LOWELL, Mass. – Sophomore Matt Harris (Erie, Pa.) tied season highs with six made field goals and 16 points to lead the UMass Lowell River Hawks (5-9, 1-0 AE) to a last-minute, 80-76 victory against the Hartford Hawks (5-11, 0-1 AE) in the squad’s America East opener on Wednesday.
“We were very excited to play our first home game in a while and even more excited to win,” said UMass Lowell Head Coach Pat Duquette. “I’m really happy for my guys, especially because it was such a close game with a lot of important plays down the stretch. We got a great contribution from Matt Harris and Tyler Livingston, and the the five players who came off the bench were pivotal in the win.”
With the win, the River Hawks snapped a five-game skid. Harris’ effort came as part of 48 bench points for the squad. UMass Lowell shot 55.4 percent (31-56) from the field in the contest, including 42.9 percent (9-21) from three-point range. Junior Tyler Livingston (Hudson, N.H.) and freshman Isaac White (Ashland, Ohio) added to the offensive effort with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Redshirt sophomore Jahad Thomas (Williamsport, Pa.) paced the team on the boards with eight rebounds, as well.
The River Hawks won the opening tip for their third game in a row, but Hartford scored first and jumped out to an early, 9-2 advantage. The lead was short-lived, though, as White drained a three from the top of the key and Livingston followed with back-to-back buckets to knot the score at 9-9 with 14:07 remaining in the first half. The visitors broke the stalemate with a long ball, but freshman Keith Hayes II (Little Rock, Ark.) retaliated with one of his own, sparking an 8-0 spurt that gave UMass Lowell its first lead of the night, 17-12, halfway through the first.
The teams traded baskets over the next four minutes, with the River Hawks maintaining at least a one-possession margin until Taylor Dyson hit a three-point jumper to tie the game once again, this time at 23-23. White regained the upper hand for the home team on a three before freshman Ryan Jones (Rio Rancho, N.M.) and Thomas each added a bucket, giving the River Hawks a 31-25 edge at 4:10.
Hartford used three more triples from Dyson to make the score 34-34, but Livingston and redshirt freshman Josh Gantz (Grove CIty, Ohio) banked in layups in the last minute of the half to put UMass Lowell on top, 39-36, at the break.
The Hawks took control of the momentum coming out of halftime, putting together a 13-1 run to pull in front, 49-40, with just over 16 minutes still to go in the outing. Senior Mark Cornelius (Westford, Mass.) and freshman Logan Primerano (Peru, Ind.) answered for UMass Lowell, recording the first baskets of an 11-2 run to make the score 51-51 at 11:35. The home squad would force two more ties, including one at 71-71 with 3:30 to go before Harris knocked down a huge three from the corner to retake the lead, 74-73. Hartford led once more, but a layup by Harris put UMass Lowell back in control and free throws in the final seconds secured the 80-76 outcome.
Dyson logged a game-high 27 points with nine three-pointers to lead Hartford in the decision. George Blagojevic added 18 points, as well.
Wednesday’s contest marked the 10th meeting between UMass Lowell and Hartford in the sport of men’s basketball. The Hawks still lead the all-time series, 7-3. The River Hawks return to action on Saturday, January 9 when they visit league opponent Stony Brook for a 2 p.m. tilt.