LOWELL, Mass. – Sophomore Max Brooks (Waldorf, Md.) registered game-highs of 19 points and eight rebounds to help propel the UMass Lowell men’s basketball team (12-10, 4-6 AE) to an 85-75 victory against Hartford (5-14, 3-4 AE) on Monday evening in a rematch of last year’s America East title game.
“I’m really pleased with the win, we did a lot of good things,” said Head Coach Pat Duquette. “We had to overcome a comeback on Hartford’s part. Credit to them, there was no quit in Hartford. We had them on the ropes three or four times, so it was a little frustrating for me because we have to get to the point where we can put the game out of reach. We had some chances to do that and we didn’t. But I thought defensively, in the second half, we played really well. We executed and really played tough, and had 17 offensive rebounds, which for us is a huge number to create those extra opportunities, so I was really happy about that.”
The River Hawks executed well, especially in the second half, shooting 61.5% as a team in the final 20 minutes. Brooks shot an impressive 80% (8-10) from the floor in the contest and added three blocks on the night. Classmate Ayinde Hikim (Washington, D.C.) finished with 17 points, while senior Allin Blunt (Crownsville, Md.) rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10. The home side also dominated on the glass, outrebounding Hartford, 37-16.
The momentum was up for grabs early on, featuring 10 lead changes in the first 24 minutes. The Hartford offense created an early lead, but Allin Blunt converted on a three-point play before sophomore Quinton Mincey (Upper Marlboro, Md.) banked in buckets on consecutive possessions to give UMass Lowell their first lead, 10-9, with 15:51 remaining in the first. Three quick lead changes put the visitors on top, but back-to-back triples from senior Everette Hammond (Silver Spring, Md.) and sophomore Anthony Blunt (Crownsville, Md.) helped regain the upper hand for the home team, 20-18, at 11:10.
The board was even three times ahead of an 8-2 Hartford spurt that made it 32-26 with five minutes to go in the period. Senior John Hall (Philadelphia, Pa.) answered with a long ball from the top of the key, but Hartford would maintain at least a three-point edge until Allin Blunt and Hikim each drove to the basket inside the final minute to put the River Hawks within one, 40-39, at the break.
Brooks opened the second with a two-handed slam and Hikim followed with a three to give the River Hawks the advantage. Hartford was back in front once more, but junior Kalil Thomas (New Orleans, La.) sunk a jumper from beyond the arc to spark a 12-3 run that made it 58-50 with 12:23 still to go.
The visitors hung within two possessions until Brooks drained a pair of jumpers, as the River Hawks went on to outscore their opponents, 13-3, in the next three minutes, including a spurt of three triples in a row that was capped off by another trey from Anthony Blunt to extend the lead to 73-57, at 6:49. Hartford would then cut the difference back to nine, but a final 9-3 stretch put the game out of reach with less than four minutes to go.
UMass Lowell now heads to Stony Brook for a 7 p.m. matchup on Wednesday, February 9.
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