Pusica at the buzzer: Vasa propels NU over W&M, 69-67

by Matthew MacCormack

BOSTON — Who else but Vasa Pusica?

In a tightly-contested, back-and-forth affair, Northeastern’s redshirt junior point guard hit a contested layup as the clock expired to lift the Huskies over William & Mary, 69-67, on Saturday afternoon at Matthews Arena.

Pusica battled through foul trouble to finish with a team-high 19 points on 7-10 shooting, and also chipped in five rebounds and four assists. Max Boursiquot tied a season-high with 13 points, and was the only other Husky in double figures. With the win, the Huskies (19-9, 12-4 CAA) clinched a top-three seed in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

Pusica caught an inbounds pass with 5.3 seconds remaining with the game knotted at 67. He exploded towards the basket, squeezing through three Tribe defenders to kiss a layup off the glass as the final buzzer sounded.

“I wanted to get to the rim,” Pusica said.

“I had a good defender on me [Justin Pierce] but I went by him. Coach wrote a great play and the lane was wide open. I saw the help side was a little late, but that’s what we wanted.”

Redshirt-sophomore guard Matt Millon had a game-high 21 points for the Tribe. Millon missed an open three on the Tribe’s final possession before Pusica’s late heroics. The Huskies swept William & Mary (16-11, 9-7 CAA) in the season series.

“Just another boring CAA finish,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen joked after the game.

Coen lauded Pusica for his performance, and also shouted out Boursiquot and Anthony Green (8 pts, 3-3 FGs) for helping keep the offense going on a night when the Huskies struggled with turnovers.

Coen said Pusica’s execution on the final play was important.

It’s a designed play. We put two guys at the free throw line,” Coen added.

“What we’re trying to do is cause a little bit of diversion with the guys along the baseline and get [Pusica] some space to operate. He made a great read, great play, and that’s what really good players do. He’s not afraid of the moment at all.” 

When asked about the Huskies’ ability to close it out in tight games, Pusica wasn’t bashful.

“I think that says that we are a championship team,” said the star point guard.

“We’ve won way too many close games like this. I think that’s a good characteristic of a championship team.”

The Huskies’ next game comes on Thursday night against Towson at Matthews Arena.

Picking overtime goal leads No. 12 Northeastern past Vermont

By: Josh Brown

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Friday night had all the makings of a trap game for the No. 12 Northeastern men’s hockey team. Just days removed from their first Beanpot championship in 30 years, the Huskies had a long trip up to Burlington to face the streaking Vermont Catamounts.

It did not matter.

Although Northeastern blew a 3-1 third period lead, John Picking scored at the 1:57 mark of overtime and the Huskies picked up their first win in Hockey East play since January 20.

Cayden Primeau got the start in net for Northeastern (18-8-5, 12-6-3), making 32 saves on the evening. Sophomore netminder Stefanos Lekkas stopped 22 shots for the Catamounts (9-10-6, 6-10-5).

Despite the victory, the Huskies remain in third place in Hockey East due to Providence’s come-from-behind 5-2 victory over UMass Lowell.

As they have done all season, Northeastern used special teams to its advantage to take a 2-0 lead in the game’s first five minutes. Zach Solow scored a shorthanded goal at the 2:56 mark of the first period and Dylan Sikura answered with a power play strike at 4:58.

Vermont cut the deficit to one less than five minutes later when Bryce Misley fed Anthony Petruzzelli a pass in open ice that the senior roofed over Primeau.

Northeastern pushed its lead back to two goals on Adam Gaudette’s 32nd career power play goal midway through the second. The junior received a pass from Dylan Sikura in the slot and sent a shot past Lekkas. The tally broke the school record for career power play goals.

The Catamounts fought back in the third period, receiving a pair of power play goals from Ross Colton and Petruzzelli. Petruzzelli’s strike came with just 29 seconds remaining on a feed from Liam Coughlin behind the net.

Despite the Catamounts carrying the momentum heading into the extra frame, Picking scored the overtime winner after Patrick Schule sent a pass into the slot from below the net.

Northeastern and Vermont will play game two of the series tomorrow night at 7 p.m. WRBB will have complete coverage, with pregame beginning at 6:45 p.m.


Northeastern Outlasts Drexel, 75-69

By: Milton Posner

BOSTON – The last time Northeastern men’s basketball faced off against Drexel, a late run by the latter and missed free throws by the former allowed Drexel to escape with a one-point win.

On Thursday night, the Dragons arrived at Matthews Arena hungry for seconds. The Huskies would have none of it.

Strong inside play and timely shooting secured the Huskies (18-9, 11-4 conference) some payback, as they defeated the Dragons (11-17, 5-10 conference), 75-69.

Northeastern, which typically relies heavily on perimeter shooting, spent much of the game driving the lane and earning shots inside, a strategy reflected in the strong game recorded by junior center Anthony Green (16 points, 8-10 FG, 3 rebounds).

“We came out with a lot more energy,” Green said. “Every team gets momentum. You got to stay calm, stick together, and play through it.”

The other star performer for Northeastern was redshirt junior Vasa Pusica, who used frequent drives to the basket to log 24 points. Pusica struggled with foul trouble throughout the contest, which head coach Bill Coen attributed to limited practice time for Pusica during the week.

“You could tell his timing was off,” Coen said. “But he made a big shot and a couple of big free throws right when we needed it. He’s a confident player, he’s an experienced player, and we need him to play at a high level to be a good team.”

The efficiency of the Huskies’ offense peaked when Pusica and Green played well together. One of the team’s most common offensive actions is when Green sets a ball screen for Pusica out top, and the play worked often Thursday night.

“It’s really helpful,” Green said of playing with Pusica. “You can always be on high alert with him. You never know when the ball’s gonna come to you. He’s a really unique point guard to play with.”

Despite a subpar effort from three-point range (5-20), the Huskies’ aggressive approach allowed every player who entered the game to score at least one field goal. Six players connected multiple times from the field, allowing Northeastern to withstand excellent scoring performances from Drexel’s Tramaine Isabell and Troy Harper.

“You get to the foul line, which settles you down, helps you set your defense,” Coen said of the team’s emphasis on scoring in the paint. “You get high-percentage shots. Inside-out threes are better than most any other threes. It just shows an aggressive nature around the rim.”

With three regular-season games left before the CAA tournament, Northeastern holds sole possession of second place, trailing Charleston by a single game and leading Hofstra by two games. Their next contest is on Saturday at 4 PM against William and Mary at Matthews Arena.

Huskies humble Towson, 77-62

TOWSON, MD — The last time the Northeastern men’s basketball team took the floor against the Towson Tigers, it was ugly.

It was early March of last year, and the Tigers mauled the Huskies, 82-54, in the first round of the 2017 CAA Tournament.

But on Saturday afternoon in SECU Arena, it was the Huskies who did the mauling, leading for almost the entire game in a 77-62 statement victory. Redshirt junior guard Vasa Pusica (23 points, 7-10 FG) scored 20-plus for the third straight contest and the Husky defense limited Towson to 39% shooting as Northeastern (17-9, 10-4) held firm to second-place in the CAA.

“I really thought the story of the game was our defense,” Head Coach Bill Coen said.

“We defended really well. We kept them at bay off the backboards and kept them out of transition. Those were our pregame goals”.

NU shot 57% in the game and 72% in the second half against Towson (17-10, 7-7 CAA), who entered the game with the CAA’s top scoring defense. Senior guard Devon Begley chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore forward Bo Brace (10 points) made several big plays to help the Huskies to victory.

The Huskies won the rebounding battle, 32-31. Towson entered the game with the CAA’s top rebounding margin.

Towson sophomore guard Zane Martin fouled out after scoring a team-high 21 points. Senior guard Mike Morsell (17 points) was the only other Tiger in double figures.

The Towson offense sputtered down the stretch with Martin in foul trouble. The Huskies mounted a 9-2 run midway through the second half when Martin went to the bench with his fourth foul.

“It’s huge because he’s such a potent scorer and he’s so aggressive,” Coen said of Martin’s foul situation.

“He’s able to draw fouls and get buckets. He was really able to keep them in the game single-handedly so it was a bit of good fortune.”

Towson pulled the game within six points, 59-53, on a three from Mike Morsell with 7:47 to go into the game. The Huskies responded with a 10-0 run, sparked by a three and transition dunk from Brace.

“I thought [Brace] gave us a nice lift at that portion of the game, which he’s done all year long,” Coen said.

The Huskies won big despite racking up 17 turnovers. Coen called the turnover issue the team’s “one Achille’s heel.”

Next up for NU is a battle with Drexel at 7 p.m. on Thursday night in Matthews Arena.


UConn completes season sweep of No. 11 Northeastern with 4-2 win

By: Josh Brown

BOSTON – Connecticut entered this season 0-10-0 all time against Northeastern. But after defeating Northeastern 4-1 at the XL Center in late November, the Huskies from down south cut into that record a little bit more on Friday night.

UConn scored the game’s first three goals and were able to stave off a late Northeastern rally, winning 4-2 in front of 1,955 fans at Matthews Arena.

The win extends UConn’s (14-16-2, 10-11-1) win streak to six games and moves them into a tie for fifth place in Hockey East. For Northeastern (16-8-5, 11-6-3), the loss was made even more devastating by the fact that Boston College and Providence earned wins on Friday night. Northeastern now sits in third in Hockey East.

Tanner Creel continued his hot stretch in net for UConn, making 34 saves on the evening. Freshman goalie Cayden Primeau stopped 30 shots for Northeastern.

UConn scored two goals just 18 seconds apart beginning at the 4:52 mark of the second period. Spencer Naas extended his point streak to six games with a shot that beat Primeau five-hole and Benjamin Freeman deflected a Miles Gendron bid into the back of the net to give UConn a 2-0 lead.

The lead swelled to three when Maxim Letunox scored his 10th goal of the season at the 1:46 mark of the third period. With chaos ensuing in the Northeastern offensive zone, the junior calmly finished off an odd-man rush with a shot that sailed over Primeau’s shoulder.

Northeastern battled back midway through the third, scoring two goals just 4:31 apart. Nolan Stevens struck first, tapping in a Jeremy Davies shot that produced a rebound in front of the net. Adam Gaudette cut the deficit to one with 6:59 remaining in regulation, scoring on a weak-side feed from Nolan Stevens in transition.

Although Northeastern had an abundance of opportunities in the game’s final minutes, Corey Ronan sealed the deal with an empty net goal with two seconds remaining.

Northeastern will be back in action on Monday night when they take on Boston University in the championship game of the 66th Beanpot Tournament. Josh Brown, Joe Barbito and Christian Skroce will be on the call, with pregame coverage beginning at 7:15 p.m.


Primeau shutout leads No. 11 Northeastern past No. 18 Boston College in Beanpot semifinals

Photo courtesy of NHL.com

By: Josh Brown

BOSTON – In Cayden Primeau’s first Beanpot start, he accomplished a feat so rare that it has not been seen since 1988. He shutout Boston College on one of the first two Mondays in February.

The freshman goalie was sensational, making 37 saves in the Huskies’ 3-0 semifinals victory over Boston College on Monday afternoon at TD Garden. The win sends No. 11 Northeastern to the Beanpot championship game next Monday, where they will take on Boston University. It is the fourth time in the last six years that Northeastern will appear in the title game.

On the offensive end, it was three familiar faces who paced the Huskies (16-7-5, 11-5-3). After Dylan Sikura and Nolan Stevens scored in the first and second period respectively to put Northeastern out in front, Adam Gaudette put the exclamation point on the victory with his 20th goal of the season with 4:39 remaining in regulation.

The win gives the Huskies three straight Beanpot wins against Boston College for the first time in program history.

Sikura got the scoring going on the power play midway through the first period. Despite being challenged by a couple of BC defenders at the right circle, the senior fired a shot that deflected off the stick of BC defender Casey Fitzgerald and beat goalie Joe Woll (29 saves). The tally, which was assisted by Gaudette and Jeremy Davies, was the 50th of Sikura’s career.

Nolan Stevens gave the Huskies a two goal lead at the 15:34 mark of the second period on his 18th goal of the season. After Dylan Sikura fired a shot from the blue line that was saved by Woll, Stevens collected the rebound in front of the net and jammed it home.

The Eagles came out firing in the third period, throwing 15 shots on Primeau. Despite this, the game’s final goal came when Gaudette cleaned up a Stevens shot from the left dot.

Northeastern will be back in action on Friday night at Matthews Arena when they take on Connecticut. WRBB will have complete coverage, with pregame beginning at 6:45 p.m.


Huskies prevail over UNCW in OT thriller, 107-100

by Matthew MacCormack

BOSTON — There’s just something about the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks.

For the second time this season, the Northeastern men’s basketball survived an overtime saga against UNCW, this time in a 107-100 track meet at Matthews Arena on Saturday evening.

The Huskies (15-9, 8-4 CAA) upended the Seahawks (7-17, 4-8 CAA) in overtime, 81-77, in Wilmington on January 13th.

Redshirt junior point guard Vasa Pusica scored 23 of his 24 points in the second half and overtime on Saturday, while freshman big man Tomas Murphy notched a career-high 21 points on eight of 11 shooting from the field. The 107 points was the Huskies’ highest output of the season.

“A CAA game was scheduled and I think an ABA game broke out,” joked Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen in the post-game presser.

“When you’re in a league as balanced as the CAA is, you know you’re gonna run into these games and situations.  Nobody in this league is gonna run away from anybody.”

With the victory, Northeastern pulled into a momentary tie for second place in the conference with William & Mary (15-8, 8-4 CAA), which fell 91-79 against Drexel on Saturday.

Sophomore guard Ty Taylor paced the Seahawks with 27 points, including a banked three-pointer at the end of regulation that forced overtime, with both teams tied at 89-89. The Huskies used an second half surge to cruise to a 78-68 lead with 6:12 remaining in regulation, but the Seahawks mounted a 21-11 run to end the second half.

Pusica and Murphy combined to score the first 12 points in overtime, and the Huskies outscored the Seahawks 18-11 in the extra frame.

Pusica, a transfer from the University of San Diego, said that you can’t expect any easy wins in the conference, despite the Seahawk’s underwhelming record entering the game: “All the teams are good, there’s definitely no days off in the CAA.”

Up next for the Huskies is Thursday night’s contest at Delaware (11-13, 4-7 CAA). WRBB will not be broadcasting the game.

Tirone saves 40 shots as No. 11 Northeastern skates to 1-1 tie against UNH

By: Josh Brown

BOSTON – Despite firing 41 shots on New Hampshire goalie Danny Tirone, the No. 11 Northeastern men’s hockey team skated to a 1-1 tie against the Wildcats on Friday night at Matthews Arena.

The Huskies (15-7-5, 11-5-3) had more than their fair share of opportunities all night long, but besides a Nolan Stevens goal early in the second period, the Wildcats’ senior goalie made one acrobatic save after another to keep his team in the game.

The setback particularly stings for Northeastern, as a win would have launched them into a tie for first place in Hockey East with BC’s loss to UConn on Friday night. Instead, the Huskies sit one point behind the Eagles entering their Beanpot matchup on Monday night.

Freshman Cayden Primeau got the start in net for the Huskies, making 18 saves on the evening.

New Hampshire (9-13-5, 4-9-4) drew first blood at the 16:59 mark of the first period on a power play strike from freshman defenseman Max Gildon.

The Huskies responded quickly after intermission, as Nolan Stevens potted his 17th goal of the season just 55 seconds into the second period. After receiving the puck from Dylan Sikura at the top of the left circle, Stevens stickhandled through a pair of defenders and beat Tirone glove side to knot the score up at one.

Despite a flurry of opportunities for Northeastern in the third period and overtime, they could not crack Tirone. Adding to that frustration, Biagio Lerario was assessed a game-misconduct at the 13:04 mark of the third after throwing his helmet off the boards in protest of a blatant hit to the head that was not called.

The Huskies will be back in action on Monday night at 5 p.m. for the semifinals of the 66th Beanpot Tournament. WRBB will have complete coverage, with pregame beginning at 4:45 p.m.


Northeastern Falls Short Against Charleston, 69-64

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).