Lowe leads UMass to victory

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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At Sunday’s postgame press conference, Chris Lowe’s coach lauded him as one of the best point guards in the country. The opposing coach compared him to one of the top point guards in NBA history. It was that good of a night for Lowe, who helped lead the Massachusetts men’s basketball team to an 88-77 victory over Saint Louis on Sunday at the Mullins Center. With 13 points and a career-high 13 assists, Lowe accounted for nearly half (43 points) of the UMass offense. He even chipped in off the glass with six rebounds, and on defense with two steals and a difficult assignment against SLU leading-scorer Kevin Lisch. He did a little bit of everything – and a lot of timely passing and shooting – in his 36 minutes of action. Even UMass coach Travis Ford, who has admittedly been hard on his floor general lately, was impressed. “I was as hard on him [on Saturday] as I’ve been on any player in a long time,” Ford said after the game. “Everything starts with him and I expect more. I was not happy. I challenged him. And this was in front of his teammates. “And he responded. He ran [the offense] like I told him; he ran it like that’s the way my point guard is supposed to run it,” he added. Ford’s in-house criticisms of Lowe came after the point guard had set a previous career-high in assists with 10 during Thursday’s home game against Fordham – showing just how high the expectations are for the junior guard. The Minutemen dropped that game to the struggling Rams, 76-72, prompting Ford to challenge his leader. Lowe responded with perhaps the best game of his career, and Ford responded at the press conference with some high praise. “He had an unbelievable basketball game. He was one of the best point guards in the country tonight; period,” Ford said. “For what he did for our basketball team, there is not another point guard who could have done what he did.” Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus echoed those sentiments post-game, but took it a step further – comparing Lowe to all-time NBA great John Stockton. “Oh, he’s very good. Obviously he had 13 assists and two turnovers, so the statistics speak for themselves – those are Stockton-esque statistics.” And if Lowe was Stockton on Sunday night, Dante Milligan was Karl Malone. Much like the Stockton-to-Malone connections for the Utah Jazz in the ’90s, Lowe consistently targeted his passes in Milligan’s direction in the low-post – giving his big-man easy baskets. Five of Milligan’s eight field goals came off passes from Lowe, and all five of those baskets were close-range lay-ups. Milligan finished with a career-high 21 points with Lowe’s assistance. “We watched the scouting reports and watched how their big men [played] on us the last game, and I just told Dante I was going to look for him,” Lowe said. “He just caught the ball and hit good shots. Good pass; good shots; easy offense.” The offense was nearly flawless when Lowe was on the floor, but not nearly as efficient when he wasn’t. The junior guard played all but four minutes, subbing out on three separate occasions for brief rests. When he did, though, the Billikens took full advantage. In Lowe’s four minutes off the court, SLU outscored the Minutemen, 16-6. When on the floor, Lowe and the Minutemen outscored the Billikens by 21 points (82-61). The ball movement by Lowe and others was exceptional. The Minutemen registered 23 assists compared to 12 turnovers, and only three of the 26 UMass baskets went unassisted. Lowe had six assists in the first half, but struggled with his shot (0-of-4) as the Minutemen went to halftime with a 41-36 lead. The Billikens kept the game close throughout the end, but Lowe made sure his team never relinquished the lead. Following a 10-4 run for the Billikens – to cut the lead to eight – with just over five minutes remaining, Lowe picked the perfect time to start hitting his shots. After Ricky Harris missed from the perimeter, Lowe picked up the offensive rebound, stepped back, and hit a 3-pointer to give the Minutemen a double-digit lead. The Billikens quickly answered back with two baskets, including a 3-pointer of their own to get right back into it at 72-66. But with just under three minutes to go and the shot clock winding down, Lowe did it again – draining another triple to put the game away for the Minutemen. Lowe rarely takes it upon himself to score, but once again displayed his ability to do so when called upon late in games. Sometimes Ford can’t help but be impressed with how much his point guard takes on during any given game. “We make him bring it up and race it up and down the court; I don’t know if there is any point guard in the country that is required to do what he does for 94 feet,” he said. “People watch him and he’s from end-to-end, and it’s not easy. I told him that the other day: ‘If you can’t do it, let me know.'”

Sunday’s performance was a pretty good indication