DURHAM -- With a chance to end its season with a major flourish, the UNH men’s basketball team laid an egg.
UNH never led, never got closer than six points in the second half, and lost to UMass Lowell 63-54 at Lundholm Gym.
A win on Tuesday would have earned the Wildcats a home quarterfinal game in the America East tournament just a season after being the lone team to miss the tournament. The loss, combined with UMBC's win over Stony Brook on Tuesday, means that UNH must settle for the fifth seed and will have to travel to Baltimore to play the No. 4 Retrievers on Saturday.
Both UNH and UMBC finished 8-8 in league play and split the season series, but the Retrievers won the second tiebreaker, which is record against other conference opponents in descending order. That opponent is regular-season champ Vermont; UMBC was 1-1 against the Catamounts while UNH was 0-2 against them.
“Credit goes to Lowell,” UNH coach Bill Herrion said. “Thoroughly outplayed us right from the tip. I’ve got to take the blame for not having this team more ready and prepared to play. I’d like to think our guys knew what was at stake. We obviously didn’t answer the bell with that, and it’s disappointing.”
The Wildcats simply could not put together consistent offense. UNH shot 37 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point land.
The only Wildcat player to put the ball in the bucket throughout the game was Nick Guadarrama. The sophomore scored 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds. The only other Wildcat in double figures was Sean Sutherlin, but his 12 points came on 5-for-15 shooting.
“They were playing really good defense on us,” Sutherlin said. “They really came out ready to play. They came out energized, focused, and we did the opposite. We just dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of.”
UMass Lowell jumped the Wildcats early. The River Hawks opened the game on a 12-1 run and UNH could never pull itself back into the game. UMass Lowell senior Christian Lutete and junior Obadiah Noel led all scorers with 23 and 19 points, respectively.
“They were packing the paint in and forced us to shoot contested threes,” Sutherlin said. “That was a big part of their defense.”
The regular season ends for UNH with a 15-14 overall record after a five-win season last year.
“I’m confident in my team,” Guadarrama said. “I feel like we can beat anyone in this league. We’ve just got to go down (to Baltimore) with the right mindset. We lost one today. We’ve got to forget about that quickly and go try to beat UMBC at their home place. We’ve just got to play our best basketball.”