The UMass Lowell Men’s basketball team (12-11,4-4) fell to the conference leading Vermont Catamounts (17-5, 7-1) this past Saturday night at the Tsongas Center. Vermont forward and America East leading scorer Anthony Lamb, led the way for the visitors with 29 points and 12 rebounds.
“Just really proud. It sounds funny because it’s a loss but that’s the best team in our league,” said head coach Pat Duquette. “They are really good and Anthony Lamb is such a good player, so well rounded. They’re a really good team, they play the right way, and they make you play really well just to stay in the game.”
Coming off a horrible mid-week effort against the Maine Black Bears, the River Hawks looked to surprise many and pick up what would have been their best win of the season. Unfortunately for the River Hawks, they would lose their second leading scorer, sophomore guard Obadiah Noel, in the very first minute of play.
“We had a lot of things working against us and we came off our worst performance on Wednesday so it was a little bit of a gut check time for us,” said coach Duquette. “Ryan is injured and Obi goes out right away and we have to play guys that haven’t played.”
With co-captain guard Ryan Jones and Noel sidelined for most of the game, the River Hawks knew they had a tough hill to climb. It started off and finished as a very intense game of basketball. Attendance as well played a part as many Catamount faithful made their voices heard throughout the duration of this America East conference matchup.
“A lot of the game we’re playing with three freshmen on the floor. We battle a lot of bad circumstances and we had a chance to win against the best team in the league,” said coach Duquette. “That’s all I can ask from my guys.”
From the initial whistle the River Hawks were engaged on defensive end but struggled to deal with the Catamount’s size on the offensive end. They went cold offensively shooting 2-11 from the field in the first ten minutes. With every offensive rebound turning into two points for the visitors, the hosts needed some points. Co-captain forward Josh Gantz led the way as River Hawks battled to have an offensive surge to end the first half.
At halftime the Vermont Catamount led by nine.
In a matchup between the conference two leadings scorers, Redshirt junior Christian Lutete was going to do his share of damage. He finished with 18 points and five rebounds but what led UMass Lowell to a second half comeback were freshman forward Joey Glynn, senior guard Sean Jones, and freshman guard Alex Rivera.
“They were fantastic and that’s really hard to do when you’re not in a rhythm and don’t’ know if you’re going to play and Sean has given us that lift before and so has Joey,” said coach Duqette. “The thing I liked the most when they were on the floor was the bench cheered so much for those guys and it really energized our team.”
The River Hawks struggled off the initial 2nd half tip off and fell to a 14-point deficit early on.
River and Glynn began to orchestrate the hosts offense and they started to chip away bucket after bucket. With the Tsongas Center getting louder as shots by the River Hawks began to fall, Anthony Lamb would seem to stop the momentum every time.
“Yea he’s really good. When you know your gong against him, you know got to play every play and be tough,” said Gantz. “You have to stay in front of him and like coach Duquette said he’s very well rounded. He’s tough to guard.”
As time was starting to get closer to the final buzzer, the River Hawks had their freshman step up big. Rivera found fellow freshman guard Bryce Daley cutting to the basket to cut the lead late. Daley returned the favor as he assisted Rivera on a three pointer that Rivera drained as he was fouled.
“Yea I didn’t have to tell them much cause we were playing really well. I thought we were in a little bit of a zone,” said coach Duquette. “We had rhythm on offense and playing exactly how we needed to defensively so I was just letting them go. I didn’t want to slow them down. Our guys are confident.”
Even with the River Hawks cutting the lead to three at one point, Lamb and the rest of the Vermont Catamounts were just too much for the hosts to handle. A couple late Lamb free throws sealed the win for the visitors.
“We stayed together, we were tough we were resilient. We believe, we were connected on both ends of the floor and there were a lot of times where we could have given in,” said coach Duquette. “A lot of times when that lead could have stretch to double digits and beyond and it didn’t because I our guys played the right way. I thought it was a great night, great atmosphere and a really good night for our basketball program.”
Coach Duquette understands what this performance meant for the program.
“I just told them this as proud of I’ve been since I’ve been the head basketball coach at UMass Lowell.” said coach Duquette.
The River Hawks will return to action Wednesday, February 6th at 7 p.m. as they host the New Hampshire Wild Cats in another America East conference matchup at Costello Gym.