Junior guard Ryan Jones defends against the Sacred Heart offense. (Matt Dwyer/Connector).
Following five straight wins, the UMass Lowell men’s basketball team entered the game against the Sacred Heart Pioneers looking to earn their sixth, but fell short 87-80 Wednesday night.
A rowdy crowd just shy of 900 fans packed the Costello Athletic Center. UMass Lowell entered the evening undefeated on their home court and looked to continue their streak. The River Hawks used the crowd’s excitement to build a 39-35 advantage as they entered the locker room at halftime. UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette certainly felt the fan’s presence.
“It was a great crowd. I was really happy that the students came out to support us,” said Duquette.
Despite a promising first half, the River Hawks (5-2) came up short later in the game. Sacred Heart bounced back with a vengeance, outscoring UMass Lowell 52-41 in the second half. The Pioneers were led by a well-balanced scoring attack, with four players in double digit scoring. Senior forward Joseph Lopez led Sacred Heart with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
As for the River Hawks, a discouraging series of events plagued the team and prevented them from rallying late in the game. Senior guard Matt Harris picked up his third foul just minutes after halftime, keeping him on the bench for key moments. Senior forward Jahad Thomas was forced to exit the game due to a leg injury. Thomas was seen in pain after a made basket with just over seven minutes left in the contest.
Thomas would not return, but contributed 22 points to the River Hawks offense before leaving. The missing piece for the River Hawks allowed Sacred Heart to take control of the lead for the remainder of the game.
The River Hawks fought to the end, cutting a once 13-point lead down to just four with a minute left. The valiant effort by UMass Lowell was not enough to come back as Sacred Heart scored on key free throw attempts, shooting 74 percent from the line.
Second chance opportunities were relatively non-existent for the River Hawks. The importance of second chance points was stressed by Duquette.
“Second chance points not only give your [team] the chance to score, but they also deflate the opposing team. I told my team that we have to get ourselves more possessions,” Duquette said.
The team wasn’t discouraged in the slightest following the loss. Ryan Jones highlighted that losses are often better learning opportunities. “I think you can always learn a little bit more from losses, you tend to be a little more focused the film [session],” said Jones.
The River Hawks now enter a three-game road trip with the likes of New Jersey Institute of Technology, Wagner College, and Brown University.