Men’s Basketball Drops Third-Place Game Against Davidson

by Milton Posner

CHARLESTON, S.C — Donnell Gresham Jr. ran the offense. Jason Strong recorded a better stat line than Vasa Pusica. The game’s most efficient player played 10 minutes fewer than he typically does.

The Northeastern Huskies fell to the Davidson Wildcats, 71-59, in a game that defied logical expectations and gave the Huskies a fourth-place finish in the eight-team Charleston Classic. Virginia Tech won the tournament later in the evening, defeating Purdue 89-83 at TD Arena.

The Huskies’ next game, on Nov. 24 at 1 PM ET, is also against Davidson, an odd occurrence considering that Sunday’s game marked the teams’ first ever meeting. The big question, however, will be whether star point guard Vasa Pusica will play and, if so, how much.

Pusica played just 22 minutes Sunday night, a far cry from the 35 he averaged in the team’s first four games. He played only six minutes in the second half. Initially, it seemed that his three fouls were to blame. Turns out it had to do with the brace he’d worn on his left hand and wrist for several games.

“Vasa’s hand was bothering him. He couldn’t really handle the ball and that kinda led to his turnovers in the second half,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “He gave it a try, but just wasn’t able to go. He can’t really hold the ball right now.”

The injury explains a subpar line. Pusica tallied two points on 1-6 FG, two rebounds, three assists and five turnovers.

Picking up the slack was Gresham Jr., who atoned for a 2-9 shooting effort with six assists and stoic offensive leadership. He also grabbed 10 rebounds (at 6’1, he’s the team’s smallest player) in 39 minutes (he averaged 28 last year).

“He’s very unselfish and the quiet leader on the team,” Coen said of the redshirt junior guard. “He’s willing to play any position and do any job. When we’re down a couple of guys, I thought he kept the young guys organized and got us into offense and gave us a chance.”

Bolden Brace’s 12 points (nine in the first half) were a big reason why the game was tied 28-28 at halftime. Strong, who has played the fewest minutes on the team this year and last year, cashed in on his 11 minutes by hoisting five threes and connecting on three. Anthony Green, despite a 4-5 FG effort that included three rim-shaking, earth-quaking dunks, logged just 11 minutes. Myles Franklin played stellar defense on Davidson’s star backcourt (Jón Axel Guðmundsson and Kellan Grady) in his first Northeastern start.

Guðmundsson and Grady combined for 19 points (7-18 FG), though Guðmundsson did record eight assists and Grady six rebounds. The Wildcats’ top performer was freshman forward Luka Brajkovic, who posted 17 points (6-9 FG) and 11 rebounds in just 25 minutes.

Northeastern’s three Charleston Classic opponents are arguably more talented than any CAA squad. The Alabama victory showed why the Huskies are CAA Championship favorites. The Virginia Tech loss showed their flaws, including occasional offensive indecisiveness and struggles with intense ball pressure. The Davidson loss shows that, while they may rely too heavily on Pusica’s offense, they have plenty of untapped talent.

Davidson could make the NCAA Tournament in March. Alabama and Virginia Tech almost certainly will. Northeastern has every intention of joining them.

Hokies route men’s basketball in Charleston

by Milton Posner

Towards the end of the first half at Charleston’s TD Arena, Vasa Pusica stood at the foul line, flicked his wrist and sent the ball neatly through the rim.

Big deal. He made a free throw. He did it 138 times last year. He did it 18 times in Northeastern’s first three games this year.

But this free throw was different. It came after 18 minutes and 48 seconds of play in which all of Northeastern’s points came by way of the three-pointer.

It also ended a 17-0 Virginia Tech run, one that handed the No. 16 Hokies a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. They defeated the Huskies 88-60 and advanced to the Charleston Classic final. Northeastern (2-2) will round out the tournament with a third-place game Sunday at 6:00 PM ET against the loser of the Purdue-Davidson game.

Virginia Tech’s momentum stemmed from its intense defense, which featured energetic double-teams, active hands and efficient rotations. The Hokies (3-0) scored 26 points off 18 Husky turnovers.

“They were very disruptive to our offensive flow,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen observed. “We couldn’t get to the spots on the floor that we normally get to. Our spacing was distorted.”

The blowout loss comes a day after Northeastern’s dominating 68-52 over Alabama.

“We handled the ball pressure a lot better yesterday. We could control the tempo of the game,” Coen remarked. “Today Virginia Tech didn’t allow us to do that. We got deep into shot clocks and didn’t get quality shots. We moved the ball … but we didn’t get penetration into the paint.”

Sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the Hokies with 20 points (his third consecutive 20-point effort), four rebounds and seven assists. Justin Robinson, Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Ahmed Hill combined for 46 points on 20-29 FG.

“He’s the most conscientious worker I’ve ever been around,” Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said of Alexander-Walker. “Not just on the court, but how he treats his body, his diet, how he trains. He’s a very intelligent person. He’s got the same software stuff on his computer that I have on mine; he’s probably watching just as much tape or more.”

Northeastern’s Tomas Murphy logged 11 points on six attempts and Jordan Roland recorded 10 on five. But that, plus solid all-around efforts from Bolden Brace and Donnell Gresham Jr., couldn’t overcome Vasa Pusica’s 2-10 shooting or the turnovers.

Northeastern’s sparkling start from three-point range (8-13) initially mitigated their turnovers, even handing them a 24-23 lead with 6:12 remaining in the first half.

The lead lasted 16 seconds. When the turnovers increased and the perimeter shooting stalled, the Hokies ran away with the game. Northeastern was not only outshot 58 percent to 43, they were out-attempted 62 to 46. By the time Anthony Green threw down a dunk two minutes into the second half for Northeastern’s first two-pointer, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
But the lopsided game didn’t change Buzz Williams’s opinion of Northeastern. Echoing the CAA’s preseason poll, Williams said, “I think Northeastern will win their side of the league.”

Men’s basketball rolls over ‘Bama

Jeremy Miller helped spark the Huskies on Thursday, with 11 points off the bench. (Image Courtesy of The Boston Globe)
Jeremy Miller helped spark the Huskies on Thursday, with 11 points off the bench. (Image Courtesy of The Boston Globe)

by Milton Posner

When Northeastern last visited Charleston, they limped out after the season’s toughest loss. A 17-point lead over the College of Charleston Cougars evaporated last March, taking the Huskies’ hopes of a NCAA Tournament berth with it.

On Thursday, Northeastern returned for the first game of the Charleston Classic. Their opponent wasn’t the Cougars, but the Alabama Crimson Tide, one of five teams in the tournament that made March Madness last season.

The Huskies didn’t blink. They opened the game with eight straight points and never trailed in a statement 68-52 win at TD Arena.

“We’ve had our share of wins over the years against power-conference teams,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “I think it gives you a measure of respect nationally.”

The Huskies will face No. 16 Virginia Tech — who defeated Ball State 73-64 earlier in the day — in the semi-final of the tournament. Tip off is set for 11 a.m. on Friday.

Vasa Pusica recovered from a five-point, four-turnover first half, making all four of his threes and logging 20 points to go with five assists. Bolden Brace chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. But it was Jeremy Miller that gave the Huskies the extra boost, scoring 11 points on six shots in 21 minutes.

“I have a tendency to sometimes play with hesitation,” Miller said after the game. “But today I came out, had trust in my teammates, they trusted me: coach and the coaching staff trusted me.”

The Crimson Tide (2-1) never shrank the Huskies’ (2-1) lead to less than seven. Northeastern outshot Alabama by 15 percent from the floor and foul line, and 37 percent from three-point range.

“It’s hard when you can’t make consistent threes,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “They kinda shrink their defense a little bit more daring us to shoot and we just didn’t make them pay.”

Of Alabama’s three top players — Kira Lewis Jr., Donta Hall and John Petty Jr. — Petty was the lone bright spot, tallying 17 points and five rebounds.

“Our pick-and-roll coverages weren’t as sound as we expected them to be,” Petty remarked. “Some of our rotations were late and we paid for them.”

Kira Lewis Jr., Collin Sexton’s replacement at point guard — and the youngest basketball player in Division 1 at 17 years, seven months — shot 3-10 from the field. More perplexing was Hall, the team’s leading scorer who set an Alabama record by shooting 73 percent last year. He played just 19 minutes, pulled down three rebounds and shot the ball once.

“They did a great job of keeping a body on him,” Johnson said. “Even when we drove, they didn’t really help off of Donta. That kinda cut off our lob game a little bit. Even when we missed a shot, they had a couple of bodies on Donta to try to minimize his offensive rebounding capabilities.

Miller was part of the effort in guarding Hall. The Milton, Mass. native is a 6-foot-10-inch junior with outside shooting touch who can space the floor and relieve starting center Anthony Green down low. He played nine minutes per game last year, down from 19 the year before.

“Jeremy’s had a couple of nagging injuries that have kinda held him back and messed with his timing a little bit,” Coen noted. “I think that he’s starting to get that back now.”

Northeastern isn’t done facing powerhouses. They’ll face the 16th-ranked Hokies, with a trip to the Charleston Classic championship on the line.

“It’s really fun,” Miller said with a grin. “It brings out a different side of us. We have something to prove this year and we’re gonna do it.”

MHock tops Lowell, 5-4 in OT

by Alex Bensley

In a game that the Northeastern Huskies (6-3-1, 3-1-1) were down two goals in the third period, it was grit and determination that proved to be the difference in a 5-4 overtime victory in a Hockey East matchup against UMass Lowell.

The Riverhawks (4-5-1, 1-3-1) began the scoring early in the first period on a goal by junior Kenny Hausinger. The Huskies tied the score a few minutes later as Junior Jeremy Davies received a beautiful pass from freshman Tyler Madden that he flicked into the back of the net.

As the first period came to a close, some pushing and shoving became imminent, and when the second period got under way, the physical play escalated. Hits and penalties were exchanged.

UMass Lowell took advantage of those Northeastern penalties to score two goals in just over four minutes of time to head to the third period up 3-1.

But when the third period started, it became clear that in order for a Hockey East foe to win in Matthews Arena, they would have to out-hustle the feisty Huskies.

“I just loved the way we competed and battle in that third period,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said after the game.

Junior Grant Jozefek scored early in the third to cut the lead to 3-2. But UMass Lowell answered right back as junior Ryan Lohin scored to make it a 4-2 game.

With their backs against the wall, the Huskies continued to fight. They generated scoring chances—as did the Riverhawks, who outshot the Huskies 37-31. Just over one minute later, the Huskies scored again to make it 4-3.

From then on, play was back and forth. It became clear no team wanted to make this one easy on the other. The physical play led to more penalties—the Riverhawks had five for 10 total minutes, while the Huskies’ 9 penalties translated to 18 minutes of penalty time.

And then, with less than five minutes to go in the game, freshman Tyler Madden knotted the score on an assist from Ryan Shea.

60 minutes proved to not be enough for these squads. In overtime, Northeastern moved the puck well and senior Patrick Schule ended it after a pass from junior Matt Filipe found his stick as he put the puck past UMass Lowell senior netminder Christoffer Hernberg.

Northeastern sophomore goalie Cayden Primeau stopped 33 shots and Hernberg set aside 26.

In terms of moving forward, Madigan can see the confidence developing in his players. But he knows there’s work to do.

“You still have to keep things in perspective,” Madigan said. “The good thing I said to our team is, we’re still not there, we’re still a work in progress, there’s a lot of things we still have to work on.”

The Huskies travel to Vermont next Friday to take on the Catamounts.

Northeastern Defeats UNH 5-3, Extends Winning Streak to Nine

By: Justin Littman

The Northeastern Huskies entered Saturday’s matchup against New Hampshire on a hot streak. Winners of eight straight, it was looking good for the Huskies when Alina Mueller scored less than six minutes into the game to put the Huskies up 1-0.

Northeastern continued to dominate throughout the first period, firing shot after shot on net. New Hampshire goaltender Kyra Smith did an admirable job, coming up with 17 saves on 19 shots in that period alone. While the Huskies dominated, a few unfortunate bounces resulted in a couple goals for the Wildcats. UNH scored twice in the first period, and we were knotted up after one.

Northeastern started the second period on the powerplay, but they did not get many opportunities and were unable to convert. Frustration built for the Huskies in this period, as they gave up a Power Play goal to Meghara McManus to go down 3-2. The Huskies were called for four penalties in that second period, and a lack of composure put Northeastern in a tough spot going into the third.

Despite the challenge, Northeastern proved ready for the task. A powerplay goal by Kasidy Anderson tied the game at 3-3 with just under five minutes to go. This seemingly energized the Huskies, and they did not stop there. Paige Capistran fired one from the point and found the back of the net. It was her second of the game, and it put the Huskies up 4-3 with 3:24 remaining. Northeastern would find the back of the net once more on an empty net goal, ending the game with a 5-3 victory.

The Huskies have now won 9 in a row, and they are up to 19 points in Hockey East play. Their next game is Friday, November 16th at Maine.

Hawkins lifts MHOCK past UConn, 3-2

by Matthew MacCormack

The Northeastern men’s hockey team has gotten scoring contributions from nearly everyone on the roster in the early part of the 2018-19 season.

It was redshirt senior Brandon Hawkins who played hero at Matthews Arena on Saturday night, deflecting a shot from freshman Tyler Madden past UConn goalie Adam Huska with 1:14 left in regulation to lift Northeastern to a 3-2 Hockey East victory.

The No. 15 Huskies went down by a goal on two separate occasions, battling back for the one-goal win. Junior defenseman Jeremy Davies scored a power-play goal off an assist from Zach Solow in the second period, and Davies assisted Solow’s score on a 5-on-3 advantage in the third period.

Roman Kinal and Max Kalter had the tallies for the visiting Huskies.

“In this league it’s hard to get points,” said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan.

“We talk about the premium points; those were two big points for us, having come back.”

The Huskies converted on two of their four power plays during the game; a vast improvement from their 15.4% conversion rate entering the game — a mark that tied for 43rd in the nation. UConn went 0-3 on the power play.

“We went in with one of our keys tonight: win the special team game,” Madigan said.

“And we did.”

Northeastern won the face-off battle, 39-28.

Sophomore goalie Cayden Primeau tallied 22 saves for Northeastern, while Huska stopped 36 shots for UConn.

Northeastern will be back in action on Saturday night at Matthews Arena, with UMass Lowell coming into town for a 7 p.m. puck drop. Dale DeSantis and Alex Bensley will be on the call on WRBB 104.9 FM.

 

Roland Goes For 35, Northeastern defeats Harvard 81-71

By: Justin Littman

After falling to Boston University on Tuesday, the Huskies faced another difficult cross-town rival on Friday. Northeastern was ready for the challenge, and took down the Crimson 81-71. The Huskies struggled early, falling behind 21-11 after with 7:06 to go in the first half. From there, the Northeastern offense caught fire. The Huskies went on a 14-0 in the span of two minutes, knocking down three after three. This run started a stretch where Northeastern shot 10/11 from behind the arc. They ended up shooting 56 percent from downtown in the game.

The Huskies were led by the stellar play of guard Jordan Roland. In only his second game with the program, the junior transfer from George Washington went off for 35 points, and made seven three pointers. Roland, who came off the bench for the Huskies in this one, provided the team with a huge spark. While Roland may have surprised some observers, his stellar play came as no surprise to Coach Bill Coen.

“We’ve seen Jordan shoot all preseason and last year. He can really shoot the ball and he got it going tonight.”

Northeastern needed the offense, as Justin Bassey held Vasa Pusica in check throughout the game. After scoring 31 in the opener, Pusica was held to just 10 points on 2-10 shooting. Contrasted with the first game, tonight was a total team effort from the Huskies. Donnell Gresham had 13 points and hit a big three to put the Huskies up eight with 1:16 to go. Bolden Brace, Anthony Green, and Tomas Murphy each contributed six points as well.

“That’s what the team game is all about…I thought Vasa did a good job of letting the game come to him and directly our club and giving others confidence”, Coen remarked after the game.

Next up for the Huskies is a trip down to Charleston for the Charleston Classic. They will square off against Alabama in the first round, in the first of three games in the event. That game will tip on Thursday, November 15th at 2 PM.

 

MBB drops opener to BU, 77-74

by Matt MacCormack

The last time the Northeastern men’s basketball was in action prior to Tuesday’s season opener against Boston University, the Huskies blew a 17-point second-half lead and lost out on an NCAA tournament berth to the College of Charleston.

You’d have to forgive a Husky fan for having a little deja vu after Tuesday’s 77-74 loss to the cross-town rival Terriers at Matthews Arena.

The Huskies led by 12 points with 12:43 to play in the game, but BU clawed its way back, mounting a 14-4 run to close the game and pull off a victory. Northeastern’s offense went cold down the stretch, and the Terriers — led by six freshman — looked the more experienced side.

Redshirt senior point guard Vasa Pusica led the way with  a game-high 31 points and six assists. BU was led by junior Tyler Scanlon, who registered 16 points and eight rebounds.

BU head coach Joe Jones pulled out a zone defense in the second half, which seemed to stall the Huskies offense.

“We had the game in control,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.

“I thought it was a good tactic that Coach Jones went to the zone…I thought we lost our rhythm, at least offensively, and then we had some ill-advised fouls.”

Juniors Shawn Occeus and Max Boursiquot missed the game due to injury.

CAA Preview: Towson Tigers

Image result for towson tigersBy: Justin Littman

Head Coach: Pat Skerry (8th season)

Last Season: 18-14 (8-10, 5th in CAA); lost to William & Mary in CAA Quarterfinals

Losses:

  • G Zane Martin (20 ppg; transferred to New Mexico)
  • F Justin Gorham (transferred to Houston)
  • F Mike Morsell
  • F Eddie Keith
  • G Brian Starr
  • G Deshaun Morman
  • G Jordan McNeil
  • G Travis Ingram
  • G Van Rolle
  • Jeffrey Prophete

Newcomers:

  • G Allen Betrand
  • G Chris Caliguiran
  • G Jakigh Dottin
  • G Quinton Drayton
  • G Brian Fobbs (transfer from Genesee Community College)
  • F Juwan Gray (transfer from San Diego)
  • G Tobias Howard (transfer from Chipola College)
  • F Nakye Sanders (transfer from Duquesne)
  • F Yagizhan Selcuk
  • G Nicholas Timberlake
  • F Solomon Uyaelunmo

If you take a look at the Towson Tigers this season and wonder whether the CAA added a new team this year, you are not alone. After an offseason filled with graduations and unexpected transfers, head coach Pat Skerry faces a challenge that few other tenured coaches have ever had to bear. Unprecedented roster turnover has left Towson with just two returning players from last year, Dennis Tunstall and Alex Thomas, who accounted for just 7 percent of the team’s scoring output last season (each averaged 2.7 ppg).

While Towson lost 5 players to graduation, it was the loss of two blossoming stars, Zane Martin and Justin Gorham, that truly provided the knockout blow. Martin, one of the leading scorers in the CAA as a sophomore last season, initially declared for the draft before withdrawing and transferring to New Mexico. Gorham, another sophomore, had seven double-doubles in conference play, and seemingly improved in every game he played. For a program that seemed like they were on the cusp of building something great, the loss of these two was a devastating blow.

While the outlook may seem bleak, keep in mind that Pat Skerry has dealt with a trickier situation before. When Skerry took the program eight seasons ago, the Tigers had won just four games in the previous year. Sure, it wasn’t all sunshine and blue skies at first, as the Tigers won just one game in his inaugural season. But Skerry’s positive demeanor persisted, and the Tigers quickly climbed the CAA ranks to finish second in the league in each of the next two years. Since that first season, the Tigers have finished in the bottom half of the league just once.

Skerry has a lot of new faces to balance, 11 to be exact, and it’s anybody’s guess to see exactly how this rotation plays out. Nakye Sanders, a transfer from Duquesne, and Juwan Gray, from San Diego, are the only two newcomers with Division I experience. The Tigers bring on seven new freshmen, who will have plenty to play for as Towson looks for the players to usher in a new era. The other two are Junior College transfers, a  path we have seen most recently with Kevin Keatts at UNCW, though that success was likely the exception to the rule.

So what’s the moral of this story? Just because the names are new and unfamiliar does not necessarily mean it’s all bad for Towson. A clean slate means they have an opportunity to redefine their identity. While size and strength was good enough to fend off mid-major foes in the CAA, this program never really had much of a chance against major programs with bodies just as big. With the game of basketball trending more towards a pace and space style, perhaps Towson will head in a similar direction.

Bottom Line: There’s no denying the fact that this program has been totally depleted. Coach Skerry will do his best to build this program up once more, but in the short term there are far more questions than answers. This should lead to a competitive practice environment, and the young players may very well be better off in the long-run. While this team lacks talent, they most certainly will not lack heart. Don’t expect the Tigers to finish in the top half of the CAA, but teams will have to be ready to go when they face this team.

 

CAA Preview: Drexel Dragons

Image result for drexel dragons

By: Matthew Neiser

Head Coach: Zach Spiker (3rd season)

Last Season: 13-20 (6-12, 7th in CAA); lost to Charleston in CAA Quarterfinals

Losses:

  • G Tramaine Isabell (21 ppg; transferred to Saint Louis)
  • F Miles Overton
  • F Austin Williams
  • G Kris Alford
  • G Sammy Mojica
  • F Tyshawn Miles

Newcomers:

  • G Trevor John (Transferred from Cal Poly)
  • F Zach Walton (Transferred from Edmonds Community College)
  • G Matey Juric (Lake Forest Academy)
  • G Coletrane Washington (Quaker Valley High School)
  • G Camren Wynter (DME Academy)
  • F Tim Perry Jr. (redshirted last year)
  • F James Butler (sat out last year due to transfer rules)

Coming off a season where they finished in a four-way tie for seventh in the CAA, the Drexel Dragons are going to be an interesting team to follow this upcoming season. While the team has dwelled at the bottom of the CAA for the last few years, improvement has been the name of the game for Dragons.

Having increased the team’s win total in both seasons since arriving and bolstered by the signing of a multi-year extension this summer, head coach Zach Spiker will look to continue the trend in 18-19. However, improvement this season will be quite the task.

Losing important players is never easy for any team. Losing your top scorer and assist-maker as a sub-.500 team in a mid-major conference? That’s about as difficult as it can get. The Dragons find themselves with this exact dilemma coming into the 2018-2019 season, as CAA All-Conference Second Team guard Tramaine Isabell (21 pts, 7.5 reb, 3.4 ast) graduated this past summer and transferred to Saint Louis. To add to the Dragons’ troubles, they also graduated guard Sammy Mojica (third leading scorer) and CAA All-Defensive Team forward Austin Williams (first in rebounds).

Luckily for the Dragons, they will still return three 10+ ppg scorers from last season, led by Junior guard Kurk Lee. Lee led the team in minutes last season at just under 36 per game, and is poised to be the team’s main playmaker in the absence of Isabell.

Drexel will look to replace much of the lost production with returning players, but that certainly won’t be the only source. Incoming transfer forward Zach Walton has impressed in Drexel’s recent preseason tour in Australia, highlighted by a 22-point game in his debut for the team. New guards Trevor John and Camren Wynter also contributed a little under ten points apiece during the tour.

Shooting has been a major issue for the Dragons, who finished dead last in 3PT% last season. If they want to drag themselves up from the bottom of the league, improving their accuracy from deep is going to be absolutely key. The addition of John is bound to help, as he shot a whopping 45% from beyond the arc last season for Cal Poly.

One bright spot for the Dragons this season will be their depth. Though they lost major contributors, the rest of the team has stayed mainly intact. Add onto that the transfers of John and Walton, as well as the addition of forwards Tim Perry Jr. and James Butler, who both sat out last season, and the Dragons will be a team with lots of  experience throughout the squad.

Bottom Line: Losing Isabell, Williams, and Mojica leave Drexel with an abundance of question marks. The Dragons will have to develop leadership and shooting quickly to find success this season. Expectations aren’t high for the Dragons, but new additions and improvement from some familiar faces might help them surprise some people.