The numbers do not lie, the UMass Lowell River Hawks have had a regular season to remember. The first twenty-win year in the history of the program (24-7). An undefeated 15-0 at home during the regular season. Their conference record of 11-5 is the best they have ever achieved in America East. Their victory over the UNH Wildcats (13-14, 8-7) secured the number two seed in the postseason tournament which will begin next Saturday. The biggest crowd of the season 4,114 packed Tsongas Center on Senior Night to watch the home team send off its two seniors, Allin Blunt and Everette Hammond, in spectacular fashion as the River Hawks defeated the Wildcats 92-55.
The River Hawks trailed in this game for only two minutes and four seconds. A basket by Abdoul Karim Coulibaly in the paint at the 17:25 mark gave UMass Lowell a 4-3 lead, and they never looked back. Coulibaly recorded his 8th double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He was one of four River Hawks players to finish in double figures. Allin Blunt who scored UMass Lowell’s first basket of the game reached the 1,000-point mark for his career with that hoop. The River Hawks guards took great care of the basketball helping to pass out 16 assists on 38 made baskets committing only four turnovers in the process. They ended the season on a four-game winning streak and won seven of the eight games they played in the month of February.
The Wildcats never had a puncher’s chance in this one. They shot 39% (20-of-51) from the field and 5-of-21 from 3-point land (23.8%). Their defense could not handle the River Hawks’ big men in the paint allowing 58 points in the game. UMass Lowell’s guards were great with the rock but the same cannot be said of the Wildcats’ backcourt who turned the ball over 17 times which led to 23 points off turnovers for UMass Lowell. The River Hawks bench, which head coach Pat Duquette has said all year is “the deepest and most talented group since I have been here,” came through again on Saturday night scoring 37 points with Cam Morris leading the way with ten. Speaking of the coach, maybe it’s time we started thinking of him as the potential coach of the year in this league.
After the game, the two seniors, Blunt and Hammond, talked about the “level of trust” this team has at the moment. Hammond said, “we need to keep on trusting ourselves and staying locked in.” Blunt echoed those words and added, “we need to keep paying attention to detail.” The coach thought his team’s defensive effort was “the best today.” Based on the numbers, who could argue with that? They held UNH’s best player Clarence Daniels to 12 points and seven rebounds before he fouled out of the game. He came into Saturday night averaging a double-double of 15 points and 10 boards. He and Nick Johnson (12 points) were the only double-figure scorers on the night for UNH. For the River Hawks, Ayinde Hikim had 12 points and three assists. Everette Hammond, in his final regular season home game, had 11 points and three assists.
The River Hawks regular season is over while the rest of the conference has games scheduled for Tuesday night. They can sit back, kick their feet up and rest a bit. They will not know who they will play at home next Saturday until those games go final. So far it has been a season of firsts for UMass Lowell, with maybe more to come.
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