NE-10 TOURNAMENT: #6 UMass Lowell Holds Off #3 Stonehill, 79-69

Junior Patrick Lee posted 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks against UMass Lowell tonight. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane) 

River Hawks bury 12-of-19 three's ride hot-shooting first half to victory

EASTON, Mass. (February 28, 2011) – Sixth-seeded University of Massachusetts Lowell, ranked fifth in the NCAA Division II East Regional rankings, rode a blistering first half shooting effort to a 79-69 triumph over third-seeded Stonehill College, among teams receiving votes in the NABC Division II poll and ranked second in the East Region, in quarterfinal round action of the 2011 Northeast-10 Conference Men's Basketball Championships at Merkert Gymnasium tonight.

UMass Lowell (20-8, 14-8 NE-10) advances to Thursday's NE-10 semifinal round where it will host seventh-seeded Adelphi University (18-10, 12-10 NE-10) at 7 p.m. The Panthers upset second-seeded American International College (20-8, 16-6 NE-10) in a quarterfinal tonight in Springfield, Mass. Stonehill (21-7, 16-6 NE-10), who has dropped back-to-back games for the first time since closing out the 2008-09 season with a pair of postseason losses, awaits word on a near certain automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament for a third-straight year when bids are announced on Sunday night via at 10 p.m.

UMass Lowell finished shooting 54-percent (27-for-50) from the field, including a blistering 12-for-19 (63.2%) from three-point range, after hitting 62.5% (15-24) of its shots in the first half to take a 12-point (42-30) lead into halftime thanks to a buzzer-beater from beyond half court by junior Robbie Walton (South Boston, Mass./Boston Latin). The River Hawks made 9-of-13 (69.2%) three's in the first half and finished the game with a 16-12 edge in points off turnovers. Stonehill was held to 38-percent (19-50) shooting overall, just 3-for-10 (30%) from beyond the arc. The Skyhawks outscored UML 28-13 from the free-throw line, converting at 73.7% (28-38) for the night, compared to 13-20 (65%) for the guests.

Junior Ivan Almeida also had 17 points to go with four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)

Freshman Akeem Williams (Brockton, Mass./The Winchendon School) led five UMass Lowell players in double-figures with 21 of his game-high 26 points after halftime as he finished shooting 8-for-16 from the field, including 3-for-6 from three-point range, and converted 7-of-10 free-throw attempts for the night to go with four rebounds and three assists.

Sophomore Romeo Diaz (Methuen, Mass./Methuen) added 15 points (13 first half) by draining 4-of-6 three's to go with four rebounds, while Walton finished with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, including both three-pointers, adding three rebounds, three assists and three steals. Sophomore Matt Welch (Lowell, Mass./Lowell) contributed 11 points, draining 3-of-4 from deep, and four rebounds, while freshman Antonio Bivins (Miami, Fla./American) chipped in ten points on 5-of-8 shooting off the bench with a team-high five rebounds (four offensive) and two steals.

Junior Patrick Lee (Fayetteville, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius) led Stonehill with 17 points, shooting 6-for-11 from the field, eight rebounds (four offensive) and two blocked shots. Classmate Ivan Almeida (Praia, Cape Verde) posted 17 points (11 first half), aided by 11-for-13 shooting from the free-throw line, four rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and two steals, while senior Mike Kernan (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) contributed 11 points, shooting 4-for-6 from the field and 3-for-5 at the line, with eight boards (four offensive).

Stonehill held an early five point lead (8-3) after a layup by Kernan 2:22 into the contest, but UMass Lowell used a 16-3 run over the next four minutes to take the lead and open an eight point cushion (19-11) with 13 minutes left in the half after back-to-back three's (a minute apart) by Diaz. The Skyhawks got a three-point play by junior Andre Tongo (Boxford, Mass./Acton-Boxford) on its next possession, but the River Hawks scored the next eight points to extend the run to 24-6 and open a 12-point lead (27-15) after a Welch three with 9:15 left in the half.

UMass Lowell worked its lead to as much as 15 (38-23) with 1:58 to go before halftime after back-to-back three's by Walton and Williams, but Stonehill scratched back within nine before Walton capped the half with his half court buzzer-beater for a 12 point (42-30) margin at the break.

Stonehill wouldn't go down quietly, cutting the gap to six (45-38) with two Lee free-throws 4:03 into the second half. The Skyhawks made that opening run by making just two field goals, while holding the River Hawks to 1-for-9 shooting to start the half. UMass Lowell pushed its lead back to 11 (53-42) after a Williams layup with 12:48 to play, but Stonehill drew within two (57-55) on two Almeida free-throws to cap a 14-3 run with 9:18 left. Sophomores Sam Markle (Bethany, Conn./Saint Thomas More) and Brian Hamor (Guilderland, N.Y./Bishop Gibbons) sparked the run with back-to-back three's.

That would be as close as Stonehill would get as UMass Lowell held the Skyhawks right there and regained a double-digit lead (67-57) after a layup from junior Heman Honore (Medford, Mass./St. Celment) with 5:05 to play. The Skyhawks cut the lead to seven (67-60) after a Lee layup with 3:33 left, but the River Hawks answered again and led by 11 (71-60) again following a Bivins layup with 2:10 on the clock. UML sealed the upset win from there by canning 6-of-8 free-throws in the final minute.