by Milton Posner
BOSTON — The Huskies walked into Thursday night’s contest with the College of Charleston looking for a statement win. The two teams entered the day tied atop the CAA conference standings, and Northeastern was seeking revenge for an 82-66 loss to the Cougars on January 11.
Despite all-around contributions from multiple players and consistent effort, Northeastern (14-9, 7-4 conference) couldn’t quite chase down Charleston (17-6, 8-3 conference) in the waning minutes, losing 69-64. The win allowed Charleston to remain tied for first place in the conference, while dropping the Huskies into a tie for third place with Hofstra.
As was the case in January, Northeastern had trouble defending Charleston’s leading trio of Joe Chealey (23 points, 7-14 FG), Jarrell Brantley (13 points, 5-8 FG), and Grant Riller (13 points, 5-9 FG).
“Too much Joe Chealey,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked after the game. “He’s an experienced player and he settles them down, seems to make a big play whenever they need it.”
Though Chealey was clearly the brightest spot for the Cougars, Coen also acknowledged that the entire team presents immense matchup challenges on both ends of the floor.
“They’re a tough team to guard because they can go to their smaller lineup and play four guards and Brantley,” he observed. “It’s a hard lineup to guard and it’s a hard lineup to attack.”
As indicated by the close score, there were a number of bright spots for the Huskies. They shot 18-21 from the free-throw line, an encouraging improvement for a team that missed crucial free throws down the stretch in a one-point loss to Drexel on January 27. Sophomore guard Donnell Gresham Jr. turned in another excellent game, scoring 18 points on an efficient 5-9 FG, including 4-6 on three-pointers.
“He [Gresham] has got a cool demeanor about him,” Coen quipped. “The pressure of the game doesn’t get to him, generally. He’s a very good shooter and he made shots tonight.”
Junior guard Vasa Pusica played all 40 minutes of tonight’s contest, continuing his stretch of heavy workloads. He is averaging 37.7 minutes per game during the team’s last six games.
Northeastern has lost back-to-back games after winning four straight. With seven games left in the conference season before the CAA Tournament begins, the team has proven that it can contend for the conference championship, but still has some inconsistencies to iron out before that time comes.
The Huskies will look to rebound at 4 PM on Saturday against the UNCW Seahawks (7-16, 4-7 conference).