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Men’s Basketball falls short to Vermont; looks forward to 2024-2025 season

(Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics) “Cam Morris III shoots a hoop.”

Jake Messer
Connector Staff

The UMass Lowell men’s basketball team came up short of their first-ever America East Conference Championship, losing to the Vermont Catamounts by a score of 66-61.  


Ever since they lost to Vermont in last season’s final, their goal has been to get back to Vermont and avenge that loss, and it showed with the way this team battled through the postseason.  


In the first round of the playoffs, they faced a young, quick UMBC team. The game was high scoring and overtime was needed to outlast them, the final score was 94-89. Their next game came against Bryant University, who were the highest scoring team in the conference. It was a hard fought game, but the River Hawks were able to pull ahead in the final minutes to beat Bryant, 77-70. 


With the game they anticipated all year lingering on the horizon, Head Coach Pat Duquette knew it was important to stay composed. “It’s going to be a very tough test against a very good Vermont team, but we are going to have to rely on that composure and that unity we have built as a group to win in Vermont.” 


It seemed like they were going to do it as well, since after a slow start, the River Hawks began playing their style of basketball and entered the halftime break with a 3 point edge of 32-29. 


Coming out of the half, they continue to fight and hold their own. Then, with seven minutes left in the game, the Catamounts went on a 10-0 run to gain the lead, 60-50. Once they earned the lead, they never looked back. Once again, the River Hawks season ended in Bulington, Vermont, with the final score, 66-61. 


In the end, Junior Cam Morris III led the way for the River Hawks with 17 points and 10 rebounds, registering his 10th collegiate double-double. Following suit was Sophomore Brayden O’Connor, who scored 14 points and had 6 rebounds. 


Leaving it all on the court was Senior Ayinde Hikim, who played his last collegiate game for the River Hawks. In his last game, Hakim scored 11 points, collected 6 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, had 2 blocks and 2 steals in 38 minutes.  


After the game, Duquette would say, “I’m really proud and happy for my guys. Not happy as much as I am proud of my guys,” said Duquette, “To have a chance to win in this type of environment, especially when you don’t shoot the ball well from three, it’s a huge testament to our guys’ will.” 


With this loss, the River Hawks must look forward to next season, as the team is about to undergo an identity shift. With the team’s de facto leader in Hakim leaving, a new leader will be needed to guide the team forward. 


Furthermore, the team will need to recruit more talent this summer, as an apparent lack of depth has forced the starters to play more minutes, which has prevented them from taking longer breaks during games. With more depth, the burden of winning games could be more evenly distributed across the team.   


Even though the season has ended in despair, the future is brighter than ever for this group of players. If they decide to stay, the River Hawks will be getting back 4 out of 5 of their starters, all of whom made all-conference teams this season and include America East Sixth Man of the Year winner, Senior Quinton Mincey. 


“We got enough in that locker room, looking forward to being right back here next year. They know that,” said Duquette, “I’m proud of the growth and development of the program.” 

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