A matchup between Northeastern and Detroit Mercy a week before Christmas wouldn’t normally stir much national attention. But Thursday evening’s contest had a nationally relevant storyline running right through its heart.
On the Northeastern side was Jordan Roland, the nation’s fourth-leading scorer at 23.8 points per game. On the Detroit side was Antoine Davis, sitting a spot above Roland at 24.1 points per game. Although Davis — who was playing his first game back after catching the flu and dropping 10 pounds — wasn’t expected to play his usual workload, it remained an exciting prospect to see them go head-to-head.
The game turned out to be something else entirely. Roland was quiet the whole game, Davis was loud but inefficient, and the 74–61 win Northeastern pulled out was achieved through other means.
In the first half it was versatile guard/forward Max Boursiquot who keyed the Husky effort. He finished with his second straight 10-point, 10-rebound performance, this time adding four assists and two steals. Almost all of his damage came before the break, as he scored six quick points after figuring out that his defender — 6’6”, 268-pound Justin Miller — couldn’t keep up with him.
Also contributing in the first half was Northeastern grad transfer Guilien Smith, who nailed a pair of threes. After scoring four points combined across his first six games, Smith has logged 12 points over the last two games.
Davis started strong for the Titans, nailing three of his first four shots to keep pace with the Huskies. But he missed his next seven shots, setting the stage for a high-volume, low-efficiency evening. He finished with a game-high 26 points but needed 24 shots to do it. Many of his attempts were awkward shots on the move, tightly contested, or both.
The first half was also marked by physical play, with the teams combining for 23 fouls. A few minutes after the officials reviewed a Max Boursiquot forearm extension and ruled it a common offensive foul, the Titans trapped Jordan Roland on the sideline and forced him to pick up his dribble. With nowhere to go — and possibly frustrated by his offensive struggles — Roland threw his elbow into a defender. The second official review of the half ended with a flagrant foul call.
The Titans played a zone defense for much of the game, and the Husky offense built a double-digit first-half by deliberately picking it apart with crisp passing. Husky forwards, particularly Boursiquot, moved without the ball, sliding into open pockets along the baseline and generating quality shots as their accurate pocket passes collapsed the defense. Northeastern missed a number of contested, rushed shots around the basket, but earned enough chances to open a lead.
But Justin Miller kept the game close. Before Northeastern began double teaming him, Miller earned easy layups by catching the ball on the low block and backing down Boursiquot, who found himself guarding a much larger opponent for the second straight game. He finished with 13 points and six rebounds, most of which came in the first half. His play was the biggest reason why Northeastern’s halftime lead was just four points, and he made the absence of Husky big men Greg Eboigbodin (out for the second straight game) and Tomas Murphy (out since November 16) all the more apparent.
Boursiquot’s journey from focal point to non-factor in the second half coincided perfectly with Bolden Brace journey the opposite way. After scoring just four points in the first half — and six points in Tuesday’s game — Brace came alive in the second, powering the Husky offense with his rediscovered outside shooting touch.
Northeastern’s improved, balanced second-half offense exposed gaping holes in Detroit’s defense. The Titans alternated between a 2–3 zone, a 1–3–1 zone, and man defense, but didn’t look comfortable with any of them. Not only did their exact positioning vary from possession to possession, but several times they set up unusually far from the basket, allowing Northeastern’s cutters to break down the defense with backdoor cuts. This also allowed for a number of effective cross-court passes to perimeter shooters, explaining the Huskies’ improved three-point shooting in the second half. Northeastern’s titanic advantage in assists — 19 to Detroit’s six — indicates the havoc this caused.
The Huskies spent most of the second half with a lead between seven and twelve points. Their biggest dark spot was Roland, who scored just seven points on ten shots. Five of those points came in the game’s closing minutes, after the outcome was apparent and Detroit’s defense was in desperation mode.
The win finalizes Northeastern’s non-conference record at 6–6. During the season’s first six weeks, the team has shown a number of bright spots, including the emergence of Roland as a bona fide star and the improved play of newcomers Eboigbodin and Tyson Walker. But Roland and Brace have each gone cold several times, leaving open the question of who can prop up the offense on their off nights.
The team will have eight days off before they open conference play at Towson on December 28. The day before that game, WRBB will publish a ranking of all 10 CAA teams based on how they fared in non-conference play.