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UMass Lowell pulls away from women’s basketball

Suffering a one-point home loss in its first-ever Division I meeting with the Binghamton women’s basketball team on Jan. 7, UMass Lowell came to the Events Center with a vengeance. The River Hawks (3-17, 2-7 America East) finished on a 13-4 run to capture Thursday night’s match, 65-54.

Franz Lino/Staff Photographer Sophomore forward Morgan Murphy recorded season highs with 22 points and 12 rebounds en route to her first double-double of the season.

Despite the game’s final 11-point disparity, the Bearcats (4-17, 1-7 AE) hung close.

After entering halftime down by three at 28-25, Binghamton’s offense began to click. A rebound and layup by junior guard Gintare Surdokaite kicked off an offensive run that put the Bearcats back in the lead. The teams stayed close until the final three minutes of the half, at which point contributions from junior guard Jasmine McRoy and sophomore forward Lindsey Doucette, as well as six points from late-game fouling, sealed the Bearcats’ fate.

“Obviously a tough loss; it was well-fought tonight. We did a handful of things better than what we had been, but I thought we kind of froze a little bit in the second half against the pressure,” BU head coach Nicole Scholl said. “There really wasn’t anything different that UMass Lowell was doing. I think it was just more along the lines of us.”

Despite the late-game slump, the Bearcats received an impressive second-half performance from sophomore forward Morgan Murphy. After a slow first half in which she contributed just six points, Murphy finished off the match with season-highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds, good for her first double-double of 2013-14. Her 22 points also qualified as a game-high, an accolade shared with UMass Lowell’s junior guard Shannon Samuels.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Murphy said. “In the first half, I didn’t really feel like it was falling in for me, but I just kept up my confidence and tried to knock down those shots. They started falling in for me a little bit in the second half, so I just tried to continue to be aggressive.”

Samuels, UMass Lowell’s leading scorer, has primarily relied on inside shots for her 13.3 points per game this season. Thursday night, however, she tapped her newly unveiled potency beyond the arc. In the first half alone, she went 5-for-5 and netted 16 of her team’s 28 points. Come the second, BU managed to stifle her long-range shots, but Doucette emerged as a new threat.

“The piece that I thought we struggled with was number 33, Lindsey Doucette. I think she ended up with 14 second-half points,” Scholl said. “In the first half, we did a good job on her. She’s a great right-handed player and predominantly that’s the way she likes to score, and we didn’t take that away from her as well as we did in the first half.”

Doucette entered the second half with just four points on 1-of-3 shooting, but finished the game with 19 on 8-of-15. McRoy rounded out UML’s double-digit scorers with 16 points and 10 rebounds. The River Hawks only saw five players score, with just eight points coming from the pack.

In contrast, all nine Bearcats who took the floor made some definitive offensive impact, though only Murphy reached double digits. Junior forward Sherae Swinson followed her with eight points, while senior guard Stephanie Jensen tallied a season-high eight assists. BU also held the advantage in rebounds, something it’s only done five times this season, grabbing 47 to UMass Lowell’s 38.

The River Hawks advance to seventh in the conference standings with the win, leaving just Binghamton and UMBC on the bottom with one America East win apiece.

The Bearcats will hit the road for two weeks, with Sunday’s trip to New Hampshire opening that stretch. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at Lundholm Gym in Durham, N.H.