The River Hawks trailed by just one with 13 minutes to go in the contest, but NJIT put together a 16-2 run to pull away for good.
“We gave up 90 points to a very good, junior- and senior-laden team, who won 20+ games last year,” said UMass Lowell Head Coach Pat Duquette. “There’s not a lot of shame in that, but we’ve got to get better defensively, we’ve talked a lot about that. Surprisingly enough, I think we have gotten better, but we are nowhere near where we need to be.”
Gantz was one of five players to log double-digits for UMass Lowell, marking the team’s fifth game this year with at least four, 10+ point scorers. Junior Tyler Livingston (Hudson, N.H.) and freshman Isaac White (Ashland, Ohio) added 14 and 11 points, respectively, while redshirt sophomore Jahad Thomas (Williamsport, Pa.) and freshman Ryan Jones (Rio Rancho, N.M.) posted 10 points each. Collectively, the squad shot 50.0 percent (29-58) from the floor in the effort.
The Highlanders won the opening tip and worked to quickly build a 12-2 edge in the first three and a half minutes of play. Gantz converted on a pair free throws and a hit a three from the wing, but the home squad followed with an 8-2 spurt to regain a double-digit margin at 23-9 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the first.
Thomas and Livingston combined for five straight points as part of a 7-1 River Hawk burst that pulled the visitors within nine. Jones followed with a deep three to spark a 9-2 run, cutting the difference to five at 34-29 with less than a minute to go in the first. However, Rob Ukawuba hit a long ball at the four-second mark to send NJIT into the break with a 37-29 advantage.
Jones opened the second half scoring with a jumper from beyond the arc, and although the Highlanders would answer with one of their own, the River Hawks responded with six of the next eight points, including a rare, four-point play from Jones, to make it a one-possession game at 43-40.
Back-to-back threes from freshman Logan Primerano (Peru, Ind.) and Gantz trimmed the deficit to just one point at 49-48 with 14:28 still to play in the outing. Thomas drove down low, making it a one-point game on one more occasion, before NJIT used a 16-2 run to create a 67-52 buffer at 9:18.
The River Hawks pulled within nine down the stretch on a three from White, but were unable to come any closer, as NJIT sealed the 90-77 outcome.
Saturday’s contest marked the sixth meeting between UMass Lowell and NJIT in the sport of men’s basketball. The all-time series between the two schools is now tied, 3-3. The River Hawks have a quick turnaround, taking on the Boston College Eagles on ESPN3 on Sunday, December 6, at 2 p.m. eastern.