second River Hawk ever to garner America East First Team accolades, after averaging 18.2 points and 5.2 rebounds and leading the team with 85 assists and 53 steals. The guard shot 48.6 percent from the field, including a personal-best 40.0 percent from long range, and joined the 1,000 Career Point Club at UAlbany on January 22. The River Hawks have two other returning starters in sophomores, Ron Mitchell and Connor Withers. Withers averaged 9.2 points and 5.9 rebounds with a team-high 37 blocks, en route to earning America East All-Rookie Team honors.
OUT OF THE GATE
With the win against San Francisco on Nov. 25, UMass Lowell secured its first season-opening win at the Division I level. The team has now registered a 22-23 record in season openers since 1975, including a 6-7 mark since 2008. In season openers on the road, the team owns a 9-12 record.
BREAK IN THE ACTION
This 264-day offseason marked the longest for the River Hawks since the break between the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons (270 days).
The River Hawks, who led the America East in shooting percentage for the last two years, shot 52.4% from the floor in the 2020-21 season opener. In that contest, the team did not miss a field goal for the first seven minutes and were led by Salif Boudie (100%) and Max Brooks (83.3%).
ON A ROLL
Obadiah Noel logged 25 points at Hartford on Feb. 15, 2020, to set the program’s longest 10+ point streak at the Division I level. Including the first game this season, he has now scored in double digits for 27 straight games and counting.
Max Brooks turned in a strong collegiate debut, scoring 12 points (5-for-6) off the bench against San Francisco.
CONTROLLING THE BOARDS
The River Hawks outrebounded San Francisco, 39-27, in the opener, led by Kalil Thomas, who grabbed a career-high eight boards.
A WHOLE NEW LOOK
UMass Lowell’s roster features eight newcomers in 2020-21, with an even split between rookies and transfer student-athletes. This matches the program’s 2014-15 roster for the most newcomers in a season at the DI level.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
UMass Lowell’s 14-man roster features 11 underclassmen. However, seven of those underclassmen are sophomores who are already entering this season with substantial minutes and experience.
The River Hawks have typically been undersized compared to the competition, but this year’s squad combines to make up the team’s tallest roster since elevating to Division I by a half-inch (77.4 inches).
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