DURHAM, N.H. – Despite trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, the UMass Lowell River Hawks men’s basketball team (7-8, 6-5 AE) put together an impressive comeback to defeat America East foe New Hampshire, 74-69, on Friday afternoon.
“Every time I get ready to play UNH, I expect this type of game,” said Head Coach Pat Duquette. “Every time we play, it seems to come down to the last couple of minutes. In that sense, I look forward to it for the kids because it’s a great test and they really push us and challenge us, but it’s tough. UNH really grinds it out, they are so well-coached. Their kids are tough and they play hard. We got some big contributions and had some different guys step up, and we knew we were going to need that to get a win here today.”
Sophomore Connor Withers (Manassas, Va.) led the River Hawk attack with 19 points, while redshirt-sophomore Bryce Daley (Pittsfield, Mass.) added a career-high 18 points. Sophomore Darion Jordan-Thomas (Brockton, Mass.) chipped in with nine points and classmate Kalil Thomas (New Orleans, La.) led the team on the board with six rebounds.
The teams traded baskets to open the game, but it was New Hampshire who would find its footing first, using a 14-2 run to pull away, 20-8, with 13:05 remaining in the first half. Freshman Anthony Blunt (Bowie, Md.) hit a jumper to get the River Hawk offense going before sophomore Ron Mitchell (Philadelphia, Pa.) knocked down a three and freshman Max Brooks (Waldorf, Md.) followed with a layup to make it a two-possession game, 22-17, at 8:14.
The Wildcats led by as many as 11 once more in the first before Daley scored five in a row, sparking a stretch of 16 unanswered, as UMass Lowell held its hosts scoreless in the final four minutes of the period to take a 35-30 advantage into the break.
Daley even kept it going with a triple in the opening seconds of the second half and the River Hawks would maintain at least a two-point buffer until a Qon Murphy layup erased the difference at 48-48 with 11:10 left to play.
UNH forced one more stalemate before taking their only lead of the second half, but Withers quickly responded with a long-range jumper to put the River Hawks right back in front, 57-55, at 7:43. The home team continued to threaten, making it a one-point game yet again two minutes later until Withers stepped up once more with the timely three. UMass Lowell then converted on their chances at the line down the stretch and Jordan-Thomas sealed the decision with a massive dunk inside the final minute to help secure the 74-69 outcome.
The River Hawks and Wildcats will wrap up their two-game series tomorrow afternoon, February 6, at 1 p.m.
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