Weaver (No. 0) and Holmes II (No. 15) stepped up in key moments for the Flyers, but also made some mistakes that kept the team from winning. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
Favored by 18 points and playing in front of the home crowd at UD Arena, the Flyers men’s basketball team couldn’t overcome first half struggles on offense and fell 59-58 to UMass-Lowell Saturday night.
“Everybody’s gonna be dangerous,” Flyers head coach Anthony Grant said after the game. “You have really good players all over the country. With our group, we’re young, we’re talented, but we’re young. And so we have to be able to figure it out. I feel like every game for us we’re going to have to really be able to bring our best and bring a level of focus.”
In the first four minutes, the River Hawks played strong defense and forced several shot attempts by the Flyers that went released until just before the shot clock expired. At the first media timeout with 15:30 left, the game was tied at 6 as UD shot just 2-7 from the field.
Over the next period of play, the Flyers got another three, but the River Hawks held serve and the teams were tied at 10 with 11:52 left in the first half. The teams both struggled from the field early, and were 7-23 combined through eight minutes.
Offensively, the Flyers struggled and turned the ball over six times in the first 12 minutes and were shooting just 25 percent from the field as the River Hawks jumped out to a 16-12 lead. Both teams continued to have issues on offense, going over two minutes without scoring with 7:50 left in the half.
After over five minutes without a field goal, the Flyers made a small push with free throws from sophomore forward Toumani Camara and an offensive rebound and layup by freshman forward DaRon Holmes II to break the drought. Aiming to prevent a larger run, the River Hawks called timeout leading 21-16 with 4:59 left.
The Flyers offensive problems consisted, as they were shooting just 22.7 percent and making 1 of their last eight shots when the under-4 media timeout arrived with the same score and 3:14 left in the first half.
“We’ve had two games right now, we’ve been subpar offensively,” Grant said. “Tonight, what hurt us in the first half was the second shots. Offensively tonight, we really struggled in the first half, taking care of the ball and being able to finish plays.”
With a late stepover three from sophomore guard Koby Brea, the Flyers stayed in the game but trailed 28-21 at the break. UD shot an abysmal 24 percent from the field, and the UMass-Lowell defense held the Flyers offense to just two made field goals inside the three-point arc and limited the Flyers to the perimeter.
“Nobody can come in here and just play harder than us,” junior guard Elijah Weaver said. “This is our house, so anytime we play a different team, we just got to be the ones who take the fights to them and we can’t let them take the fight to us.”
To start the second half, the Flyers were able to score a couple of early baskets, but once again went ice cold with three turnovers and no scoring during a 2:32 period. Led by a layup and jumper by graduate guard Justin Faison, the River Hawks built up a 36-25 lead with 15:54 left in the second half.
The Flyers finally started to attack the inside with a dunk and then a layup by Holmes II with assists from Elvis and Blakney. Weaver converted an and-one opportunity after being fouled on a layup, and freshman guard Malachi Smith was able to do the same, cutting the River Hawks lead to 38-34 at the media timeout with 11:48 left, and cut it to a three-point difference after the break.
Three minutes passed without a field goal made by the Flyers, but a Blakney three and a ferocious dunk by Holmes II after an offensive rebound by Camara resulted in an eruption from the UD Arena crowd. The dunk cut the deficit to 47-42 and forced the visitors to call timeout with 7:50 left in the game.
The Flyers were able to continue their push with four straight free throws from Blakney to cut the deficit to one, and then a layup by Weaver gave the Flyers a 48-47 lead. The crowd once again roared.
“That’s amazing, 13,000 people cheering for you when you do something good is amazing, gives you so much more energy,” Weaver said. “At one point we were tired, but once you hit a shot, you take the lead and the crowd and the crowd is screaming, you’re not even tired no more.”
Faison then went on a hot streak from three, making three straight to give the River Hawks a 56-50 lead when the Flyers called timeout with 3:43 remaining.
“He made three threes in a row there at a critical time when we were on a run and he quieted the crowd with those threes,” Grant said. “Those are big shots, and I’ll go back to see how well we defended him.”
Holmes II got another dunk to go, and then Weaver hit a couple of huge clutch threes of his own to help the Flyers weather the storm. First on a corner three, and then after an offensive foul by Faison, he hit a three from the wing to give the Flyers a 58-57 lead with 1:13 left.
“That’s kind of my role to like,” Weaver said, “just kind of be an older guy when it’s crunch time to be that kind of leader, that voice for the team.”
UMass-Lowell called timeout with 46.2 seconds left, and then with 15.4 seconds left Gregory Hammond was fouled and went to the free throw line. He knocked down both, and gave the River Hawks a 59-58 lead.
The Flyers missed an opportunity on their end when Weaver stepped out of bounds on the baseline, and Hammond went back to the line. This time, he missed and the Flyers had another chance. With 4.8 seconds left, a loose ball went out of bounds and the play was under review to see who touched it last. UD maintained possession, but couldn’t put together the in-bounds play and never got off a good shot.
“We were supposed to get (Weaver) coming off of a screen to the three point line,” Holmes said. “I was supposed to set a screen for Toumani to wrap around, and either he had a layup or I would duck in and seal. So the three options were (Weaver), Toumani, or me ducking in.”
Even in a loss, Holmes tied a single-game UD record with six blocks and led the team with 13 points.
“I thought he really did a good job defensively,” Grant said. “I thought he had some very valuable blocks for us, I think he altered shots inside. I thought he did a good job battling for rebounds inside, gave us a physical presence. And then offensively, I think he’s just scratching the surface of what he’s capable of becoming from an offensive standpoint.”
Grant also said there were positives to take away from the performances of Smith and Blakney.
“I think there were a lot of contributors that gave us a chance tonight, but I think we’ll go back and see (the film). We’ll look at the offensive rebounds,” 14 to 11 in favor of UMass-Lowell, “we’ll look at the turnovers,” 15 by UD, 8 by UM-L, “we’ll look at some of the poor decisions that ultimately resulted in us not being able to come out with the win today.”
With the 59-58 loss, the Flyers fall to 1-1 and will look to bounce back against Lipscomb on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at UD Arena.