River Hawk Invite Awaits Men’s Basketball this Weekend

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Looking to build on last week’s first Division I win at Northwestern, the Merrimack College men’s basketball program returns to action with three games at the River Hawk Invitational hosted by UMass Lowell at the Costello Athletic Center on the River Hawks’ campus. Merrimack plays Dartmouth (4:30 p.m.) on Friday before facing UMass Lowell on Saturday (4 p.m). The Warriors conclude tournament play on Sunday against Jacksonville (1 p.m.).

Meet the Opposition:

In arguably the highest profile way possible, the Merrimack College Warriors won their first Division I game on Friday night at Northwestern, becoming the second Northeast Conference (NEC) school in league history to topple a Big Ten opponent. A late 17-4 run in the night’s final six minutes spurned Merrimack to victory as the Warriors were powered by the duo of junior Devin Jensen and senior Juvaris Hayes. The former set a career high in scoring, finishing the night with 23 points on seven 3-pointers. The later nearly posted a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists

Dartmouth enters the weekend off of a pair of impressive non-conference victories, going on the road to defeat Buffalo and topping Florida Gulf Coast at home, 55-49, on Monday night. The Big Green’s defense has limited opposing team’s to shoot 34.7 percent from the field and less than 28 percent from 3-point range through two games. For the River Hawks, their season has been highlighted by Christian Lutete’s 51-point game at Long Island University, setting a new program record. Jacksonville owns one win against Johnson University.

On May 9, 2016, Joe Gallo was introduced as the eighth head men’s basketball coach in Merrimack history. A 2004 graduate of Merrimack College, Gallo returned to his alma mater after a four-year stint as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Robert Morris. He is a former player with the Warriors and also served as an assistant coach from 2005-09. With 61 wins in three complete years at the helm of the program, Gallo already ranks fourth in school history in victories. Merrimack’s 61 wins over Gallos’ first three seasons (2016-19) marked the second most in school history. (62 wins from 1975-78 is the record).

Merrimack’s senior triumvirate of Juvaris Hayes, Jaleel Lord and Idris Joyner are knocking on the door of rareified air at the start of the 2019-20 season. In their Merrimack careers, they own 62 wins on the class and need 15 more in 2019-20 to set a new school record for victories by a senior class. Last season, the NE10 Championship victory for seniors Ryan Boulter and Troy McLaughlin was the 76th in the four-year career of last year’s graduating duo, tying the Class of 1992 as the winningest class in men’s basketball history.

This weekend will see Merrimack play both Dartmouth and Jacksonville for the first time in school history; UMass Lowell, however, is a different story. The River Hawks and Warriors rekindle their Division II rivalry that saw Merrimack own a 31-28 edge in the all-time series. The program’s last played on February 16, 2013 at Hammel Court, a 83-80 Warriors win. Merrimack, however, has lost its last four games at Costello.

Senior Juvaris Hayes boasts an impressive resume entering his final season on campus. Already this season, he was named N-E-C Player of the Week and College Sports Madness National Mid-Major Player of the Week following his stat-stuffing week against Maine and Northwestern. Last year, he became the first player in NCAA Basketball history to record a campaign of at least 600 points, 200 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals in NCAA History (across all divisions).
Hayes currently has with 341 career steals, needing 108 to set a new NCAA record (across all divisions) in career steals.

Seniors Juvaris Hayes and Jaleel Lord have been mainstays in Merrimack’s lineup since they arrived on campus. Hayes has appeared and started in every one of Merrimack’s games since the start of the 2016-17 season, and will play in his 98th career game on Friday. Lord needs just seven more appearances entering the weekend to reach 100 career games played, as well.

Even before they were college teammates, Juvaris Hayes, Jaleel Lord and Idris Joyner shared a special bond: they grew up in Northern New Jersey and played high school basketball together at Saint Anthony’s under Hall of Fame Head Coach Bobby Hurley. The trio went undefeated as seniors and swept championships at every level of New Jersey’s High School basketball postseason. All three contributed to that undefeated team, with Hayes and Joyner serving as starters.

Up Next:
The Warriors will have a full week off in preparation for a four-game-in-five-day stretch that sees Merrimack play in three consecutive days next week at the River Hawk Invitational, beginning with a contest against Dartmouth one week from Friday in Lowell, Mass.

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River Hawk Invite Awaits Men’s Basketball this Weekend

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