Lowe and Brower lead the way for Minutemen

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Brian Tedder, Collegian

KINGSTON, R.I. – Etienne Brower scored a career-high 26 points last night, keeping Massachusetts in the game against Rhode Island while teammates Ricky Harris and Gary Forbes struggled.

But it was the last five of those points – in a two-second span and on a single possession – in the game’s final minute that propelled the Minutemen to an important victory over the Rams, 98-91, last night at a sold-out Ryan Center.

The victory gave UMass (17-9, 6-6 Atlantic 10) a season-series sweep of URI, but, more importantly for the Minutemen, puts them right back into the discussion for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Rams have dropped four of their last five games, including two to UMass.

With UMass up just one point with 1:14 left to play, Brower stole the ball away from URI’s Kahiem Seawright and was fouled on a breakaway lay-up attempt. The shot missed, but an intentional foul was called, giving the Minutemen two foul shots and the ball back.

Brower took care of both ends for his team, converting both free throws and hitting a game-changing 3-point shot just after the in-bounds pass – giving UMass a 92-86 lead with 1:11 left.

UMass coach Travis Ford wasn’t pleased with the decision by Brower to take the shot – rather than run out some clock – but loved the result.

“It’s not necessarily the shot you want to take when the time is on your side and the score is on your side, but he’s playing phenomenal basketball right now and if anybody is going to shoot it, I’d like for it to be him,” Ford said after the game.

“Coach Ford said, ‘no, no, no, no!’ I don’t know, I just shot it and it went in, so I guess I made the right play,” Brower said, laughing.

Seemingly everything Brower did in the game was the right thing, as the senior forward hit 8-of-10 shots and five of his seven 3-point field goal attempts. He also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, but it was his steal at the end that led to the play of the night.

“Me and Kahiem were talking trash all game, we know each other from high school. They ran that play a coule of times and he kept showing me the ball and I was just waiting for a chance to go and tip it out of his hands,” Brower said. “And eventually I guess I got it at the right time.”

Rhode Island (20-7, 6-6 A-10) never got within five points after Brower’s 3-pointer. Will Daniels missed a free throw attempt, which would have cut the lead to four and all three Rams 3-point attempts afterward missed – with the final two failing to hit the rim.

The Rams outshot the Minutemen from the field (55.4 percent to 48.4) but their 20 turnovers led to 29 points for UMass.

“I thought it was a hard-fought battle, but we just turned the ball over too many times – at crucial times,” URI coach Jim Baron said.

Much like the previous meeting between the teams on Feb. 14 in Amherst, Brower and Chris Lowe (21 points and 10 assists) helped lead the Minutemen to narrow victories despite the shooting struggles from Harris and Forbes.

The UMass duo combined to hit 9-of-34 shots, including 2-of-11 from the perimeter. Both players scored in double figures, however, with Forbes scoring 23 and Harris 14.

Lowe was efficient in both ways on offense, driving to the hoop for easy baskets when it was available and passing to the open teammate when it was called for. It was the third straight game for Lowe with 10-plus assists.

“When he’s playing like that, he’s one of the better point guards in the country. He really is,” Ford said. “That’s how potent he is and how well he’s playing right now.”

Both teams had four players reach double figures in scoring, but three of them for UMass scored over 20. Daniels (25 points) was the only such player for the Rams.

With just over two minutes left, the Rams took a four-point lead after Delroy James connected on a 3-pointer. But Harris answered 12 seconds later when his outside shot got the friendly roll.

After a turnover by URI point guard Parfait Bitee, Harris connected on a close-range runner, getting a favorable bounce for the second possession in a row to give the Mintuemen the 87-86 lead. UMass never relinquished the advantage, as Brower’s steal on the next possession set up the 5-point sequence.

The Minutemen return to the Mullins Center on Sunday afternoon for a conference matchup with St. Bonaventure.

Game notes:

Both Tony Gaffney and Dante Milligan fouled out for the Minutmen. It was the 10th time this season Milligan has done so … Gary Correia played 16 minutes off the bench for UMass, but didn’t record a single statistic other than his three fouls and one assist … Forbes and Harris have combined to shot 24-of-77 from the floor in the two meetings with URI … Each team attempted 33 free throws, with UMass hitting 28 and URI 23 … Lowe recorded all but two of UMass’s 12 assists … Rhode Island committed 20 turnovers … Matt Glass started for the second consecutive game for the Minutemen, but played just four minutes … All 10 players who played for Rhode Island played at least 10 minutes … There were 12 ties and 17 lead changes.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]