UMass Lowell men’s basketball battle valiantly, succumb to #25 UConn

UMass Lowell gives UConn some fight. (Photo/UMass Lowell Athletics)
UMass Lowell gives UConn some fight. (Photo/UMass Lowell Athletics)
UMass Lowell gives UConn some fight. (Photo/UMass Lowell Athletics) UMass Lowell UMass Lowell men's basketball battle valiantly, succumb to #25 UConn JahadThomasUConn
UMass Lowell gives UConn some fight. (Photo/UMass Lowell Athletics)

HARTFORD, Conn. – Redshirt sophomore Jahad Thomas (Williamsport, Pa.) totaled 19 points and tied a career high with seven assists, as the UMass Lowell River Hawks (4-7) fell, 88-79, at No. 25 UConn Huskies (7-3) on Sunday afternoon.

“I thought that was one of our better games all year,” said UMass Lowell Head Coach Pat Duquette. “Not only is UConn a very good team, but they hit a lot of shots and played well tonight. I thought our defense was better than it has been. We played the right way on offense and shared the ball. Jahad was great, playing at the right pace and letting the game come to him. Overall, we played a very good game against a very good team.”

Thomas also led the River Hawks on the glass with five rebounds. Redshirt freshman Josh Gantz (Grove City, Ohio) tallied a season-high, four three-pointers en route to matching a personal best 18 points, while sophomore Matt Harris (Erie, Pa.) and freshman Isaac White (Ashland, Ohio) added 11 points apiece to round out the team’s double-digit scorers.

The Huskies won the opening tip, but freshman Ryan Jones (Rio Rancho, N.M.) scored a second-chance layup and Harris followed with a three from the wing to give the River Hawks an early, 5-2 advantage with 18:41 remaining in the first half. The teams traded possessions and buckets in the following minutes with six quick lead changes until senior Mark Cornelius (Westford, Mass.) kicked the ball out to White, who drained a jumper from beyond the arc, sparking a 7-0 UMass Lowell spurt that put the visitors on top, 20-13, at 12:17.

UConn used a 13-5 run to take a slight, 26-25 lead with 8:41 still to go in the first. The River Hawks would knot the score at 29-29 thanks to back-to-back buckets from Thomas, but the home squad posted six straight points to create a 35-29 margin with just under six minutes left in the half.

A 3-for-4 effort at the foul line by Cornelius in the waning minutes helped put the River Hawks within a bucket at 37-34, but the Huskies recorded six of the last nine points in the first to take a 43-37 edge into the break.

The teams traded points coming out of halftime, as UConn maintained at least a six-point buffer. The Huskies took a double-digit margin for the first time in the outing with 16:09 still to play, although Jones responded with a three from the corner, making the score 51-44.

Harris knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key to help the River Hawks take an 8-3 scoring edge during a two-minute stretch. Thomas then converted on an and-1 to cut the difference back to just seven at 62-55 with 10:48 to go.

Seven consecutive points gave the home team its largest lead of the day, but Gantz answered with five straight to put the visitors within eight at 70-62 at 5:50. UMass Lowell then used a 10-3 run, capped off by back-to-back threes from White and senior DJ Mlachnik (Muskego, Wis.), to make it a two-possession game with 1:27 left. However, seven free throws in the final seconds helped UConn secure the 88-79 outcome.

Rodney Purvis paced four Huskies in double-figures with a game-high 28 points. Daniel Hamilton also logged a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, in addition to dishing out seven assists.

Sunday’s contest marked the first meeting ever between UMass Lowell and Connecticut in the sport of men’s basketball. The River Hawks have a break for the holiday and will return to action on Monday, December 28 when they travel to Rutgers for a 7 p.m. tilt.

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