The opening night of conference play for the America East Conference was full of close games, and Hartford at UMass Lowell wasn't any different.
The Hawks needed a win to keep their spirits high. Coming into conference play with a very young team, they play hard and with a lot of heart, but it's inevitable that losses would accumulate throughout the season. A win on the conference opening night would definitely give the guys some motivation.
The River Hawks needed to break a five game losing streak, and getting closer to post season eligibility, want to show the rest of the conference they mean business.
Hartford's Taylor Dyson made his way back into the starting five, after having a rough nonconference season. He had hit a rough patch, averaging only 5.3 points in the last three games and only hit double digits three times the entire season. Tonight was his night to remind everyone that this is his year. As the only senior on the team, he needed to step up his game. That's exactly what he did.
While Cleveland Pancake Thomas was the hot hand the past few games, Dyson picked it up, ending with 27 points coming from nine shots from behind the arc. At one point in the game he had 15 of the team's 31 points. To say he carried the team is an understatement. The last person to hit that many three pointers in a game was Wes Cole when he hit 10 against UMass Lowell back in 2014.
When the Hawks found themselves in a rut after a River Hawk run, the ball ended up in the hands of Dyson and almost always made the shot. George Blagojevich was another who had been having a few off games lately who seemed to feel more comfortable on the court. Blagojevich was slow in the first half, but exploded in the second half ending with 18 points overall.
While a loss is not exactly what the Hawks were looking for, Head Coach John Gallagher is still positive for the rest of the season, "There's so much we do good, and there's so much we do that hurt ourselves... We just have to continue to grow... we've got a lot of young guys out there who are just very, very college basketball inexperienced."
Both teams are now at 5 wins overall, Hartford at 5-11 and Lowell at 5-9 though Hartford will drop to 0-1 in conference play while Lowell rises to 1-0 along with Vermont, Stony Brook and Albany who also grabbed wins on opening night.