Men’s Basketball Bests BU in Exhilarating Season Opener

By Milton Posner

When the 2019–20 season ends and the CAA releases its all-conference teams, it’s entirely possible that Jordan Roland’s left hand will make the first team.

Roland is right-handed, not that you could tell from watching Tuesday night’s game. The 6’1” senior guard, who usually feasts on a steady diet of long-distance bombs, spent his 36 minutes of court time taking a carving knife to Boston University’s interior defense.

He used off-ball curl screens and pindowns to get half a step on his defender, put them in jail, and finish over the Terrier big men with lefty layups and floaters from every conceivable angle. His shots hit the rim, lost all momentum, and bounced gently around the cylinder before falling through the net.

“I’ve always been kinda naturally ambidextrous,” he said after the game. “I work on that all the time, trying to finish with both hands. I have a tendency to go left.”

“My grandpa always says I never make [lefty shots],” he laughed. “So I have to give him a call tonight.”

His grandpa won’t have much of a retort. Roland’s midrange exploits yielded 39 points and powered the Northeastern Huskies to a 72–67 win over their crosstown rival, tying the all-time series at 74 wins apiece. Northeastern has won eight of the last eleven meetings.

“We were excited to get out there and play,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “This is a rivalry that goes back to the beginning of time.

“It always comes down to this.”

The first half was frantic. BU took a short lead within the first few minutes and retained it, though they never pulled ahead by more than seven. Sophomore Walter Whyte keyed the run for the Terriers, cooking the Huskies with perimeter shooting, active rebounding, and consuming defense. Sophomore Alex Vilarino was a bouncing ball of energy, jawing at the Northeastern guards on defense and darting to the basket on offense. The two finished with a combined 40 points on 16-for-25 shooting on the night.

Both teams played a bit sloppy to start, fumbling the ball on drives and passes in the way you’d expect in a season opener when the teams are a bit rusty. The small miscues didn’t yield a ton of transition basketball, but, when combined with the close score, they gave the game a sense of urgency. BU took a one-point lead into the halftime break.

Northeastern emerged from the locker room with fresh energy. They gained the lead several minutes into the half and, though the game would see numerous ties, BU never led again.

Roland’s play was consistently spectacular across both halves, but it was particularly apparent in the game’s last ten minutes. He had committed three fouls in 14 seconds and gone to the bench, but Coen quickly inserted him back into the game.

“I was obviously pretty upset with myself,” Roland said. “I just wanted to be able to go sit down and take a second . . . I thought I was gonna have to take a little bit more time on the bench.”

“He just put us on his back and carried us right when we needed him,” Coen remarked. “I couldn’t be more proud of him and the rest of the guys.”

Roland wasn’t the only Husky who played a stellar game. Junior Max Boursiquot chipped in 10 points, four rebounds, and three steals in his first game back after missing last season with a hip injury. But with eight minutes to play in the second half, he took a hard fall and watched the rest of the game from the bench.

“We’ll get him checked out and see how he comes out of it tomorrow morning,” Coen said. “It’s always an anxious moment to get back on the floor and trust your body . . . I thought he [gave] us a really nice spark.”

Tyson Walker was a pleasant surprise for the Huskies in his first college game. After an offensively quiet first half, the six-foot guard spent the second half charging fearlessly to the basket, finishing, and opening up chances for teammates. He finished with 11 points, second on the team after Roland.

“You can see the obvious talent,” Coen gushed. “He’s still adjusting to college basketball . . . when you see him later on in January and February I think you’re gonna be really excited about what he brings to the floor.”

But for all the deserved hype for Roland’s performance, the joy of seeing Boursiquot return after a year sidelined, and the obvious potential of Tyson Walker, the night’s biggest moment went to a player whose six-point effort would otherwise vanish into the box score.

With less than one minute remaining and the game tied at 65, Northeastern looked to separate themselves. They sought Roland, who had maintained his hot hand all night. But the Terriers weren’t about to let Roland beat them, and didn’t give him sufficient room to shoot. So with the game clock showing 35 seconds, and the shot clock nearly exhausted, Bolden Brace nailed a three to give Northeastern a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“Jordan gave it up unselfishly and Bo stepped in confidently,” Coen said. “He’s a guy that’s played on championship teams and knows what this is all about.”

It was hard to know what to make of this team heading into the season. The graduations of Vasa Pusica and Anthony Green were expected, but the premature exits of Donnell Gresham Jr. and Shawn Occeus cast doubt on whether the team could defend its CAA title.

First-game rust notwithstanding, the Huskies made a statement in tonight’s opener. Tyson Walker proved he’s for real. Max Boursiquot proved his mobility and aggressiveness are back. Bolden Brace proved he’s not afraid of the big shots. And Jordan Roland, with each tough shot he hit, proved he belongs in the same sentence as the CAA’s best.

The Huskies take on the Harvard Crimson in their home opener at 8 PM on Friday. Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser will have the call for WRBB.