Creating homecourt advantage is a big plus in a sport like college basketball. The UMass Lowell River Hawks have done just that. Their 90-61 victory over NJIT on Saturday afternoon was an example of that. There was only one lead change all game and that took place before the four-minute mark of the first half. From there it was all UMass Lowell.
Four of the five River Hawks starters finished in double-figures. They shot 54% for the game, and 60% in the second half. They held the Highlanders to 45% shooting from the field and just 8.3% from three-point land (1-12 for the game, 0-7 in the second half). The one bright spot for the Highlanders was getting 40 points in the paint. With the victory, UMass Lowell is now 13-0 at home, 19-6 overall, and 7-4 in AE.
The game started with the Highlanders (6-16, 3-6) getting off on a 6-0 run. Baskets by Souleymaine Diakite, Adam Hess (11 points), and Mekhi Gray got the visitors off to a great start on the road. The River Hawks erased that lead with an 8-0 run of their own. A layup from Max Brooks (18 points, seven rebounds, five blocks) was followed by back-to-back three-pointers from Mikey Watkins and Everette Hammond (17 points, seven rebounds, four assists).
At the first media timeout, which came at 15:48 of the half, Lowell had an 8-6 lead. The lead never changed sides for the rest of the game. The closest that the Highlanders came to taking the lead back was down two. A three-point play by Raheim Sullivan brought NJIT to within 11-9 with 14:13 left in the half. Sullivan would score again on a layup in the lane to make it a 14-11 River Hawks lead with 12:58 to go in the first. From there it was all UMass Lowell.
A layup in the lane from Abdoul Karim Coulibaly gave the River Hawks their first double-digit lead of the game at 24-13 with 9:38 left in the half. Lowell would keep it at 10 or above for the rest of the first half taking a 41-25 lead with them to the locker room.
It would get no better for the Highlanders in the second twenty minutes. Garbage time started early in the second half and for good reason. The River Hawks grew the lead to twenty on a Hammond three with 18:10 left in the second (49-29). It reached thirty when Hammond scored in the paint. Two free throws from Hammond got the lead to 31 at 70-39 with still a little more than ten minutes to play. The high point was 33, reached on a Brooks dunk off a Quinton Mincey feed. That lead was reached a couple more times on two free throws from Darion Jordan-Thomas. A Mincy layup in the paint made it 90-57 with 1:47 left in the game. The final score from Costello was UMass Lowell 90 NJIT 61.
After the game, Both Everette Hammond and Max Brooks both mentioned: “how locked in this team is.” Coach Pat Duquette has been really happy with the way the team has played on the defensive end the last two games. By the way, both have been at home where this team is starting to become unbeatable. When asked how they can take this on the road, the River Hawks are 0-4 in conference play, Brooks said: “to stay locked in and trust each other by helping each other.”
On Monday, the River Hawks began their final extended road trip of the season. It is a three-game trip that begins on Monday night in Hartford. A place that UMass Lowell will be visiting for the final time in hoops.
Allin Blunt had 16 points and is getting closer to 1,000 points for his career (921). Coulibaly had 13 points, his 14th double-figure game of the season.
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