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.