WALTHAM, Mass. -- The College of Saint Rose overcame its biggest deficit of the year to win a game behind an 81-68 victory versus UMass Lowell in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament tonight at the Dana Athletic Center on the campus of Bentley University. The Golden Knights (22-8) shot 57.7 percent (15-for-26) percent in the second half, and held the River Hawks (20-10) to 31.3 percent (10-for-32) shooting throughout that span to secure its 12th NCAA Tournament triumph in its 20-year NCAA Tournament era.

Saint Rose will now meet host and top-seed Bentley (23-7) in a regional semifinal encounter tomorrow at 8:30 pm. The Falcons advanced with an 84-70 victory against C.W. Post earlier this evening.

The second stanza proved to be a much more glowing story than the first period when Saint Rose fell behind by as many 12 points on three occasions, before going into the locker room down nine, 43-34, at the break. The Golden Knights committed 11 turnovers throughout the opening 20 minutes, while UMass Lowell shot 50.0 percent (16-for-32) from the floor. Saint Rose turned the ball over only six times in the second stanza, after committing 11 miscues in the opening period.

“We needed to make a run, which we didn’t do in the first 25 minutes,” said Saint Rose head coach Brian Beaury. “I was disappointed in the amount of points we gave up in the first half. That is why we tried to spread the game out a bit more in the in the second period.”

The Golden Knights featured its usual balanced attach with five players in double-figures scoring for the fifth time this year. Junior forward Brian Hanuschak recorded his seventh “double-double” of the campaign with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Andre Pope finished with 15 points and six assists, while junior guard Rob Gutierrez wound up with 14 points in only 19 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble.

Saint Rose closed out the final 17 minutes on a 39-16 run as UMass Lowell still owned a 10 point, 52-42, cushion after freshman forward Antonio Bivins three down a dunk off a baseline drive.

However, the River Hawks came up empty on their next two possessions and Gutierrez finished in the paint to cut the deficit the eight, 52-44, with 15:41 remaining.

Two minutes later, freshman guard Kareem Thomas finished off a conventional three point play and Pope converted back-to-layups to make it 56-55 Golden Knights, who never trailed again.

Saint Rose then twice pushed its advantage to six only to have the River Hawks get to within three on three more occasions, before Thomas finished off a Pope feed to put the Golden Knights in catbird seat, 76-66, with 1:51 remaining.

Thomas tied his season-high with 12 points, on 4-for-8 shooting from the floor, in 25 minutes of reserve duty and junior guard Shea Bromirski added 11 to round out the twin-figure Saint Rose point producers.

Freshman guard Akeem Williams tossed in a game-high 22 points, 14 in the first half, while sophomore forward Matt Welch and sophomore guard Romeo Diaz finished with 15 and 10 respectively for UMass Lowell.