This was a game that would become a tale of two halves. If you are a member of the UMass Lowell (9-11,7-8 in AE) basketball traveling party, the second half will be the one to remember. The Riverhawks, who at one time trailed by sixteen points, rallied in the second half and came away with the 64-62 victory over Stony Brook (9-14, 7-9 in AE). The win by Lowell was their first one in post-season play since becoming a full-time division one member. The win set up a fourth meeting between the Riverhawks and the UNH Wildcats set for Sunday afternoon.
The first half was about Stony Brook’s ability to put the ball in the basket while Lowell had trouble doing the same. The Seawolves were doing it from long range. Something that during the regular season, was difficult for this team to do. Their first three baskets of the game were all from long distance. It helped them to break out to an early 9-4 advantage. The Seawolves, feeling good about their long-distance shooting, kept firing and making them. Juan Felix Rodriguez led the way knocking down three of the first five three-point attempts the team made. For the half, Stony Brook would connect on 8-of-12 from deep including the first six they tried. The eight in the first half was one short of their season-high from three-point land. The Seawolves took their first double-digit lead on a layup in the paint by Leighton Elliott-Sewell with eleven minutes left in the first half and Stony Brook was up 17-7.
Meanwhile, the Riverhawks were having trouble putting any sort of offense together. The one bit of good news was the return of the team’s best player, Obadiah Noel. He had missed the last five games of the regular season with an injury. It was hoped that with his return to the lineup, it would be the spark that Lowell needed to find a way to move on in this pod. But as the first half moved on, it was Stony Brook that was playing at a high level and the Riverhawks were in an uphill battle. The climb was made more difficult by the lack of scoring by the team. Lowell did not reach double figures until halfway through the first twenty minutes on a layup by Connor Withers(nine points in the first half). Stony Brook was up eight at that point, 19-11. The lead would balloon to sixteen with 2:20 left thanks to two more threes from Rodriguez (20 points in the half, 6-for-6 from deep), and a jumper from Frankie Policelli. At this point, the Seawolves were up 38-22 and seemed in control of the game. The half ended with Stony Brook holding a fourteen-point lead at 43-29.
The second half became a different ballgame altogether. The Riverhawhs defense picked up twofold. Coach Pat Duquette, of Lowell, said afterward “we changed ball screens on Rodriguez.” That change by itself did a world of good for Lowell. Rodriguez, who torched the Riverhawks from deep in the first half, suddenly became a non-factor in the second half. He scored only two points for a total of 22 for the game. The other adjustment that Lowell made was their three-point defense. Stony Brook was 0-of-10 from deep in the second twenty minutes. It would give the Riverhawks a shot at getting back into the game.
That chance got started with some inside scoring from grad student, Salif Boudie, who scored six of his seven total points early in the half. Those points cut the deficit to under eight at 45-37 with 15:35 to play. A 10-2 run by Lowell tied the game at 49-49 with 9:35 to go. The run was fuel by the outside shooting of Kalil Thomas who hit three jumpers, two from long-range, on his way to 15 points for the game. Lowell best player, Obadiah Noel started to get his game going. scoring five in the run. Including a three-point play to tie the game up, on his way to a game-high 23 points. Thomas knocked down another three to give Lowell the lead for the first time since early in the first half at 52-49 with eight minutes to play. The lead grew to five on a layup by Withers (11 points) with seven and a half to play. The Seawolves cut it to one with four minutes to go on a layup by Policelli (15 points). Then, they took the lead back on two free throws by Tykei Greene (12 points). With two minutes to play, Stony Brook was up a basket at 60-58. The game would be tied twice in the next minute, Two free throws by Allin Blunt made it 62-62 with 54 seconds to play. A Stony Brook turnover, one of 17 for the game, put UMass Lowell in position to win the game. Noel did just that and with five seconds left, he took the ball to the basket and hit the game-winning layup to give his team the win at 64-62. Happy humans were wearing white uniforms in the end.
Coach Duquette called it an “exciting win.” He also knows what lies ahead will be a “huge test.” What is ahead is the UNH Wildcats. A team they have already played three previous times. No secrets here. The key to this one will be which team can execute their style of play better. What is at stake is a spot in the semifinal of the America East Tournament.
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