Northeastern Loses CAA Championship

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — Before the swarming zone defense, before the frantic scrambles for offensive rebounds, before the drives and the kickouts and the one-on-one brilliance, Tuesday night’s game was about vengeance.

The Northeastern Huskies knew it better than anybody. Two years ago, after locking up a share of the CAA regular-season title, battling their way to the conference championship, and building a 17-point lead in the second half, the Huskies slowly collapsed as the Charleston Cougars clawed their way to an overtime victory.

The Cougars went to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies went home.

That loss stayed with the Huskies. It fueled them. As they embarked on their 2018–19 season, they focused on a singular goal: returning to the championship game and seizing the moment that had slipped through their fingers. After exacting revenge on Charleston in the semifinal, the Huskies did just that, knocking off the Hofstra Pride, 82–74, to win the March Madness berth they’d dreamed of for a year. It was vengeance, and it felt fantastic.

The Huskies went to the NCAA Tournament. The Pride went home.

But on Tuesday night, in a rematch with the Pride, the Huskies found out what the other end of vengeance feels like. In a remarkably close, ludicrously energetic championship game, the Huskies fell to the Pride, 70–61.

The Pride are going to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are going home.

“It’s tough,” a visibly choked-up Max Boursiquot said after the game. “It’s called March Madness for a reason.”

“That feeling of losing and then coming back the next year and having another opportunity is a special feeling,” Bolden Brace added. “You don’t get that unless you lose . . . They played with an edge and played with that desire to win and I think they deserve it.”

Though Hofstra was coming off blowout wins over Drexel and Delaware, it was Northeastern that struck first, running up an early lead thanks to aggressive drives. Sometimes those drives yielded layups, other times they yielded open threes off the catch for Husky guards who filled to the corner when Hofstra shifted to protect the paint. With his team trailing 10–3, Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich called for time.

While the scoring came more evenly after that, the Huskies continued to earn quality looks. Hofstra famously plays a matchup zone, a combination of zone and man-to-man principles that allows for pressuring ballhandlers on the perimeter without the draining effort of man defense. The Huskies, who struggled against zone defenses in their other CAA Tournament games against Towson and Elon, countered by repeatedly entering the ball to small-ball center Max Boursiquot near the foul line, warping the zone and freeing up cutting and kickout opportunities. The Huskies’ threes were finally falling, they hustled to every rebound and loose ball, and held the Pride at bay.

But the squad with the best regular-season record couldn’t be subdued indefinitely, and when Husky point guard Tyson Walker aggravated a left shoulder injury and went to the bench, the Pride seized the momentum and sent their fans into a frenzy. Walker returned but struggled, finishing with just four points.

“When he started the second half he just didn’t look right to me, just didn’t look his normal competitive self,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen noted. “I gotta give him a world of credit just for going out there and trying. His competitiveness, his grit and determination, and his toughness are really admirable . . . that was a physical game and he put himself out there and put himself on the line for the team and the program.”

After a few minutes of hanging around and trading buckets, Hofstra finally drew even. Three Jalen Ray free throws were bookended by two eerily similar sequences in which a Hofstra guard drove into the paint and had a layup blocked, only for his teammates to secure the rebound and nail a three as the shot clock ran down. The upshot of these three mediocre possessions: nine points.

Guilien Smith, not to be outdone, let the Pride have the lead for all of 18 seconds.

By this point the energy in the building was palpable. Each team sensed the audible footsteps of the other and the gradual ticking of the clock, and boosted their energy accordingly. It didn’t matter that their workload — three playoff games in three days — was unprecedented in their schedules this season; they played like their jerseys had been set ablaze.

“The way we summoned that energy was just playing together and using each other and feeding off each other’s energy,” Brace said. “When somebody was down, I think there was always someone there to pick them up, and I think that just goes to show you how good of a team we were this year.”

A turnaround jumper from Shaq Walters afforded the Huskies a two-point halftime edge, far narrower than their double-digit halftime margins in their last two games. But that was the only real constant for much of the game: neither team could free itself from the other. For a 23-minute stretch spanning both halves, neither team built a lead greater than five points.

There was plenty for the Huskies to be happy about at the break. Boursiquot, Walters, and Brace all had at least five points and three rebounds, and all of them were shooting efficiently. On the opposite side of the box score, Eli Pemberton decidedly wasn’t; he’d missed eight of his 11 shots amid excellent pressure from Walters and Smith.

But there were also deficiencies that allowed the Pride to close the gap. Roland, the conference’s leading scorer, had shot the ball just three times. Hofstra pulled down six more offensive rebounds than Northeastern and netted 10 second-chance points to the Huskies’ none. Isaac Kante, the lone man in the middle on a team built around guards, snatched 10 rebounds.

The second half began with promise, as Brace knocked down a catch-and-shoot three from the corner. Brace often played with hesitation this season, opting for ball fakes, halfhearted drives, and slow-moving handoffs instead of relying on his elite perimeter shooting. That version of him completely vanished in the CAA Tournament, as he performed with the conviction, determination, and leadership of a senior who didn’t want to play his last college game.

Desure Buie didn’t want to play his last game either. While his scoring buoyed the Pride all night, it was his passing that turned heads, excited fans, and catalyzed the Hofstra run. He began with a quick first step around Walker, which forced Walters to help off Pemberton. Without looking, Buie wrapped a magnificent bounce pass around his head to a now-wide open Pemberton in the corner, who finished off the play to retake the lead.

Just seconds later, Buie snuck up behind Boursiquot and jabbed the ball loose. On the ensuing two-on-one, Walters planned his chase-down block, timing his approach and jump to meet Buie at the rim. But with the level of grace and smarts Buie has shown this year, he wasn’t about to be on anyone’s highlight reel. Instead he added to his own and forced Coen to call timeout.

The Pride looked poised to pull away and the Huskies needed an energy boost. And did Max Boursiquot ever respond.

Boursiquot has been anything and everything the Huskies needed to turn around a season marked by an unrealistic number of close, disappointing losses. He provides shooting, passing, positional versatility, perimeter and post defense, rebounding, and, most importantly, energy. He treats every rebound and loose ball as if it’s his birthright.

Right out of the timeout, Boursiquot, under duress, threw a picture-perfect cross-court pass to Roland for a triple. When Roland missed a three the next trip down, Boursiquot bodied Kante — who outweighs him by about 30 pounds — to snatch the rebound, received a pass at the top of the arc, and beat Kante with a right-to-left crossover and first step so quick that he seemed to teleport from the perimeter to the block. Even when he stumbled and lost the ball on a drive, Boursiquot grabbed it from Kante and threw a spot-on pass to a teammate — all while sitting on the floor.

When Boursiquot’s offense forced Mihalich to call timeout, his message to Kante in the huddle was simple: we need to defend Max Boursiquot because he’s killing us.

That said, Kante had his way offensively with Boursiquot on a handful of possessions. Kante would establish deep position, earning himself either an easy layup off a feed or an offensive rebound when a perimeter shot clanged off the iron. Though Boursiquot enjoyed slightly greater success when fronting Kante to deny him the ball, the Pride forward still posted a preposterous nine points and 15 rebounds. He had as many offensive rebounds (six) as the entire Northeastern team.

But it was not Kante that governed play down the stretch. It was Buie.

Buie had an admirable campaign a year ago, but was considered the third offensive option behind Pemberton and two-time CAA Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman. After Boursiquot and Roland each picked up their fourth foul and headed to the bench with 5:23 to play, and with Hofstra’s other top scorers — Pemberton and Jalen Ray — not shooting efficiently, Buie seized his moment.

He began with a tough, drifting, pullup long two, a difficult shot with low value. He made it anyway. As Northeastern’s offense sputtered amid suffocating on-ball pressure from the Pride, Buie stretched the lead to nine with a quick drive, a pump fake to get Guilien Smith in the air, and a strong finish through contact.

With less than two minutes left and the shot clock ticking down on a stagnant Hofstra possession, Buie sized up a top-notch defender in Guilien Smith, threw him a few crossovers, and fired up a contested three when the dribbles failed to earn him a sliver of separation.

Buie wound up on the floor. The ball wound up in the bucket.

Despite Roland’s impressive drifting three a short while later, Buie’s bucket proved the dagger. The Huskies’ second-half fouling had put the Pride in the double bonus, so the Huskies couldn’t get lucky with the Pride missing the front end of one-and-ones. They could only watch as the Pride made every one of their free throws.

The Pride had their first March Madness berth since 2001. They also had their revenge.

“It is awfully sweet,” Mihalich said after the on-court celebration, his undone blue tie still hanging from his neck. “Not just because we won. It’s something to be really proud of. We beat a bunch of champions. The championship went through them.”

“This feeling is everything,” Ray said. “This has been our mission since day one . . . this time we completed our mission.”

“We came up about 20 minutes short,” Coen said. “I thought we played a really strong first half, very competitive game overall, and these guys played their hearts out. But in the end I thought it was a little bit too much Desure Buie.”

With 19 seconds to play and the outcome no longer in doubt, both coaches opted for a platoon swap. While the Hofstra players enjoyed the applause, cheers, and adulation of a jubilant fan section, the Huskies filed off the court and into the waiting embrace of Bill Coen. The moment was especially poignant for Brace, Roland, and Smith, who ended their college careers on a brutal loss.

“I thanked those guys for their unwavering commitment to Northeastern University, to this program, all their hard work and dedication,” Coen said, his voice breaking a bit. “So much goes unseen — the long days in the weight room, long days of training, hours of practice, hours of individual time, hours of watching tape. It’s a commitment, and that group was a special group.

“Bo has played in three CAA Championship games in his four years; he’s made an incredible mark on this program. Jordan has made an incredible mark on this program. And I think if you asked every player on our team, maybe the favorite teammate in the locker room is Guilien Smith. In a short time he’s made an incredible impact in terms of relationships, and ultimately that’s what this whole experience is all about.

“You’d love to win championships each and every year, but . . . what lasts is the mutual respect that you earn by giving your best. And when you do that, whether you win or lose, nobody can take that from you for the rest of your life. These guys will share a bond because they know they gave it up for each other, and that’s the real championship in my mind.”

Men’s Basketball Media Day

By Milton Posner

The CAA Tournament is a funny thing.

Save for the top six teams receiving a first-round bye — which Northeastern has — there isn’t much advantage in being a one seed instead of a six seed. This is especially true this season, in which the league’s almost ludicrous parity limits the matchup advantages higher seeds would normally enjoy.

With just a few days left before the Huskies depart for Washington D.C., WRBB Sports caught up with them during their Wednesday practice at Northeastern University’s Cabot Center to talk about their quarterfinal matchup, their preparation, and the mental challenges of a conference tournament.

Head Coach Bill Coen

What’s the prognosis [on Tyson Walker]?

He’s working hard with our trainers. We’re hopeful he can he can give us something, but nothing’s been decided yet. Obviously he’s an elite competitor, he wants to get out there and help the team. But right now he hasn’t practiced yet, hasn’t been cleared to practice five on five yet, so it’s going to be day to day for him and probably a game-time decision.

Is he practicing today?

He’ll be conditioning and doing everything you could do, everything short of playing basketball.

So what do you do to try to flood the hole with that? Who has to step up?

Shaquille Walters finished the [Drexel] game, played really, really well on the ball. Then he had a terrific game against JMU, played the point against Towson last game, played 35 minutes on the ball and had nine assists and one turnover. So he’s done an unbelievable job in Tyson’s absence. We’ll need another great supporting effort from Shaq, I’m sure.

What went into the decision to have Shaq slide in for Tyson at the point?

He’s played there all year long, since really the beginning of the season. Part of our system [is] we like guys that play multiple positions. We try to rotate around — whether it’s developing our offense or defense — we’ll move guys around. Right from the beginning he played some point guard. He has a natural ability because of his size and length, the way we play in a ball-screen motion offense. He’s able to make passes with both hands, handle the ball, and get into the lane. So he’s gotten better and better at it and I think you’ve seen that over the last couple games. But still, you have to give him credit for his mental toughness to be able to step up in that type of situation and really try to help the team.

And for Guilien who’s slid into the starting lineup for Tyson, how does his defense and offense compare to what Tyson brings to the table?

Completely different player than Tyson. But he’s a very good on-ball defender, gives you some athleticism and some rebounding and has shown the ability to make shots. He’s gonna have to play at a high level in order for us to be successful. He’s a mature kid, a fifth-year student athlete. He’s played a lot of college basketball, so I know where his heart is and what he’d like to do. If we’re going to be successful, it’ll come down to some of his contributions.

How does your team change depending on whether Tyson plays?

With two different point guards you get two different styles of play. Shaq has shown the ability in the half court to run offense and make passes. Tyson can be more of an open-court player; he’s got a little bit more quickness where he can get to the rim and penetrate and draw some fouls. Hopefully, we’ll have both those guys available and that’ll give us a nice little option.

How is the health overall of the team? How many cylinders are you firing on?

I think everybody this time of year is . . . a little banged up, a little sore but really, really excited because it’s March and if you’re a college basketball player or college basketball fan, you know what that month means. Our guys are excited to get out there and compete. It’s kind of the third portion of the season where you’re out there you’re in one-and-done territory. So the urgency is at the utmost high and they’re excited to get ready and get down to D.C.

What kind of a challenge does Towson bring to you guys? What do you guys have to do well in order to beat them?

They’re playing almost as well as anybody in the country. They’ve been on kind of a hot streak since we played them the first time back in late December. They’re a team that’s built on aggressive defense and rebounding. What’s really allowed them to have great success during CAA play is that their offense is highly efficient, both from the free-throw line and from the three-point line. When you marry that type of offense with great defense and rebounding, you’ve got a pretty good club.

Did you learn much from the last game?

You’re certainly in the neighborhood, but you’ve got to finish the game a little bit better. We had maybe a five-point lead with about six minutes to go. We’ve got to do a better job of keeping them off the foul line. I thought we gave them too many easy points and ultimately that was the difference in the game. They outscored us by nine at the line. So we’ve got to be a little bit more disciplined there and try to keep them off the line.

Why do you think you guys are so highly considered in this tournament? You’re a six seed but the oddsmakers are saying you’ve got a good shot here.

We’ve played competitively all year long. I think each and every team and each and every game we’ve been competitive. Out of 18 league games, we’ve had one game where it was kind of lopsided. In one-possession games, everything comes down to maybe just get one possession better and that’s what we’re trying to do this week is to improve in those areas.

So playoffs now — what do you tell your guys?

They know that. It’s not too much explaining for me to do. It comes down to execution in the moment. As John Wooden would say, “You have to be best when your best is required.” That’s what makes March so special; guys step up and you get some magical moments when guys really live out their dreams in this type of environment under this type of spotlight.

Have you ever seen a team lose so many close games and at the same time keep showing up?

I think it speaks to the resiliency of this group. Certainly there’s a level of frustration. We’ve been in more close games and had opportunities to win and opportunities to reverse the fortunes of the season, but this group is coming to practice each and every day. That keep believing in themselves and keep trusting in the system and in the coaching staff. We’re hoping that resiliency will bear fruit in the tournament down in DC.

Who are one or two guys that you’ve seen the most improvement from over the course of the season?

One guy we talked a lot about is Shaquille Walters. He’s a guy who had shooting struggles early on and was more of a defensive-minded guy, now he’s proven at the end of the year with a lot of his hard work that he’s a more-than-capable point guard. He’s able to make plays, makes his free throws, and has learned to attack the basket a little bit more and create some offense for us that way. So I think he’s made the biggest improvement over the course of the year.

You have a few guys from last year’s team in leadership positions. How helpful will they be [in the tournament]?

You’re going to need that leadership and that tournament experience. It’s an emotional time. You have to stay ready; the preparation time is very, very quick in between games. And just keeping the guys focused and keep everybody in it. We need that voice in the locker room and we have a couple of guys who have been on championship teams and played in that environment. That should help us.

Are there any Towson players that you’re particularly looking to key in on after Sunday’s game?

They have a very balanced attack right now, but I think Brian Fobbs and Allen Betrand are the two guys who have been most consistent throughout the year. Freshman [Jason] Gibson played really well against us, had a very efficient game. So, not so much keying in on, but you have to know everybody’s tendencies and take try to take the best part of their game away from them. And that’s hard to do against a talented group like Towson.

Is there a sense that if you guys could just win one of these close games, it would be a breakthrough that would get you going?

I thought we did that kind of towards the end the year. We had some terrific outings against Charleston both times. We played well down the stretch, had one very competitive game down at Drexel, and they’ve been great at home. We’ve been close.

Unfortunately, foul trouble put us in a position where we couldn’t finish the game. We’ve just got to be better in certain areas. It’s not always that; sometimes it comes down to making a shot, sometimes it’s getting rebounds, sometimes it’s making a smarter play, better execution. But we have to find a way to be one or two possessions better and then we’ll be right in the mix.

When teams key in on Jordan, what do you have to do?

You’ve seen that all year long. Teams will try to take him out of what he does. He’s hard to deal with because he’s a prolific scorer. Two things have to happen. He’s got to kind of give himself up a little bit and pick his spots and not feel rushed at the end of the game that he’s got to do it all by himself. And then somebody else has to step up and help carry the load.

So I think we’ve been much better at that as of late; we’ve had a more balanced scoring attack, and Jordan’s been better in terms of understanding he can be a little bit more of a playmaker and pick the spots where he’s most aggressive.

What’s it going to be like playing in this new venue?

It’s supposed to be a beautiful venue. I’ve never been in it, but it’s an NBA arena. The G League team from the [Washington] Wizards plays there. It’s fairly new so it’s going to be a first-class arena and I know our guys are excited going down in that area. I think having a tournament down in D.C. gives — at least for a northern school — more of a chance for our fans and alums and students to get there. It’s a little bit more accessible than some of the other venues we’ve competed at. So we’re hoping people come out and support the team.

Bolden Brace

How do you think your experience will help you and the team heading into this tournament?

Personally, I think I feel a lot more comfortable than some of these guys who haven’t been here. Jordan and I both — as well as some other guys — won it. We also know the feeling of losing as we did like against Charleston two years ago. But having experience kind of just calms you. You can think back on that and use that to your advantage.

It’s amazing to look back at the schedule and all the close games, all the close losses, and you guys keep putting yourselves in that situation. Where do you fall whether to take more bad out of it or more optimism?

I think that the theme this year has been trying to learn from our losses, try to learn as much as we can, try to get better from that. But the fact that we’re in with every team and we have a chance is good, and we can beat anyone. The three-day tournament is awesome, because it’s hard. If you win, it’s one of the most amazing feelings ever. So just knowing that we can stay with any team, we’ll have a chance. We’ve just got to prepare and be ready.

What are some takeaways from the game you just played against Towson that you could use for this Sunday’s game?

The offense that they run isn’t really that difficult. In terms of a scouting perspective, they just play really hard and they’re athletic, and they rebound. So just knowing that we know what they’re going to do and better preparing ourselves on the scout perspective is going to be big. And just fighting on the glass and playing as hard as we can knowing it could be our last game.

And what’s been the difference just from your standpoint with Shaq running the offense versus Tyson?

They’re different players. They both bring different things to the table, and Shaq’s been playing really well at the point. He can pass well. I think he if he can keep doing that, we the guys around him just have to play better and help him succeed.

But Tyson’s great, hopefully we can get him back. He brings another dimension to our offense and scoring, passing, and just doing a bunch of little things. So no matter who we have, we just got to do our best and work together as best we can.

You get to the doldrums of February, then all of a sudden you’ve got to turn it on. It must get you rejuvenated.

Yeah, Coach always says there’s three parts of the season: the non-conference, the conference, and the conference tournament. It seems like every year the conference goes by super fast; non-conference goes pretty slow, but once we’re done it seems like it went fast. And then the conference tournament is just a whole new beast.

Some guys have never been here before and preparing for that three days in a row is tough. But I think just knowing what we’re getting ourselves into and knowing that we can stay in the game with anyone and hopefully beat anyone is going to be big for that.

How have you viewed your role this year, your leadership position?

I think of my role this year as a little bit similar to last year. I think going into the season, Coach told me that I’d have to have a little bit more aggressive offensively and keep trying to play well defensively, guard some of the best four men in the league.

It’s taken me a while to kind of assert myself offensively; I haven’t played that style since high school. Last year we had great passers like Vasa and a bunch of guys who could do different things, and we all worked together well last year. So this has kind of been about figuring it out as we go. And I think right now, I’m playing with more confidence than I have all season just knowing my role and trusting the guys around me. I’m ready. I’m ready to get it going.

You had an uptick in the number of shots you were taking as conference play went on. Was that confidence?

Yeah. Coach was telling me to shoot the whole time but I had to remind myself throughout the game: do the little things — rebound, defense — and the shots will come. And that’s kind of how I’ve been trying to provide for the team this year. It’s kind of hard for me to always remember to shoot but once my shot gets going, I forget about it and just play my game.

Have you had to play bigger this year because of injuries to big men?

Max has done a great job down low. He kind of took away some of that pressure that we felt earlier when we lost Tom. And Greg’s played well. I definitely have tried to rebound more in terms of playing big and guarding other teams’ big men. But the way our offense works, I don’t really feel like I’ve had to play bigger defensively.

Jordan Roland

Sometimes when defenses set up stop you, you have to change your game and make the other players around you better.

I think that’s definitely something I have to work on, passing the ball to put the other guys in a situation where they could be successful. But it’s something I’ve been running into all year. It’s a constant adjustment. Especially going to tournament time this will be the third time that we’ve seen teams, so going in and knowing what their scheme will be [is important] and I’m trying to make that adjustment for those guys.

You got off to a great start, teams started reacting. How did you learn to adapt to the defenses that you saw?

I came on the scene pretty quickly. Just a matter of trying to keep my composure. I was getting a lot of attention, and just like I was saying earlier, I’m just trying to make those adjustments. Try to figure out what kind of looks teams are going to give me before the game. The biggest thing is trying to keep my composure.

What’s the excitement of tournament time been like?

This is the best time of the year for almost all sports. I feel like the brackets are super fun, especially us getting to be a part of last year, winning the championship. So we kind of have a taste of what that feels like. I think that experience will definitely help us. Me, Bo, and a bunch of guys have been in this situation already. It’s a super fun time for sure.

It is weird playing a team in the first round of the tournament that you played so recently? Is it an advantage?

Yeah, it’s definitely kind of weird, I don’t think a lot of teams are in the situation where they’re playing the team that that they just played. But I don’t think it’s necessarily an advantage or disadvantage. Whoever we play we would have played twice already. So it’s definitely a weird coincidence, but I don’t I don’t really look at it any different.

How was it for you against Towson’s defense on Sunday, and how do you think that factors into the game plan for this Sunday?

They’re a good defensive team with how they how they attack you off the ball screens and everything. They’re a team that you’ve got to be able to move the ball against and we have a whole week to prepare in practice, so we’ll definitely be ready for them.

How much do you think your experience will help you?

I think it’ll be huge. I think experience is huge in college basketball. Senior teams are usually the teams that do well. We don’t necessarily have a lot of seniors, but we have a lot of guys who have been around. Max played in the conference championship two years ago. Bo has won a conference championship, as I have. Shaq has been around in college basketball for three years. So I think experiences is one of the biggest examples, it’ll definitely be able to help us.

Your record wasn’t what you would have hoped, but you were [close] in every game. Do you think there’s a lot of respect for your team heading into this tournament?

I would think so. I’m not sure what other teams are thinking about us. But I don’t think that really matters. I think we’re really confident that we can beat any team in this league. I think that we’ve shown that. I think any team that we haven’t beat we’ve been within one possession and if you can play with a team you can beat them. So even though we’re a six seed I think we’re going in with the mindset that we have as good a chance as anybody to win the whole thing.

Last year the pressure was all on you guys. This year you’re a little bit of an underdog. Do you feel that makes things a little bit easier?

I wouldn’t say it makes anything easier or harder. It’s definitely a different situation. Last year I feel like we were in a situation where the tournament was kind of ours to lose. I think the league is also so much more open this year. I think we have as good a chance as anybody, but there’s seven or eight teams that are thinking the same thing. You’ve got to win three games in three days regardless of what your mindset is, so I’ve just got to be ready to play every day.

How do you guys manage your energy and the fatigue of playing three games in three days?

Just trying to be smart with this week. You don’t want to go too hard but you want to make sure you’re in shape. These guys have been there before. The biggest thing, I think, is the quick turnarounds and just getting ready, coming off of the game and going through scout the next morning and just getting the game plan in a short time, more than the fatigue.

Men’s Basketball Tumbles Against Towson

By Milton Posner

BOSTON — Playing the Towson Tigers is like fighting an actual tiger. They’re fierce, they’re territorial, and the longer you’re locked in with them the more fatigued you get.

So if you’re the Northeastern Huskies, and you have an extra day to prep for a Sunday showdown with Pat Skerry’s squad, you know exactly what kind of foe lies in wait. Any hope of topping them depends on mustering enough rebounding and physical play to beat a team that, per their account of their Thursday win over first-place Hofstra, “cleaned the glass better than Windex.”

But despite an even rebounding battle, Jordan Roland’s usual scoring heroics, and a scintillating show from a stand-in point guard, the Huskies fell just short, falling to Towson, 75–72, in their last regular-season game.

The Huskies’ prize? Another bout with Towson. While Northeastern (15–15, 9–9 CAA) would have finished sixth regardless of Sunday’s result, the Husky loss ensured that Towson (19–12, 12–6 CAA) finished third, setting up a rematch this coming Sunday at 8:30 PM EST in the CAA quarterfinal. WRBB will have live coverage of that game from the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington D.C., with Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner on the call.

“We’re going to be more familiar,” Roland remarked on the impending rematch. “We’ve got a whole week to scheme for them.”

While Sunday’s game was by no means critical for either club since both had already clinched first-round byes, it is perhaps more instructive as a preview of their win-or-go-home quarterfinal matchup next week. While the Huskies’ persistent defensive pressure did silence the Tigers, 61–45, in the teams’ first meeting in December, both teams have evolved plenty since then.

So what does Sunday’s game tell us?

First, and most importantly, the Huskies need to improve their defense and inside play. The problem is not rebounding, as the Huskies hung with the self-proclaimed “glass act” all game and even doubled up the Tigers in second-chance points.

The problem is one of fouls. The fouling pattern closely mirrored that of the Huskies’ dogfight with Drexel last Saturday, in which neither team entered the bonus in the first half, but both teams found the double bonus in the second as the game grew more physical. But this time Northeastern was on the wrong end, putting Towson in the double bonus with more than six minutes to play.

The foul disparity did two things. First, it gave Towson — the CAA’s best free-throw-shooting team in conference play at 81 percent — 23 tries from the charity stripe. They converted 18 of those tries, earning nine more points at the line than Northeastern.

But just as essential was its effect on Northeastern’s rotation. While no Towson player accumulated more than three fouls, multiple Huskies did. Chief among them was Max Boursiquot, who fouled out after jostling nonstop with Towson’s towering frontcourt. Northeastern had lost its defensive stopper.

“When you’re in foul trouble you tend to be a little more tentative on the defensive end, a little bit softer,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen observed. “The next time we play, the emphasis will be on playing defense without fouling. We’ve got to make sure we keep them off the line.”

On a much brighter note for the Huskies: Shaquille Walters. When Tyson Walker injured his left shoulder last week against Drexel, it wasn’t immediately apparent who would fill his shoes. Roland’s ballhandling and driving prowess would suggest him, but he already dominates the ball with Walker in the lineup, and giving him more touches could take other players out of the offense and allow the defense to gear up on Roland. Myles Franklin usually runs point when he plays, but can’t punish defenses the way the Husky starting guards can. Guilien Smith drives occasionally, but hasn’t proved that he can run point for the Huskies.

And so Walters, the lanky 6’6” junior forward, took the wheel. Though his 15-point, six-assist showing on Thursday was excellent, it was difficult to know how much stock to put in it given that it came against James Madison’s league-worst defense.

But against one of the best defensive teams in the conference, the newly minted point guard didn’t blink. He posted 12 points, four rebounds, and a career-high nine assists courtesy of outstanding passing patience, discipline, awareness, and accuracy. He has 15 assists in his two games running the offense and has turned the ball over just twice.

“Adversity hits everybody . . . injuries happen. Some people just have a way of responding to that, and I think he’s responded in a big, big way,” Coen said. “His effort this afternoon was just terrific. He’s playing a little bit out of position [but] really controlled the game. [He had a] little bit of foul trouble — my staff was telling me to take him out, but I had to leave him in, he was just playing too well.”

Walters’ steadying presence will likely serve the Huskies well next week — especially if Walker, who Coen described as day-to-day, is unavailable — but neither his offensive contributions, nor Jordan Roland’s 25 points, nor the 14 apiece that Brace and Boursiquot contributed, could account for Towson’s strengths.

There was Brian Fobbs, who rebounded from an invisible performance against the Huskies in December to drop 18 points. There was freshman guard Jason Gibson, who notched 18 points of his own on just eight shots as the Huskies consistently left him alone from behind the arc. There was Dennis Tunstall, who obliterated several Husky shots in the paint. There was Charles Thompson, who threw down two one-handed dunks to swing the momentum Towson’s way in the first half, then took a charge on Roland and screamed with such intensity that his neck veins were visible from the media center.

The upshot was Northeastern’s sixth one-possession conference loss, and their eighth by five points or fewer.

The game was also the final home game for seniors Jordan Roland, Bolden Brace, and Guilien Smith, all of whom were honored at midcourt before the game. Smith, who transferred from Dartmouth for his final season, professed appreciation for the group’s quick acceptance of him at a time when he didn’t know many people. Brace and Roland identified last year’s CAA Championship as a favorite moment.

“I was sitting out the year that they lost to Charleston in the CAA final,” Roland said. “Being able to come back after a hard loss and contribute to that was really special for me.”

“I was very, very fortunate that they, at one time, took a chance on this program,” Coen said. “Their families trusted us to give them the experience not only of playing basketball, but trying to become better men, good people, and good students.”

Coen was also optimistic that the week between now and the rematch with Towson — which coincides with Northeastern’s spring break — will benefit his squad.

“It allows you to invest a little bit more time in your rehab, your rest, your recovery, fine tuning, individual meetings along with practice. Nobody’s under the dual obligation of being a student and an athlete. Now you can be more athlete than student.

“It’s a long week; it’s an exciting week. It’s a complete restart for every team in the league. Whether you finish first or last, everybody has a chance.”

Men’s Basketball Jackhammers JMU

By Michael Petillo

BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies defended home court on Thursday night, defeating James Madison 77–57 to secure a first-round bye in next week’s CAA tournament. Graduate transfer Guilien Smith led the Huskies with 20 points and Shaquille Walters dropped in 15 points to go along with six assists.

Northeastern (15–14, 9–8 CAA) jumped out to an early lead thanks to three early three-pointers by Smith and used a balanced scoring effort to stretch the advantage to 20. The second half was more even, but JMU never mounted a significant run.

The contributions of Smith and Walters were particularly valuable to due to the absence of starting point guard Tyson Walker, who is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder during Saturday’s game against Drexel. In his stead, Smith stepped into the starting lineup and played a season-high 36 minutes, nailing five threes and playing his signature lockdown defense.

“It felt great to get that first one to go and from there I was just feeling it,” Smith said.

Walters assumed most of the ballhandling duties with Walker sidelined. He comfortably handled JMU’s pressure and got Northeastern into their halfcourt offense throughout the game. 

 “He had to be the primary ball-handler out there tonight,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said of Walters. “He had really great court composure and was able to quarterback the offense.”

In addition to overcoming Walker’s injury, the play of Walters and Smith allowed Northeastern to secure a win despite an uncharacteristic off night for Jordan Roland. Normally the Huskies’ leading scorer, Roland managed only 11 points amid stifling JMU defense.

The win gives Northeastern a two-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s regular season finale against Towson, who knocked off CAA-leading Hofstra on Thursday night. Coverage begins at 3:45 PM EST with Milton Posner and Alex Bensley on the call.

Men’s Basketball Falls to Tribe on Knight’s Game-Winner

By Matt Neiser

BOSTON — Entering Saturday’s games, three CAA men’s basketball teams boasted undefeated records. Two of those teams, Northeastern and Charleston, were of no surprise to most CAA followers. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who predicted the third team would be where they are.

The William & Mary Tribe, with long-time head coach Tony Shaver freshly fired and four of five starters from last year transferring, were projected to finish seventh in the conference in the preseason coaches and media poll. After an impressive non-conference run and a 2–0 start to the CAA slate — including a 27-point destruction of preseason-favorite Hofstra — no one is picking them that low anymore.

Northeastern looked to leave a black mark on that résumé while adding to their own as the two teams faced off in Matthews Arena Saturday evening. In a back-and-forth affair that came right down to the final possession, the Huskies — and Tyson Walker’s last-second half court heave — came up just short as the Tribe came away with their second-straight statement win over a conference heavyweight.

After a quick William & Mary (11–5, 3–0 CAA) burst to begin the game, Northeastern (9–7, 3–1 CAA) found their groove and evened the game at nine points apiece heading into the first media timeout. This theme would persist for most of the first half, with the two sides trading runs. Trailing 21–15 a little over halfway through the first frame, the Huskies went on a 12–0 scoring spree to take a six-point lead.

Not to be outdone, the Tribe answered with their own 12–0 burst to close the half, spurred by seven points from seven-foot Wisconsin transfer Andy Van Vliet. While Van Vliet scored 11 points in the first half, his partner-in-crime on the low block — reigning All-CAA First Teamer Nathan Knight — was relatively quiet, scoring just six points on two-for-five shooting.

Why did Knight struggle, you may ask? Two words: Max Boursiquot. The 6’5”, 210-pound redshirt junior gave up five inches and 25 pounds to Knight, but more than matched the star forward’s strength. Boursiquot battled on the block all half, keeping Knight in check and drawing a pair of fouls that kept Knight on the bench for the final 5:32 of the frame. He got it done offensively as well, pouring in a team-high eight points in the first half.

Husky head coach Bill Coen praised Boursiquot’s play, saying, “Max is a strong, aggressive kid. He’s got a low center of gravity and he’s a competitor. He’s not afraid to stick his nose in there, he’s not afraid of contact. I thought he did an admirable job on him. It’s a tall task; Nathan Knight could start for a lot of Power Five teams.”

The teams continued their tug-of-war in the second half, with William & Mary taking advantage of their slight head start to keep Northeastern at bay. A 14–2 Tribe run boosted their lead to 14 points, threatening to blow the game wide open as they did against Hofstra.

Jordan Roland was struggling from the field and had just seven points, and it looked like the Huskies were out of answers. Coen pulled Roland in favor of grad transfer Guilien Smith, who has played sparingly this season.

“Guilien is an outstanding teammate. He’s one of the most well-liked guys in our locker room, provides great energy every day in practice,” Coen said of his decision. “We were a little flat. Nothing against Jordan, but [Guilien plays] his position and I felt like we needed a spark, we needed to change the energy on the floor.”

The move paid off, and the Huskies went on a 21–7 run over the next eight minutes to tie the game at 64. The largest contributor was Shaquille Walters, who scored 12 of those 21 points, including an and-one layup with 13 seconds left to even the score and send Matthews Arena into a frenzy.

After running the clock down to five seconds and taking a timeout, William & Mary gave the ball to Nathan Knight looking for the game-winner. After losing the ball on a drive to the hoop, Knight regained control, rose up, and nailed a tough, contested layup to take the lead with just over a second left.

Northeastern had to inbound the ball from full court, and Walker’s 65-foot heave hit both the front and back of the rim, but wouldn’t fall as the Tribe escaped with the 66–64 victory.

Walters and Bolden Brace scored 15 points each to lead the Huskies, combining for 14 rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Roland tied his season low with seven points (3–14 FG, 1–5 3FG) and, for the first time all season, ceded his position as the CAA’s top scorer. He now trails Charleston’s Grant Riller, who scored 31 points against James Madison on Saturday and is averaging 26 points across four conference games.

Knight recorded his nation-leading 12th double-double, finishing with 23 points and 11 boards to lead all players in both categories. Van Vliet chipped in 15 points and six rebounds of his own.

“It’s tough to say that you’re happy when they shoot 55 percent from the floor, but we generated 17 turnovers and we had to be in a scramble mode because they had such a size advantage on us,” Coen said. “We had to give help in the post, so we were constantly rotating. Those situations either generated turnovers and runouts for us or baskets for them. They shot the ball well from three, their high–low post attack is very effective, and Nathan Knight’s a special player. He’s without a doubt one of the top five players in our league.”

The Huskies will face more stiff competition when they play the Hofstra Pride on Thursday. WRBB will call the game, with coverage beginning at 7:45 PM EST.

Men’s Basketball Tops Detroit Mercy to End Conference Play

By Milton Posner

Photo by Sarah Olender

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.

Men’s Basketball Falls to Eastern Michigan

By Milton Posner

Photo by Sarah Olender

Anyone who glanced at a pre-game matchup sheet could hazard a guess at how Tuesday evening’s game would go. Northeastern, which entered the game fifth in the nation in three-point percentage, would rely on outside shooting. Eastern Michigan, which entered ranked ninth in the nation in scoring defense, would use their height and length advantage to pressure the Huskies inside.

Those assumptions bore out on the court in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with Eastern Michigan (9–1) outlasting Northeastern (5–6) and escaping with a 60–55 victory. It was the Huskies’ second straight loss and the second time this season they’ve fallen below .500.

Though the Eagles were paced by double-digit scoring efforts from Noah Morgan (19), Yeikson Montero (10), and Ty Groce (10), their biggest advantage was seven-footer Boubacar Toure, whose seven-point, six-rebound, two-block stat line underscores his impact. He established himself defensively from the opening tip, pressuring Northeastern’s inside shots and forcing them to attempt more and more threes as the game progressed.

Northeastern’s ability to counter Toure was diminished, with big men Greg Eboigbodin (6’10”) and Tomas Murphy (6’8”) sitting out. Murphy, usually good for 10 points and versatile midrange play, injured his ankle and hasn’t played since November 16 against Old Dominion.

The task of guarding Toure fell to Max Boursiquot, who, despite his inarguable defensive strength and versatility, is seven inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than the Senegalese center. The disparity was never more apparent than when Toure snatched an offensive rebound and dunked, seemingly unbothered by three Huskies surrounding him with their arms raised.

This mismatch contributed to a noticeable disparity in play styles between the squads. Eastern Michigan pushed the ball inside and rebounded their misses, while Northeastern passed around the perimeter to earn open threes. The Eagles encouraged this by playing a 2–3 zone, shutting off interior passing lanes and keeping the Huskies out of the paint.

Eventually Northeastern started rebounding their own misses, earning a number of easy kickouts to the perimeter. Guilien Smith hit back-to-back threes, then Myles Franklin nailed another after Toure’s massive block on Roland sent the ball caroming off the glass and out to the three-point line.

Northeastern led 17–13 with 11:54 remaining. They wouldn’t score for almost eight minutes, as Eastern Michigan interior defense held strong and Northeastern went cold from downtown. Behind Montero’s multiple buckets, the Eagles scored ten unanswered points during that stretch to take a six-point lead. A steady Northeastern comeback briefly tied the game before an Eastern Michigan basket gave them a 31–29 halftime lead.

Northeastern was shooting 43 percent from outside the arc, but just 23 percent from inside it. They closed the rebounding gap against the larger Eagles, though their increased aggressiveness resulted in 10 fouls and 13 Eastern Michigan free throws in the first half.

Though the exact positioning of the defenders varied, Eastern Michigan continued their zone after the break, and Northeastern responded by relying even more heavily on outside shooting. They stuck to a similar game plan — get the defense scrambling, move the ball on the perimeter, and earn open shots. But after connecting on six of their 14 attempts from downtown in the first, Northeastern hit just five of 17 attempts in the second. Several times, the Huskies passed up a potential transition layup for a kickout to the three-point line.

Everything Northeastern did in the second half, Eastern Michigan had an answer. Northeastern regained the lead midway through the period on a Jordan Roland three; Eastern Michigan responded with a two-handed jam from Toure and a layup from Morgan. Franklin tied the game with a three; Montero finished a spinning layup under duress. Tyson Walker hit a corner three on a friendly bounce; Montero scored another spinning layup.

Northeastern found themselves trailing 58–55 with 30 seconds remaining. Whatever play head coach Bill Coen drew up during the timeout was quickly abandoned when the Eagles abandoned Max Boursiquot on the left side. Boursiquot retreated behind the three-point line, fired, and watched his game-tying attempt clank off the rim. After Walker’s putback dripped off the cylinder, Montero hit two free-throws to put the game out of reach.

Though Northeastern’s play was not without flaw, Boursiquot’s missed equalizer was a microcosm of their biggest difficulty in this game: missed threes. Many if not most of their tries were good looks, but not enough of them fell. Their total of 11 makes on 31 attempts is decent enough percentage-wise, but ultimately posed problems in a game where the Huskies tried more threes than twos.

Northeastern’s other problem was their two best players. Jordan Roland and Bolden Brace combined for just 18 points on five-for-23 shooting from the floor and four-for-16 from three.

Boursiquot had the best game of any Husky, finishing with an efficient double and strong defensive play given the height and length deficits he faced. Myles Franklin also had a solid game, finishing with six points, six rebounds, and five assists.

Northeastern’s 55 points marked their lowest total of the season, though unsurprising given that Eastern Michigan entered the contest holding opponents to 57.3 points per game. The Eagles’ size, length, and inside aggressiveness yielded a 30–12 advantage in points in the paint and an 11 percent advantage in field goal percentage.

A win in Thursday evening’s game against Detroit Mercy would finalize the Huskies’ non-conference record at .500. WRBB will not broadcast the game, but will publish a recap online.