CAA Champs: Northeastern moves on to the Big Dance

by Matthew MacCormack

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — All season long, the Northeastern men’s basketball team relied on three-point proficiency, a deep roster and a veteran point guard that made it all go.

All three of those keys were on display Tuesday night in the North Charleston Coliseum, as the Huskies (23-10) knocked off Hofstra, 82-74, in the championship game of the Colonial Athletic Association to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Redshirt senior point guard Vasa Pusica scored 15 of his team-high 21 points in the second half to earn the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.

“This means the world to everybody,” said junior guard Shawn Occeus.

“We’re just happy and ecstatic that we were able to pull it off, and hopefully do some more things in the [NCAA] tournament.”

Seven Huskies tallied nine points or more, including junior forward Bolden Brace (10 pts, 10 rebs, 9 assts), who narrowly missed a triple-double. The two-seeded Huskies shot 50% from the floor and 45%(14-31) from three, while holding top-seeded Hofstra to 39% from the field and 30% (6-20) beyond the arc.

The Huskies will find out their seed, foe and tournament site for the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday, March 17.

“My sense of pride for this group of young men, all they’ve been through and all they’ve accomplished, [is huge],” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.

“You grow up as a little kid playing a little boys game, and you’ve got a dream to play in the NCAA Tournament.”

Hofstra senior guard Justin Wright-Foreman — the CAA’s two-time reigning Player of the Year — led the Pride (27-7) with 29 points. Only junior guard Eli Pemberton (15 pts, 7 rebs) joined Wright-Foreman in double figures for Hofstra.

The Huskies led, 15-8, when Pusica fouled Hofstra senior guard Desure Buie (8 pts) on a made three-point  attempt to pick up his second foul with 10:15 to go in the first half. The point guard had six of the Huskies 15 points, but was sent to the bench, and Buie’s four-point pay closed the gap to 15-12.

NU’s other players picked up the slack, finishing the half on a 27-14 run without Pusica on the floor. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Roland (11 points) hit three triples during the stretch, and Brace, Occeus (11 points), and senior center Anthony Green (9 points, 7 rebs) each contributed 4+ points in the stretch. The Huskies led, 42-26, at halftime.

Hofstra scored the first eight points of the second half to bring the deficit to eight, on a run capped by a triple from junior forward Tareq Coburn (9 points, 4 rebs).

The Pride made a second run midway through the second half, erasing a 54-44 deficit with a 10-run from the 12:29 mark to the 9:13 mark of the second half.

With the score knotted a 54-54, Pusica stepped up. The senior buried a triple to end the Hofstra run and regain the lead, and then buried a dagger three with 3:58 remaining to cap a 17-6 run that put the Huskies up, 71-60.

“I knew that I hadn’t played a good game to that point, so I just wanted to pick it up,” Pusica said.

“I didn’t want to go out with a bad performance and a loss. I just started shooting and some threes started falling.”

NU tops Charleston, moves on to CAA Championship

Junior guard Shawn Occeus sparked Northeastern in the CAA Semi-final (Image Credit: GoNU)
Junior guard Shawn Occeus sparked Northeastern in the CAA Semi-final (Image Credit: GoNU)

by Matthew MacCormack

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — If there’s anyone that knows resilience on the Northeastern men’s basketball team, it’s Shawn Occeus.

The junior guard missed 19 games this season. He suffered an ankle injury just before Northeastern’s opener against BU, and suffered another setback just as he was reaching full health mid-season.

But in Monday night’s semi-final matchup with Charleston in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament — just Occeus’ second game back after a nine-game absence — the 2017-18 CAA Defensive Player of the Year showed what resilience is all about.

Occeus scored a team-high 17 points to lead the two-seeded Huskies (22-10) over No. 3 Charleston in a gritty, 70-67 victory at the North Charleston Coliseum. Redshirt senior point Vasa Pusica chipped in 13 points and seven assists, Jordan Roland added 10 points, and the Huskies held the Cougars without a field goal for the final 3:13 to seal the win.

Northeastern got its sweet revenge after blowing a 17-point second half lead to Charleston in last year’s championship game.

“We’re a lot more matured and experience,” Occeus said, comparing the two seasons.

“When the building got loud towards the end of the game we just stuck to it. Everybody was communicating, coaches were talking to us and we were listening.”

The Huskies will take on top-seeded Hofstra in the CAA Championship tomorrow at 7 p.m, with the winner receiving the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Matt MacCormack, Justin Littman and Michael Petillo will have the call on WRBB 104.9, with coverage beginning at 6:30.

Charleston senior forward Jarrell Brantley tallied 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to lead the Cougars (24-9). Junior guard Grant Riller (22 ppg), who joined Brantley on the All-CAA First-Team, was held to 10 points on five of 13 shooting, and missed all five of his three-point attempts.

Sophomore guard Brevin Galloway (12 points) was also in double-figures for Charleston.

“It was really going to be hard to top last year’s championship game,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.

“I think tonight’s game was equally as intense, competitive, and spirited.”

Charleston took a 65-63 lead on a Riller layup with 3:13 to go in the game. Northeastern senior center Anthony Green (9 points, 6 rebounds) was fouled on a rebound attempt moments later, and hit one of two free throws to cut the lead to one with 2:43 remaining.

Charleston missed twice on their next two possessions, and the Huskies missed one shot while giving up a turnover on the other.

Pusica ended the scoreless stretch with a sweet up-and-under layup with 37 seconds left to put the Huskies back up, 66-65. Coen appeared to be calling out a play, but the noise level from the local Charleston crowd was too deafening. Pusica improvised.

“I always defer to the point guard,” Coen said.

“It’s his show, it’s his team…that’s the trust level I have in him; he saw an opportunity and he took it.”

Brantley missed a layup on the other end, and Pusica sunk two free throws to push the lead to 68-65 with 17 seconds left.

The next trip down, Charleston senior guard Marquise Pointer was fouled on a three-point attempt. Pointer hit the first, but missed the second free throw. His attempt to intentionally miss the third was unsuccessful, and the made free throw put the Husky lead at 68-67 with three seconds to go. Northeastern redshirt junior guard Donnell Gresham (8 points, 5 rebounds) hit two free-throws to push the lead to 70-67, and a last-second heave from Riller was off the mark.

Occeus guarded Riller on many possessions, but credited his teammates and coaches for limiting the star scorer.

It just wasn’t me tonight; it was everybody,” Occeus said.

“All the guys stepped up and played, and did their part. I just tried to make it difficult for [Riller]…Credit to the coaches, because they gave us a great game plan on him and all we had to do was execute it.”

Pusica was asked after the game if getting revenge over Charleston in their home territory made up for last year’s championship loss.

“A little bit,” Pusica said with a smile.

“It’s a great feeling winning in this arena against this team.”

But a victory over Hofstra in tomorrow’s championship — and an automatic bid to the Big Dance — that would make it all worth it.

“A win tomorrow would definitely make it up,” Pusica said.

Huskies beat down Seahawks; advance to CAA semi-finals

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.

“We were always calm,” Pusica said.
“Even when they cut it to six, we knew we just needed to do what we do every day and eventually we were going to come up [with a win].”

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.

Women’s Hockey skates to second Tournament Championship with win over Boston College

by Joe Barbito

PROVIDENCE, RI – For the second time in as many years, Northeastern won the Women’s Hockey East Championship, defeating Boston College 3-2 in overtime.

A controversial conclusion of the third period ended with senior defender Kali Flanagan scoring an equalizer with 4.8 seconds remaining to tie the game up. In the extra frame, senior forward Kasidy Anderson finished the storybook ending by netting the game-winning goal on a breakaway. Sophomore goaltender Aerin Frankel won her second WHEA Tournament MVP award.

The bitter rivalry between Boston College and Northeastern entered its fifth installment of the season when the two teams squared off in Schneider Arena on Sunday afternoon. With both teams having already secured NCAA Tournament berths, this game was solely about bringing home the coveted Joe Bertagna trophy.

Sophomore defender Skyler Fontaine had one of the best games of any Northeastern skater, tallying two assists as well as two shots on net and generating a number of other chances. Her first assist came on the opening goal of the game; Fontaine entered the BC zone as a penalty to senior defender Megan Keller was expiring. She skated to the left of the crease and took a shot that ricocheted off a few defenders before landing in front of junior forward Andrea Renner. At 17:14 in the first, Renner, who had as complete a two-way game as anyone, ripped a wrister past freshman goaltender Maddy McArthur to put the Huskies up 1-0.

The second period was all Boston College, as the Eagles piled on 11 shots to Northeastern’s five. Two of those came from sophomore forward Daryl Watts who was a part of multiple odd-skater rushes in the middle frame. Watts earned the primary assist on the first Eagle goal of the afternoon; she created a two-on-one with junior forward Caitrin Lonergan, skated to the left hash marks and dished a pass to Lonergan. The junior tapped it past Frankel and the game was tied at the 2:31 mark of the second.

Neither team would score again until 14:53 into the third. Freshman forward Alina Mueller wristed a shot from the slot that pinballed past McArthur. Mueller was named to the All-Tournament team alongside teammates Fontaine and Frankel.

Mueller’s goal put Northeastern up 2-1, and it had appeared the Huskies tacked on an insurance goal with around 50 seconds left in regulation. McArthur had been pulled for an extra skater and sophomore defender Brooke Hobson lobbed a soft shot into the back of the net. The officials convened and rule that Anderson was across the blue line before Hobson took her shot from the neutral zone and the goal was disallowed.

Northeastern carried the 2-1 lead down to the wire when Anderson rifled a puck out of her zone to relieve the pressure BC was putting on the Huskies. Keller kicked it into fifth gear and darted back to her own goal line and seemed to have crossed the hash marks somewhere around the 7.6 second mark.

Head Coach Katie Crowley petitioned the referees to review the amount of time left on the clock. She claimed there was 7.8 seconds left, the clock had been reset to 7.4, and no one was entirely positive what the end time would be when all was said and done. When the clock was finally reset and play was about to resume, it appeared coach Crowley threw a notebook onto the ice in the neutral zone. The Eagles, who had six skaters on, cleanly won the offensive zone draw back to Flanagan who beat Frankel cleanly to tie the game.

The officials reviewed the goal, and according to Northeastern head coach Dave Flint, did not disclose what they were reviewing, but signaled good goal with 4.8 seconds left in regulation.

Both teams headed back to the locker rooms, Boston College obviously buzzing after their sudden turn of fate. According to Anderson, junior defender Paige Capistran was the one who stepped up and told the team to put the goal behind them and treat it like a new game.

Hobson nearly ended it minutes into overtime with a backhand feed that hit the crossbar. Boston College nearly closed things out when they forced Frankel out of position and had a look at a wide open net. Frankel, playing from her stomach with a skater in front of her, laid out and gloved what looked like a shot destined for the twine.

In true storybook fashion, Kasidy Anderson found herself the recipient of a misplay by freshman defender Cayla Barnes. Anderson retrieved the puck, skated up the right wing, fighting off a BC backchecker, cut to the front of the net, and slid the game-winning goal past McArthur to give Northeastern their second conference tournament championship.

The Huskies will be heading to the NCAA tournament this Saturday. Their opponent is to be determined, but in all likelihood the game will be held at Historic Matthews Arena. It is entirely possible Northeastern will play Boston College again, but they could also face ECAC opponents Clarkson or Cornell.

WRBB will have complete coverage of Saturday’s NCAA contest and will provide an update as soon as the opponent has been determined.

Men’s basketball seeks redemption in Charleston

Donnell Gresham Jr. and Northeastern are seeking a CAA championship in North Charleston this week. (Image Credit: GoNU)
Donnell Gresham Jr. and Northeastern are seeking a CAA championship in North Charleston this week. (Image Credit: GoNU)

Northeastern begins CAA Tournament play on Sunday at 6 PM ET against UNCW. Matt MacCormack, Justin Littman and Michael Petillo will have the call, with pregame coverage beginning at 5:30 PM ET. To listen, click here.

by Matthew MacCormack

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — If you’ve followed the Northeastern men’s basketball team over the past twelve months, you know the story of that gut-wrenching night in the North Charleston Coliseum last March.

It was March 6, the night of Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship game. An automatic bid to the NCAA tournament hung in the balance.

The Huskies – a plucky, punchy group – had exceeded a projected sixth-place finish in the preseason media poll to tie for a regular season conference title. They led top-seeded College of Charleston by 17 points early in the second half.

Then it all fell apart.

Northeastern lost, 83-76 in overtime, despite holding a five-point lead with 40 seconds to go in regulation. NBA-bound Charleston guard Joe Chealey scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half and overtime, and a home-court-like atmosphere for the local Cougars turned the tide.

“I can’t think of a tougher [loss],” said NU head coach Bill Coen after the game.

“Just lost our composure a little bit in a couple of key moments, had some inopportune turnovers and missed free throws that kept the door open just long enough for Charleston to make a run.”

Redemption looms for this year’s Huskies (20-10, 14-4 CAA). There’s no underdog storyline here; with 93% of last season’s scoring returning, two-seeded NU enters the tournament as the preseason favorite. Despite injuries to some key contributors, the Huskies have won nine of their last 10 games. Erasing the memory of last year’s heartbreak is as “simple” as winning three more.

Northeastern’s quest begins on Sunday evening at 6 p.m, in a quarterfinal matchup with 10-seed UNCW, whom the Huskies beat twice this year.

The CAA Tournament bracket, updated after Saturday's opening round games. (Image Credit: CAA.com)
The CAA Tournament bracket, updated after Saturday’s opening round games. (Image Credit: CAA.com)

Inexperience can’t be an excuse this season. Redshirt senior and First Team All-CAA point guard Vasa Pusica leads a deep, unselfish, defensive-minded group. Coen, in his 13th season, has to be eager to reach the Big Dance for the first time since 2015.

Fans and writers love storylines, and the redemption narrative fits the 2018-19 Huskies. But don’t expect the coaches or players to expand on topics of revenge or restoration.

“Every team is motivated just going down there,” Coen said in Tuesday’s CAA Teleconference.

“But I do think [our] experience helps.”

On the court, Pusica (17.9 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.8 rpg) is the unquestioned metronome of the team. A transfer from University of San Diego, the 6-foot-5, Serbian-born Pusica is a go-to scorer who sets up his teammates with ease. His control of Coen’s motion offense – where the open man is the best man – is evident.

Flanking Pusica is another transfer guard, the slick-shooting Jordan Roland. The redshirt junior began his career at George Washington, but scored 14.8 points on 41% shooting from three and 90% from the line in his first year for the Huskies, earning All-CAA Third Team honors.

Part of Roland’s emergence came from the Huskies’ injury troubles. Starting forward Max Boursiquot missed the entire season with a hip injury. Junior guard Shawn Occeus, last season’s CAA Defensive Player of the Year, has played just 11 games all season, held out for the last nine with an ankle injury. Pusica missed seven games with a wrist injury and illness. An injured foot held reserve sophomore forward Tomas Murphy (8.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg) out of the last two games.

“It’s been the story of our season,” Coen said of the injuries.

“We had a ton of adversity and different days, different guys have stepped up and filled the void.”

Occeus and Murphy are expected back for Sunday’s game.

“We’re trying to work them back in at practice and see what they can give us throughout the tournament,” Coen said.

But this is a deep team. Roland’s topped 20 points in nine games, and came off the bench for 10 games. Senior center Anthony Green – all 6-foot-10, 250 pounds of him – has chipped in nine points and five boards per game, all while protecting the rim and making consistent game-changing blocks and two-handed slams.

And how could you forget the defense?

Northeastern had the best scoring defense (69.3 ppg) in the CAA during conference play. Opponents shot a league-worst 31.4% from three against the Huskies in the conference slate.

Yet, somehow, not a single Northeastern player made the All-CAA defensive team. Redshirt junior guard Donnell Gresham and junior forward Bo Brace were robbed.

Gresham (10.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.2 apg) locked up potent perimeter players in Occeus’ stead. In addition to contributing double figures on 15 occasions, Gresham helped hold All-Conference guards like Hofstra’s Justin-Wright Foreman, Charleston’s Grant Riller and Towson’s Brian Fobbs below their season averages in games at Matthews Arena.

Brace is the glue that keeps the Husky defense together. At 6’6, he defends guards and forwards alike. Signature performances against All-Conference forwards like Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley (13 pts, 6 TOs on Jan. 17) and Elon’s Tyler Seibring (3 pts, 1-17 FGs on Feb. 9) show off his defensive prowess. He’s also the Huskies’ leading rebounder with 5.8 per game, and shot 41% from three.

Winning it all won’t be easy. Regular season champ Hofstra (25-6, 15-3 CAA) boasts the two-time reigning CAA Player of the Year in Wright-Foreman, and a midseason 16-game winning streak. Three-seed Charleston (23-8, 12-6 CAA) looms, with a near home court advantage and an All-Conference duo in Riller and Brantley.

Northeastern is balanced, motivated and unselfish. But for Coen, that alone doesn’t ensure the Huskies’ CAA success.

For the skipper, a championship team needs something more.

“You gotta have some fun,” Coen said.

“The teams that can manage that balance – where you’re three parts business and one part just enjoyment and playing for the fun of the game – [those] are the teams that can come out on top.”

Huskies close out regular season with 4-0 over UNH on Senior Night

by Joe Barbito

BOSTON, MA – On the back of another immaculate performance from sophomore goaltender Cayden Primeau, Northeastern defeated the New Hampshire Wildcats 4-0 to end the season and secure home ice in the Hockey East playoffs.

Junior forward Biagio Lerario scored two goals early in the second period to set the tone of the game. Primeau made a whopping 32 saves, and senior goaltender Ryan Ruck was able to finish the final four minutes of regulation, making three stops along the way.

The first period would come and go without a tally, and the only notable play from that period came when UNH hit iron about two minutes into regulation. After a rather lengthy review the referees determined that the Wildcats did not convert, and the game remained scoreless. Junior defenseman Jeremy Davies, recently named the national Player of the Month, was sent to the box for tripping at 18:14, but the Husky penalty kill stood tall, ultimately going 4-4 on the evening.

Scoring would finally open at 3:26 of the first period. Lerario weaved his way in front of the net and collected the loose change from a shot from freshman defenseman Jordan Harris. The goal was Lerario’s second of the season and his first since October 27 against St. Cloud State.

Lerario would light the lamp again at 6:10 when he tipped a feed from senior defenseman Eric Williams. Williams was nearly parallel to the goal line and tossed the puck into the space in front of sophomore goaltender Mike Robinson. Lerario just got enough of it to tip it past Robinson and make it a 2-0 game.

The next goal would come at 10:29 of the second off some pretty tic-tac-toe passing. Davies picked up a loose puck in the offensive zone and slid it forward to freshman forward Tyler Madden on the left side of the crease. Madden then flipped the puck cross-crease to senior forward Liam Pecararo who banged home the one-timer, making it a three-goal game.

Junior forward John Picking put the cherry on top of the sundae with a short-handed goal at 11:46 of the third. Picking snuck his way past the defense and went top-shelf to put this one to bed.

Northeastern will face Maine in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs next weekend in a best-of-three series.

Pusica, Roland Earn All-CAA Honors

Redshirt senior point guard Vasa Pusica took home All-CAA First-Team honors for the second straight year. (Image Credit: GoNU).
Redshirt senior point guard Vasa Pusica took home All-CAA First-Team honors for the second straight year. (Image Credit: GoNU).

By Milton Posner

Reminder: Northeastern begins CAA Tournament play on Sunday at 6 PM ET against the winner of Saturday’s Elon–UNCW game. Matt MacCormack, Justin Littman and Michael Petillo will have the call, with pregame coverage beginning at 5:30 PM ET.

Vasa Pusica and Jordan Roland have a lot in common. They’re both versatile upperclassmen guards who soared to new heights after transferring to Northeastern before their junior years.

And Friday, courtesy of CAA head coaches, media relations directors and media members, they’ve both made the 2018–19 All-CAA Teams. Pusica notched his second straight First Team appearance, while Roland, in his first season with the Huskies, made the Third Team.

Pusica, a redshirt senior point guard, averaged 18 points, four rebounds and four assists while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Excluding two games where he played hurt (he missed seven with injuries and illness), he logged double digit scoring efforts in every game he played as he led Northeastern to the conference’s second-best record (14–4).

Roland, a redshirt junior two-guard, notched 15 points, three rebounds and two assists a game. His biggest strength was his efficiency; he shot 40 percent from three (third-best in the conference) and 90 percent from the foul line. His energetic off-ball movement catalyzed the Husky offense, particularly during the home stretch of conference play.

Redshirt junior guard Jordan Roland shot his way onto the All-CAA Third Team.
Redshirt junior guard Jordan Roland shot his way onto the All-CAA Third Team (Image Credit: GoNU).

The first-place Hofstra Pride owned the CAA awards in much the same way Northeastern did last year. They were led by Justin Wright-Foreman, the CAA’s Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. His 27 points per game were tops in the CAA and second-best in the nation this year, as well as second-best ever in the CAA. He shot 52 percent from the field (fifth in the conference), 86 percent from the line (third) and 44 percent from three (first).

Wright-Foreman’s crowning jewel was a 48-point onslaught against William & Mary on Feb. 9, the CAA’s second-best scoring effort behind David Robinson’s 50 in 1987. He is the CAA’s first unanimous Player of the Year since Brett Blizzard in 2003, and one of five finalists for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award.

Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich won Coach of the Year after leading the team to a 25–6 record (15–3 CAA) and its first outright CAA regular-season title. From late November through January, the Pride recorded 16 consecutive wins, the nation’s longest streak at the time.

Hofstra guard Desure Buie won Defensive Player of the Year and was joined on the All-Defensive Team by Hofstra big man Jacquil Taylor. Guard Eli Pemberton’s Second Team showing and Buie’s Third Team selection rounded out Hofstra’s awards dominance.

Despite finishing just one game behind Hofstra, Northeastern came up well short of the Pride in the postseason awards. This isn’t too surprising considering Northeastern’s offensive balance, but the lack of Huskies on the All-Defensive Team is a bit more startling.

The Huskies had the league’s second-best defense but no All-Defensive Players; Hofstra, by contrast, has the league’s fifth-best defense but landed Defensive Player of the Year Buie and big man Jacquil on the All-Defensive Team. Northeastern’s 6’1 guard Donnell Gresham Jr. and 6’6 guard/forward Bolden Brace were natural candidates given their strong defensive efforts, particularly against elite CAA scorers. But save for Buie, the All-Defensive Team members were all 6’7 or taller.

Joining Pusica and Wright-Foreman on the First Team are Charleston’s Grant Riller (22 ppg, 53% FG) and Jarrell Brantley (20 ppg, 9 rpg, 52% FG), William & Mary’s Nathan Knight (21 ppg, 8 rpg, two bpg, 59% FG), and UNCW’s Devontae Cacok (15 ppg, 12 rpg, 59% FG). Elon’s Sheldon Eberhardt took Sixth Man of the Year honors.

The full list of awards, courtesy of CAA.com:

First Team

  • G Vasa Pusica (Northeastern)
  • G Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra)
  • F/C Jarrell Brantley (Charleston) — Second Team for the last two years
  • G Grant Riller (Charleston) — First Team last year
  • F/C Devontae Cacok (UNCW) — First Team last year
  • F/C Nathan Knight (William & Mary) — Second Team last year, finalist for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award

Second Team

  • F/C Eric Carter (Delaware)
  • G Brian Fobbs (Towson)
  • G Stuckey Mosley (James Madison)
  • G Eli Pemberton (Hofstra)
  • F/C Tyler Seibring (Elon) — Scholar-Athlete of the Year

Third Team

  • G Desure Buie (Hofstra)
  • F Alihan Demir (Drexel)
  • G Troy Harper (Drexel)
  • G Matt Lewis (James Madison)
  • F Justin Pierce (William & Mary)
  • G Jordan Roland (Northeastern)

All-Rookie Team

  • G Camren Wynter (Drexel) — Rookie of the Year
  • G Chase Audige (William & Mary)
  • G Ithiel Horton (Delaware)
  • G Kai Toews (UNCW)
  • G Deshon Parker (James Madison)

All-Defensive Team

  • G Desure Buie (Hofstra)
  • F/C Jacquil Taylor (Hofstra)
  • F/C Devontae Cacok (UNCW)
  • F/C Nathan Knight (William & Mary)
  • F/C Dennis Tunstall (Towson)

There’s No “I” in “Northeastern Men’s Basketball Team”

by Milton Posner

On the Feb. 26 CAA coaches teleconference, Northeastern head coach Bill Coen was asked if he thought any of his players were worthy of consideration for the CAA’s postseason awards.

“It’s really difficult when it comes to our team, primarily because of our style of play,” Coen responded. “We try to run a balanced, team-first attack. Our guys buy into that.”

That Coen’s first instinct was to praise his team over any individual player is unsurprising; team-first talk is central to his interviews. Most coaches routinely do the same.

But Coen, the 2018 CAA Coach of the Year, is right. The stats back him up.

The Huskies don’t have dominant statistical performers. They don’t have a likely player of the year candidate, and they might not have any player win an individual award. But what Northeastern (20-10, 14-4 CAA) does have is a deep, team-first group that looks ready to cause damage heading into this weekend’s CAA Tournament in North Charleston.

A glance at the CAA’s top 25 scorers reveals two Huskies: redshirt senior guard Vasa Pusica and junior transfer Jordan Roland. Their averages of 17.9 and 14.8 points per game are good for 5th and 16th in the conference, respectively.

This would be unremarkable but for two points of context. The first is Pusica’s wrist injury, which caused him to miss six games and possibly play a few more at less than 100 percent. That renders his scoring average slightly less impactful.

The other point becomes apparent upon examining the rest of the top 25. The conference’s reigning — and likely repeat — Player of the Year, Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman, averaged 26.8 points; nobody else averaged above 22. Two Charleston Cougars — Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley — cleanly topped Pusica. UNCW and JMU have three scorers in the top 25 despite finishing eighth and 10th in the conference, respectively. Sixth-place Drexel has four. Fourth-place William & Mary has three in the top 20.

Northeastern doesn’t stand out in individual per-game rebounding either. Three Huskies made the top 25: Bolden Brace with 5.8 (14th), Anthony Green with 5.3 (16th) and Donnell Gresham Jr. with 4.8 (19th). But William & Mary has Justin Pierce and Nathan Knight at third and sixth, respectively. Seventh-place Elon and ninth-place Towson also have two players each who out-rebounded all Northeastern players. Brace, the best Husky rebounder, was more than doubled up by conference leader Devontae Cacok of UNCW (12.3 per game).

Yet Northeastern has arguably outplayed every other CAA team. They weathered a combined 56 missed games by last year’s starters (Pusica, Shawn Occeus and Max Boursiquot) to finish 14–4 in conference play. Their four conference losses all could have easily gone their way; they lost to Delaware by two in double overtime, to Hofstra on a heavily contested, 35-foot, buzzer-beating, running one-hander by Wright-Foreman, to Towson by just three, and to Charleston in overtime. 12 of their 14 wins were by double digits (two were overtime games), including a 14-point triumph over Hofstra, the lone squad to finish ahead of Northeastern.

The Huskies haven’t had a consistent primary offensive option this season. They’ve won not in spite of it, but because of it.

Pusica likely won’t contend for Player of the Year, nor will any other Husky. Despite a stellar defense that ranked second overall and first in three-point defense, no lone Husky is likely to replicate Occeus’ Defensive Player of the Year win from last season. Roland’s chances of succeeding Brace as Sixth Man of the Year were dashed when head coach Bill Coen kept starting him.

Pusica making an All-CAA Team  is likely the greatest individual honor any Northeastern player will claim this season. But this team isn’t built for individual honors. Six players averaged more than eight points; among those six, those with the worst field-goal percentages — Gresham, Roland and Brace at 42, 45 and 47 percent, respectively — all shot an elite 41 percent from three.

That is the challenge that Northeastern’s CAA Tournament opponents face, the same task that awaits the opponents that will face them next year when Occeus and Boursiquot return.

There is nowhere for defenses to hide. Northeastern is too deep. Someone will beat you. And until the clocks run out and the stat sheets are final, you won’t know who it’ll be.

Men’s Hockey bounces back against BC with a monster 4-2 victory

by Joe Barbito

BOSTON, MA – After a crippling defeat in Chestnut Hill on Friday, the Huskies rebounded with a huge performance highlighted by 41 saves from sophomore goaltender Cayden Primeau.

Going into the third period up 1-0, Northeastern exploded for three goals to seal the envelope on Saturday night’s game. Senior defenseman Eric Williams broke the all-time program record for career games played by appearing in his 151st game – all consecutive – and his 85th career victory.

Scoring opened up just 2:56 into regulation when freshman defenseman AJ Villella rifled a shot from the point that beat junior goaltender Joseph Woll cleanly. The top-shelf snipe was the first career goal for Villella; junior defenseman Ryan Shea and junior forward Grant Jozefek each picked up assists on the goal.

Each team committed one minor penalty in the first period but both penalty kills were up to the task. Williams and senior forward Liam Pecararo had a few good looks on Woll, but the St. Louis native stood tall and played a fantastic game full of circus saves. On the other end, Boston College found a few cracks in the armor of Northeastern’s penalty kill and forced Primeau to get acrobatic.

The second period would come and go without a tally, but both goaltenders made save after save. On numerous occasions both netminders found themselves defending odd-man rushes and partial breakaway chances. Boston College recorded double digit shots in every period. Northeastern was very slow to get going in the middle frame, giving Woll a chance to catch his breath.

At the end of the second period, senior forward Pat Schule was sent to the penalty box with just over a minute left to go. After being released from the sin bin a minute into the third period, he went to work in the neutral zone, picking up the puck and leading the charge into the offensive end of the ice. Schule headed to the faceoff dot, ripped a shot on Woll, picked up his own rebound and deposited the loose change in the back of the net for his 10th of the year.

Senior forward Brandon Hawkins picked up the third – and game-winning – goal at 4:33 of the third, and junior forward Austin Plevy tacked on an insurance goal at the 13:29 mark. Jozefek recorded assists on both goals bringing his point total on the night to three, and freshman defenseman Jordan Harris tacked on two apples to add to his impressive season.

Junior forward David Cotton and sophomore forward Aapeli Rasanen each earned a garbage time goal at the end of regulation Cotton’s goal was his 20th.

After today’s games Northeastern now sits tied for 2nd with Providence, the Huskies have more wins than the Friars though. They are up to 11 in the Pairwise.

The regular season will conclude on Friday at Historic Matthews Arena when the Huskies host the New Hampshire Wildcats. Puck drop will be at 7pm.

Huskies end CAA slate with win at Drexel

by Matthew MacCormack

PHILADELPHIA — Drexel scored the opening points in Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Northeastern men’s basketball team. Senior walk-on guard Kevin Doi hit a free-throw less than a minute into the game, and the Dragons led 1-0.

But the lead was short-lived — 64 seconds to be exact. After an early jumper from redshirt junior guard Jordan Roland that put the Huskies up 2-1 at the 18:56 mark in the second half, Northeastern (20-10, 14-4 CAA) never trailed again, cruising to a 90-66 victory at Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Roland (game-high 26 points) led the way, and redshirt senior guard Vasa Pusica (21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) scored his 1,000th point as a Husky. With the win, Northeastern secured a second-straight 20-win season and it’s second consecutive 14-4 finish in conference play.

“Guys kind of knuckled up and got the job done,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.

“It’s been kind of a crazy year with guys getting nicked up and everything but I’m really proud of the group and the way they hung together, particularly on this road trip.”

Senior guard Shawn Occeus (ankle) missed his ninth straight game, and sophomore forward Tomas Murphy (foot) missed his second straight.

Senior forward Anthony Green had 14 points and eight rebounds, and junior forward Bo Brace added six points and eight boards for Northeastern.

Drexel (13-18, 7-11 CAA) got a team-high 19 points and eight assists from freshman guard Cam Wynter. Junior forward Alihan Demir (14 points, 9 rebounds) and senior guard Trevor John (11 points) joined Wynter in double figures on Senior Day.

Roland came out firing, notching 16 of his 26 points in the opening frame, thanks to four first-half threes. The Huskies led by as many as 13 in the opening frame, but the Dragons mounted an 8-0 run to end the half, capped by a 55-foot buzzer beater from freshman guard Coltrane Washington that cut the score to 37-33.

“Our guys were disappointed,” Coen said.

“They felt like they let a comfortable lead go with the last minute and a half [of the first half]…The guys responded really, really well.”

The Huskies took control early in the second half, mounting a 19-0 run that turned a 41-37 lead with 16:45 remaining into a 60-37 advantage with 11:49 to go. Roland started the run with an and-1 layup, and Pusica contributed seven points in the stretch.

Pusica topped 1,000 points with a pair of free throws with 4:17 remaining.

The Huskies had already secured the two-seed in next week’s CAA Tournament. They will play the winner of Saturday’s play-in game between No. 7 Elon and No. 10 UNCW on Sunday at 6:00 p.m in the North Charleston Colosseum. Matt MacCormack, Justin Littman and Michael Petillo will have the call, with pregame coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m.