LOWELL, Mass. – The UMass Lowell men’s basketball team showed its determination on both ends of the floor on a nightly basis in 2021-22.
Overall, the squad finished with a 15-16 record and a .484 winning percentage, which was good for a new Division I program best.
With nine upperclassmen, Head Coach Pat Duquette’s historically young squad utilized its veteran experience to help the program soar to new heights. The River Hawks paced the America East with 10.7 offensive rebounds per game, and accumulated a scoring margin of +4.9 against its 2021-22 opponents, setting another Division I program record.
Although the River Hawks have historically led the America East Conference in several offensive categories each season, Duquette opted for a heavily defensive approach in 2021-22, as the team held opponents just 65.8 points per game, a conference-leading mark and record low since elevating to Division I in 2013-14. UMass Lowell also led the America East in steals (7.3), blocks (4.2) and rebounding (36.1).
Quinton Mincey with a huge dunk against Rivier
The River Hawks started off the year extremely hot right out of the gate, as they turned in a dominant performance in the season opener, playing in front of a home crowd for the first time in 620 days on Nov. 9 against Rivier. With an attendance of 780 for that outing, the team set a new DI record for Costello Athletic Center.
UMass Lowell went onto win four of its first five contests, including a pair of road victories against Atlantic 10 opponents.
In one of their best defensive performances of the season, the River Hawks shut down a strong Dayton offense, holding the Flyers to under 40% shooting to pull out a hard-fought victory, 59-58. The win was not only the second win against an A-10 foe in program history, but also marked the first 2-0 start to a season at the Division I level. The 13,407 sellout crowd in the stands marked a new record to see a UMass Lowell win.
Kalil Thomas celebrating after victory at Dayton
The following week, the River Hawks headed down to D.C. and pulled off a second-half comeback to knock off Dayton’s conference mate, George Washington (1-4), 67-56. Although the River Hawks trailed by as many as 12 late in the first half, they never gave in and outscored their hosts by 20 in the second half.
Everrette Hammond logged the final points in the win at Merrimack
UMass Lowell would continue to thrive under the pressure of coming from behind this season, as the team trailed in the second half in eight of their 15 wins. The largest deficit the River Hawks erased was 14 points at Merrimack on Dec. 4. In that contest, the squad mounted a 14-2 run in the final seven minutes to take back the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the contest. An and-1 from sophomore Max Brooks (Waldorf, Md.) was the go-ahead bucket, while junior Connor Withers (Manassas, Va.) sunk a turn-around jumper to give his squad its largest margin, 59-55, with 53 second left on the clock.
The paint was UMass Lowell’s sweet spot this season and it was a recipe for success in the team’s first America East win at UMBC on Jan. 8. The River Hawks scored 38 points from the interior, including a coast-to-coast buzzer beater by sophomore Ayinde Hikim (Washington D.C.) that lifted the team to a another come-from-behind decision, 66-64.
Even when the game didn’t fall their way, the River Hawks put up a fight. Six of the team’s 11 conference losses featured double-digit lead changes. Additionally, three of the team’s last five regular-season losses were by a margin of five points or less.
The River Hawks finished the regular season on a high-note, recording an 83-73 victory at Hartford on March 3. Five River Hawks provided double-digit scoring efforts, led by Brooks, who set career highs with 29 points and 17 rebounds.
Anthony Blunt pulls up for a jumper against Hartford
Allin Blunt bodies his way to the rim in a career performance at UMBC
In the quarterfinals of the America East Playoffs, No. 7 seeded UMass Lowell visited No. 2 UMBC. But despite senior Allin Blunt (Crownsville, Md.) dropping a career-high 33 points, the River Hawks fell in overtime, 93-85, against the Retrievers.
Allin Blunt led the team offensively in his senior season, logging 11.6 points per game. The forward, who logged the first 20-point game of his career against Maine (Jan. 19), averaged 16.3 points in the seven outings between then and Feb. 9. Hikim, who added 11.0 points per game, led the River Hawks with 81 assists and 40 steals in 2021-22.
Brooks was named to the America East All-Defensive Team after an impressive sophomore campaign. He led the America East and ranked 28th in the country in blocks per game (2.4). He also set a new single-game program record with 10 blocks at UAlbany on Jan. 12 and took over the top spot on the River Hawks’ Division I single-season blocks list with 66. He averaged 10.7 points and boasted five double doubles.
The River Hawks bid farewell to three senior team members. Bryce Daley (Pittsfield, Mass.), John Hall (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Justin Faison (Prince George’s County, Md.) were all recognized for their contributions to the program with a special pre-game ceremony on March 1.
March 1 – Senior Day vs. UNH