With the way the America East Conference has set up league play, a weekend split can either be a good thing or a bad thing. It is the objective of the road team, while the home team is looking for a better result. On Sunday afternoon, the Hartford Hawks (8-5, 5-3 in AE) got what they were hoping for. UMass Lowell (4-8,3-5 in AE) did not as the Hawks would ride a big second half from sophomore guard Austin Williams, 23 in the half, 29 for the game, to get the split in Lowell 75-68. The Hawks also took advantage of Riverhawks turnovers that would lead to 27 points off of them. That, to go along with 34 points in the paint.
For the Riverhawks, Sunday’s tilt was an uphill battle from the start. Their only lead of the game came off the opening jump when Allin Blunt knocked down a three-ball from the right corner. Those points would be his only of the game. From there, it was all Hartford. Lowell did go on a couple of runs to keep themselves within striking distance. But on this day, that was the best the home team could do. The first of those runs came halfway through the first twenty minutes. A 6-0 run got the home team to down two at 13-11. Consecutive baskets by Bryce Daley and two from Obadiah Noel did the trick. However, the Hawks, who were in attack mode all game long, responded quickly with a 10-0 run of their own to take a double digit lead at 23-11. Miroslav Stafl had half of those points with a layup and three-ball. Another three from D.J. Mitchell (10 points) and an inside hoop from Hunter Marks gave the Hawks some space to play with. Hartford’s biggest lead of the half came on free throws from P.J. Henry and it was 31-15 with 3:24 to go before the break. The Riverhawks’ best stretch of ball came at the end of the half. A 10-0 run by the home team gave them a bit of a lift as they went to the locker room. Salif Boudie and Connor Withers had four apiece to keep their team in the game when it looked for all the world like a blowout was coming.
The second half was all about Mr. Williams who simply took the game on the offensive end. The Riverhawks would try different people to try and slow him down. Nothing worked. Williams had seven baskets in the half and he would knock down three’s from long distance. It did not matter if there was a hand in his face, he scored. If a defender tried to beat him to the spot, Williams was just a little faster getting to where he wanted to go. Hartford would lead wire to wire in the second half and Williams was the reason.
The closest Lowell would get was in the very first minute of the second on two free throws by Noel (18 points) to make it 31-27 Hawks. Williams, with a fast break dunk, advanced the lead to eighteen at 65-47 with 4:23 left in the game. The dunk forced Lowell head coach Pat Duquette to call time. Two free throws by Hunter Marks (13 points) restored that lead with a minute and a half left at 71-53. On the road, the Hawks took care of business and gained a split of the weekend, 75-58.
A bright spot for Lowell came off their bench. Kalil Thomas had 13 points. eleven in the second half, with six of those points coming from behind the arc. His long-range shooting, while it was nice to see, had very little to say about the outcome of the game. For Hartford, Traci Carter finished with 13.
After a 2-2 homestand, the Riverhawks take to the road next weekend as they head to upstate New York to play Binghamton.