Harris Nets 1,000th to Lead River Hawks
By Matt Langone
LOWELL -- Even for the purest of shooters, there’s always an added level of comfort playing at home.
UML 87, BU 82
UMass Lowell senior marksman Matt Harris expressed that comfort as he took the floor Wednesday with a calm, confident look, singing quietly along to the music blaring over the loudspeakers at Costello Athletic Center.
Harris then proceeded to unleash his best offensive performance of the season, pouring in 27 points, while making 4-of-7 from deep and 11-of-12 from the free throw line to lead the River Hawks to an 87-82 non-conference victory over Boston University.
The victory improved UML’s record to 6-5 and snapped a four-game losing streak that saw the last three setbacks come on the road by double digits. Wednesday night was a welcome sight, as the River Hawks shot 50 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from deep.
“It’s pretty nice being back in our building,” said Harris, who is averaging 15.3 points per game and made at least four 3-pointers in a game for the fifth time this season. “We had that road trip where we thought we didn’t play our best basketball. We just wanted to come out with some energy and get back on track.”
The 6-foot-1 Harris, from Erie, Pa., also surpassed 1,000 career points at UML. But he was most pleased with the fact that his milestone came in a win. The River Hawks have developed quite a homecourt advantage with a 6-1 record in Lowell.
All five UMass Lowell starters scored in double figures. Senior Jahad Thomas had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and sophomore Rinardo Perry had 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
“It’s a great win for our program against a very good Boston University team,” said UML head coach Pat Duquette. “We got good contributions from just about everybody who played. If we’re going to beat a good team like BU, it’s going to be a collective effort.”
Terriers’ sophomore forward Max Mahoney had the best game of his young career with 29 points (14-for-18), 11 rebounds and three blocks. He was the major force behind BU’s 34-31 halftime advantage, as the visitors made a concerted effort to get the ball in the paint, where
they outscored UMass Lowell, 56-28.
However, that fell right into the River Hawks’ game plan. They figured the 6-foot-8 Mahoney would get his buckets. The goal was to contain all other BU (4-5) players.
″(Mahoney) finished just about everything, it felt like,” said River Hawks junior forward Josh Gantz, who had 11 points and five assists. “He definitely gave us problems, but we were able to hold him down enough to get the win.”
Cedric Hankerson added 20 points for BU, but it took him 19 shots to get there.
UMass Lowell’s quicker guards were able to get out in transition much more in the second half and the River Hawks converted BU’s 17 turnovers into 20 points. The River Hawks began the second half with an 11-2 run. Harris buried a 3-pointer to put his club up 38-36 with 18:20 left in the game and UML led for the remainder of the contest.
Duquette played just six players in the second half.
“I don’t like the fact that I thinned down the bench, I think that we’re going to continue to need those guys. So that’s not really positive from my standpoint,” said Duquette. “But I thought I did need to do it tonight -- there are certain nights when it goes that way. I just go by the flow of the game.”
There was good reason to trust the starters in this one. The veteran group limited turnovers, shared the ball and were efficient and aggressive.
“My biggest takeaway from today was that very few times did we force plays offensively,” said Duquette. “That creates better percentage shots and limits your turnovers.”
Things did, however, get interesting down the stretch. UML led 81-75 with 37 seconds remaining, but Mahoney knocked down a 12-foot baseline jumper and then Tyler Scanlon stole it from Harris and fed Hankerson for a triple that made it 81-80 with 28 seconds left.
But the River Hawks salted the game away with free throws, including four straight from Harris -- a nearly 90 percent shooter from the line -- to make it 85-80 with 10 seconds left.
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone