In a game that at times was not a pleasure to watch, the UAlbany Great Danes (8-11, 4-3 in AE) made some clutch winning plays that allowed them to come away with a hard-fought road win 64-62 over the UMass Lowell River Hawks (10-9, 2-5 in AE). Albany graduate senior Matt Cerruti said it best after the game “winning on the road is never easy.” Wednesday night was a prime example. For the River Hawks, Wednesday night’s loss was brutal, to say the least. Add to that the fact that sophomore forward Max Brooks joined an ever-growing injury list and did not play. Lowell needs answers and fast if they are to turn a season around that looks headed in the wrong direction.
The best way to describe the first half would be to say it was a “rock fight.” Both teams turned the ball over often. Albany tried to take advantage of Brooks not being on the court. The plan gave the Great Danes mixed results. On the one hand, they were able to get to the rim and their guards were met at the rim by a different set of rim protectors. John Wall (13 boards, five blocked shots, seven points) made his first start in America East, and Quinton Mincey (10 rebounds, one block, nine points) was doing the job of blocking shots and grabbing rebounds for the River Hawks. On the offensive end, it fell on the shoulders of Allin Blunt (21 points, six rebounds) to keep Lowell in the game. In the first half, it worked as Lowell gained the lead at 5-4 on a made free throw by Justin Faison and kept it until the teams went to the locker room with UMass Lowell up 20-19.
The second half saw the Great Danes take two five-point leads early in the half. Both times UMass Lowell responded. Mincey tied the game at 32-32 with a jumper in the paint. Everette Hammond then scored four quick points to give Lowell the lead back at 34-32 with 11:27 left in the second half. Jarvis Dolis (11 points) tied the game again at 36-36 with a layup at the rim. This would now become a ten-minute game. With four minutes left Blunt knocked down a three to make it 54-51 Lowell. Cerruti (16 points) tied the game again with a three of his own to make it 54-54 with three to go. Albany then had a chance to win the game in regulation. After a missed shot by Jamel Horton (13 points), Dolis got the offensive rebound with 22 seconds left. However, Albany let the clock wind down and never took a shot. Instead of a possible buzzer-beating shot, there was free basketball instead at Lowell.
In the OT, Blunt scored four points in a row for the River Hawks to give them a 58-56 lead with 3:28 to go. Horton tied the game, 58-58 at the free-throw line seven seconds later. Paul Newman 16 points, 13 rebounds, his second double-double of the season, both against the River Hawks hit a layup to put his team ahead at 62-60. Mincey with a dunk tied the game once more at 62-62. Cerruti with two free throws untied the game at 64-62 with 44 seconds left. After turnovers by both teams, the River Hawks had the ball with:18 seconds left. Ayinde Hikim took the ball to the basket but missed the layup. Newman grabbed the board and called timeout. After the TO, Cerruti turned the ball over giving the River Hawks one last shot with two seconds left in the frontcourt. After a River Hawk time out, 5-11 Hikim tried to inbound the ball over the 6-9 Newman. Newman was able to deflect the ball and steal it to give Albany the win 64-62 over Lowell.
After the game, Newman talked about “how physical a game it was down low” and both he and Cerruti mentioned that they are taking it “one game at a time.” This was game one of a big three-game road trip for the Great Danes. The next stop is NJIT on Saturday. For the River Hawks, they hit the road heading to Hartford for a Saturday night contest.
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