— Northeastern MBB (@GoNUmbasketball) March 10, 2019
by Matthew MacCormack
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — For the Northeastern men’s basketball team, the formula is simple; make threes, and make sure your opponent doesn’t.
The Huskies (21-11) executed that plan to perfection Saturday night in the North Charleston Coliseum, knocking off UNCW, 80-59, in the quarterfinal of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Roland led the way with 21 points, while junior forward Bo Brace (17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) and senior point guard Vasa Pusica (16 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) helped guide the two-seeded Huskies over the No. 10 Seahawks (10-23).
“If you expect to win in the CAA, you are going to have to defend the three, and you are going to have to make threes,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.
“Tonight we did both.”
UNCW senior forward DeVontae Cacok had 21 points and 13 rebounds in his final game for the Seahawks, and junior forward Jeantal Cylla chipped in 12 points and five boards.
The Huskies will battle the winner of No. 3 Charleston and No. 6 Drexel in the CAA semi-finals on Monday at 8:30 p.m. Matt MacCormack, Justin Littman and Michael Petillo will have the call.
NU entered the tournament with best three-point defense in CAA play (opponents shot just 31.4% against the Huskies), as well as the second best three-point offense (38.5% on triples). The statistics held up on Sunday night, as Northeastern buried 12 threes and held the Seahawks to just one three-point make.
“Our defense was stingy,” Coen said.
“We keep teams to a light percentage [from three]. It’s our formula for winning basketball.”
Those triples came in hand early, as Brace and Roland each buried a triple in the opening two minutes to give NU a 6-2 lead. The first-half lead extended to 13 when Pusica hit his second triple at the 11:44 mark of the first half, making it 20-7, NU.
Cacok kept the Seahawks in the game, scoring 12 consecutive points for the Seahawks over a six minute stretch. Cylla buried a jumper with 3:59 to go in the half to cut the NU lead to 29-23.
The Huskies ended the half on a tear, responding with a 10-4 run fueled by two Roland threes to bring the halftime lead to 39-28.
Momentum continued into the second half, as Brace buried two more triples as part of a 12-1 run to open the second half, pushing the lead to 51-29. Northeastern never trailed by fewer than 17 points from there.
Brace was clutch all evening long, on both ends of the floor.
“[Brace] is an underrated guy in this league,” Coen said.
He does so much for us. He’s a tremendous defensive rebounder, and he’s done a good job doing his job defensively. When he grabs a defensive rebound, it really ignites our fastbreak.”
The Seahawks defeated No. 7 Elon, 93-86, in Saturday night’s play-in game to advance to the quarterfinals.
Coen lauded Cacok’s career contributions after the game. The senior forward made three CAA All-Defensive teams and two All-CAA First teams in his four-year career in Wilmington.