Guard Rinardo Perry had 13 points in the River Hawks’ victory. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)
On Thanksgiving Eve, the UMass Lowell men’s basketball team gave their fans a thrilling 74-66 win over the Long Island University (LIU) Black Birds, avenging last year’s heartbreaking overtime loss.
Riding a three-game win streak heading into this matchup, UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette knew that this would be a tough test for his players.
“We’ve typically struggled against this team before, they’re a very strong and athletic team. I thought we handled that today better than we ever have in the past,” said Duquette.
The River Hawks looked as though they would run away with the victory early on, opening the game on a 13-0 run. LIU soon responded, as junior guard Raiquan Clark led the Black Birds with a team-high 21 points. At the halftime, UMass Lowell led LIU 36-26; a lead that would soon evaporate.
With just one minute and twenty seconds left in regulation, LIU cut the River Hawks lead to a single point. River Hawks’ guard Shawn Jones quickly stormed down the court, laying the ball in and extending the lead to three. UMass Lowell would add to its lead with sophomore guard Rinardo Perry providing 13 points in key moments down the stretch.
“I try to work on my offense every day,” Perry said. “I know that I don’t have to do too much, [overall] just trusting the offense.”
Senior guard Jahad Thomas also continued his offensive dominance. Last year, Thomas contributed 21 points when the Black Birds came to town. This year, Thomas again scorched the LIU defense with a game-high 24 points.
Although Thomas generally controls the rebounding category for UMass Lowell, it was Junior guard Ryan Jones who had a team-high 10 rebounds. As a strong scorer for the River Hawks, Jones addressed that his focus is on becoming a well-balanced piece of the River Hawks’ offense.
“I think in the past I’ve viewed myself a scorer, but I’ve [recently] been trying to shift my game onto other things and become an all-around player. Tonight, it was all about rebounding and taking care of the ball,” said Jones.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Duquette and his players expressed their gratitude and appreciation of one another.
“Everyone thinks that the most exciting part of college basketball is playing on ESPN3 and winning games, but honestly, every day that I get the chance to work these [players] and they allow me into their lives both on the floor and off the floor, makes [my] life much more meaningful for me,” said Duquette.
Several of Duquette’s players gave high praise for their teammates.
“[Our team] is far away from home for a lot of us, so this is like our second family and I’m excited to spend Thanksgiving with them tomorrow,” said Jones.
Rinardo Perry mentioned the brotherly love that his teammates share with one another. “I’m thankful for my teammates. We spend a lot of time together, both laughing and fighting with each other. I’m grateful for them,” he said.
The team now holds a 4-1 record, going undefeated at home. “I think we’ve all become a little bit older, a little bit stronger, and we’ve gained more confidence,” said Duquette.
The River Hawks will return to the court on Sunday, Nov. 26 as they host Loyola University at the Costello Athletic Center.