Saturday, December 18, 2010

Diaz and Welch’s Career Nights Give River Hawks 95-68 Win Over Concordia

Sophomore Duo Combines for 51; UMass Lowell Improves to 7-2

LOWELL (Dec. 18, 2010) – Sophomores Romeo Diaz (Methuen, Mass.) and Matt Welch (Lowell, Mass.) combined for 51 points, each enjoying career-best performances along the way.  They sparked a River Hawk offense that shot 68.8% in the first half and defeated the Concordia Clippers 95-68 in non-conference action at Costello Athletic Center on Saturday afternoon.
          
With the win, the River Hawks have improved to 7-2 overall, while Concordia falls to 3-7 on the year.

“When the ball goes in the basket, it’s a much easier game to coach,” said Head Coach Greg Herenda.  “We were due.  This was our ninth game and Romeo Diaz and Matt Welch really broke it open for us.”
          
Diaz was on fire in the first half, surpassing his personal-best of 21 points, which he tallied in his first collegiate game in Sept. 2009.  He finished the half and the game with 23 points, going 8-12 from the floor, including 5-7 from long range.  He grabbed two rebounds, had three assists and blocks.
          
Welch tallied 18 in the first and followed up with 10 in the second, finishing the game with 28, topping his prior record of 23 points against Saint Michael’s on Nov. 17.  The Lowell-native shot 9-16 from the floor and 4-8 from behind the arc, in addition to a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe.

“Offensively, we knew we were going to break out at some point and I’m glad we did it before Christmas,” said Herenda.  “And we’re just going to get better.  I really believe that.  Our defense was good today. In an up-and-down game like that, to score in the 90s and keep our opponent to the 60s, was a great college basketball game.”
          
The Clippers hung with the River Hawks through the first 11 minutes, as Concordia closed within two points with 9:09 to go in the half (29-27), despite back-to-back-to-back threes by Diaz on consecutive UMass Lowell possessions.

UMass Lowell went on a 29-8 run to finish the first frame, though, entering the break with the 58-35 lead.  Through the first 20 minutes, UMass Lowell shot 68.8% (22-32), including 10-12 from long range.
          
The River Hawks followed up with a strong second and pulled away by as many as 39 points with just over seven minutes remaining in the contest, finishing with the 27-point advantage over their opponent.
          
In addition to Welch and Diaz’s outstanding performances, freshman Darrell Ward (White Plains, N.Y.) and junior Robbie Walton (South Boston, Mass.) were each just shy of a double-double.  Ward finished the game with 13 points and nine rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.  Walton had 12 points, nine assists and seven boards and also grabbed four steals in the game.
          
Northeast-10 Player and Rookie of the Week Akeem Williams (Brockton, Mass.), who was averaging 18.6 PPG entering today’s game, found other ways to contribute to his squad, dishing eight assists and grabbing four rebounds.

“If you have 24 assists in a game, that means you’re playing together and the kids are looking for one another,” said Herenda.
          
UMass Lowell outrebounded Concordia 39-29 and outscored them 48-28 in the paint.  They forced 21 Clipper turnovers in the game and converted those miscues into 33 points, while Concordia was only able to squeeze 16 points off 17 UMass Lowell turnovers.

The River Hawks owned the 13-8 advantage in steals and thanks to a 16-10 edge in offensive rebounds, UMass Lowell outscored Concordia 21-7 on second chance opportunities.

UMass Lowell finished the game shooting 52.2% from the floor and 52.6% from long range, while Concordia shot 42.1% in the game and nearly the same from behind the three-point arc.

Concordia finished the afternoon with four players in double-figures, led by Brandon Whitaker with 17 points.  He also led his squad with eight boards.

Next up, the River Hawks will close out 2010 with their final non-conference clash of the regular season, as they host Bridgeport on Thursday, Dec. 30 at home in Costello Athletic Center.
          
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