By Matthew MacCormack
BOSTON — After four straight losses on the road, the flashy new parquet of Matthews Arena was a welcome sight for the Huskies on Thursday evening. Northeastern (3-4) never trailed in a 77-61 rout of Harvard, ending their four game skid.
Redshirt junior point guard Vasa Pusica (22 points) led the Huskies in scoring for the third straight game, while also chipping in seven rebounds and four assists.
“Whenever we needed a big play, or a stop, or a bucket, or a free throw he stepped up and was huge for us this evening,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said after the game.
“That was the difference in the game.”
Sophomore guard Shawn Occeus notched 11 points along with three blocks and three steals. Senior Devon Begley added 14 points, with a six-of-six mark from the free throw line.
Sophomores Bryce Aiken (26 points) and Chris Lewis (20 points) carried the Crimson. No player scored more than four points.
The Huskies shook off their previous habit of starting slow and bolted out to a 32-11 lead in the game’s first 11 minutes, punctuated by threes from Pusica and Occeus.
After trailing by 20 with 4:46 left in the half, Harvard embarked on a 15-2 run — highlighted by seven points from Aiken — to pull the halftime deficit to single digits, 41-34.
The Crimson (3-5) never drew closer than six in the second half, despite building some momentum before the first half’s end. No one outside of Aiken or Lewis could provide any offense.
The Huskies also did well to limit turnovers after a mistake-heavy weekend in Nashville at the PK80 Challenge. NU turned the ball over just seven times, a season low.
Occeus was the defensive catalyst, skying up for a handful of blocks and forcing numerous turnovers.
“He’s a guy that can be a one-man presser,” Coen said of the sophomore wing.”
“He’s got really quick feet and great size and length and strength. He is able to get up and block a shot.
After slow starts in their previous two contests, the Huskies were sparked by a change in the starting lineup. For the first time this year, the five-man lineup of Pusica, Donnell Gresham, Occeus, Max Boursiquot and Anthony Green opened the game for NU.
Next up for the Huskies is another Ivy League opponent in Cornell on Saturday. Tip-off at Matthews is slated for 4 p.m.