Merrimack

Jordan Derkack 33 Points Pace Merrimack to a 74-68 Win Over UMass Lowell

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Despite the outcome of Saturday night’s game, there are a lot of positives to take away from the six-game road trip that the UMass Lowell River Hawks (5-2) just finished. The 74-68 loss to Merrimack College (4-5) notwithstanding. The River Hawks finished what could end up to be their most difficult stretch of the season at 4-2. Included in that set of games was a win over a Power-5 team in Georgia Tech, and a near win over another Power-5 team in Arizona State. While the trip did not end the way the team would have liked, you look ahead to conference play and you have to like how this season has begun.

On Saturday night, The Merrimack College Warriors were the better team for most of the night. They got a career-high performance from sophomore guard Jordan Derkack who went for 33 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. He took more free throw attempts 17 (made 14) than he took shots from the field (9-of-15). He was a tough matchup for the River Hawks backcourt all game long. UMass Lowell did not help themselves by turning the ball over 17 times for the game. They had only 12 assists on 26 made baskets. Yes, the River Hawks did finish the game with four players in double-figures led by Max Brooks with 18 points. This was not a game that you felt comfortable with if you were a River Hawks fan.

Derkack had a lot to do with that as he took the ball to the basket at will. He did not settle for jump shots. In fact, he took only three from deep for the game making only one. The team was only 6-of-19 from 3-point range (31.6%), something that head coach Joe Gallo said: “will get better.” The River Hawks had the lead for most of the first half. Their biggest lead was six at 17-11 on Ayinde Hikim’s (12 points, three assists, six TO) jumper with 12:44 left in the half. Merrimack would go on an 11-0 run to take a lead with them to the locker room. The run started with a Jaylen Stinson three-pointer, his only basket of the night. Derkack scored inside with a layup, then back-to-back threes by Jacob O’Connell and Devon Savage (12 points) had the crowd of 2.347 in a good mood. A layup from Brooks cut the Warriors lead to 32-28 at the half.

In the second half, the closest UMass Lowell would get was two at 32-30 on a Cam Morris layup 10 seconds into the half. It was all Warriors from there on. They would take their first double-digit lead at 47-37 on a Derkack layup with 14:23 left in the second half. A three-point play from O’Connell grew the lead to eleven at 52-41 with twelve minutes left. It would reach its highest total of 12 when Derkack hit two free throws with 5:10 left to make it a 63-51 Merrimack lead. The River Hawks went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to seven at 63-56 with 3:56 left. Braden O’Connor (10 Points) hit two free throws and then a three-point play from Quinton Mincy (11 points, five rebounds off the bench) gave the River Hawks some hope. After, Derkack hit two more free throws to put the lead back up to ten at 67-57 with 3:26 to go. The River Hawks would go on one last run. Five straight points from Mincy, two from the free throw line then a three-pointer. Brooks with a layup in the paint brought UMass Lowell to down three at 67-64 with 1:43 left. The River Hawks were forced to foul to try and extend the game. Merrimack made their free throws, seven of eight in fact, to get the win 74-68.

After the game, UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette it “A hard fought basketball game.” He thought his team showed “A lot of growth on this road trip.” If there was one thing he would have liked to have done more of it was to give minutes to some of his young players. The River Hawks were missing center Abdoul Karim Coullably for the second straight game with an undisclosed injury. They will need to get him back healthy as soon as possible. Coach Gallo was happy with the bounce-back effort after the tough loss at Georgetown earlier in the week. He was most pleased with Savage’s play on Saturday night after missing two-point layup attempts that could have sent the game vs the Hoyas into overtime. He also mentioned that he wants to play this game vs UMass Lowell every year. He thinks this is great for two Division I programs twenty minutes apart to play each other once a year. The Warriors will head back on the road to meet the Florida Gators on Tuesday while the River Hawks will return to Costello to meet Fisher College on Tuesday night.

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