Men’s Basketball Manhandles Maine, Roland Scores 1000th Point

By Michael Petillo

Photo by Sarah Olender

Jordan Roland tallied 28 points and the Northeastern Huskies defended home court against the Maine Black Bears, winning 78–63 on Wednesday night. Roland notched his 1,000th career point while leading the Huskies to their second consecutive win.

Northeastern (5–4) started slowly, committing turnovers on each of their first three possessions before a Roland three broke the ice.

The Huskies outplayed Maine (2–6) for most of the first half, getting scoring bursts from freshman Tyson Walker and redshirt sophomore Jason Strong to maintain a solid margin for most of the period. The Black Bears moved the ball well, however, keeping the game close by beating the Northeastern defense on several backdoor cuts for easy layups.

Northeastern coach Bill Coen made the necessary adjustments at halftime to slow the Maine attack. The Huskies built a double-digit lead and held it for most of the second half.

“I thought it was just a bigger commitment to our original game plan. We did it better and with more urgency in the second half,” Coen said.

Northeastern turned up their defensive intensity, turning 16 Maine turnovers into 22 points. Walker and Bolden Brace paced the team with four steals each.

Maine mounted a comeback with around eight minutes to play, but Northeastern consistently answered, usually thanks to Strong, Walker, or Roland, whose last two free throws put him into the 1,000-point scoring club. The feat is remarkable considering Roland spent his first two years coming off the bench for George Washington, scoring less than 300 points. He is now 39th on Northeastern’s all-time list.

Roland was as reserved and humble as ever following his big performance. “Obviously it feels good, it’s a milestone, but I feel like it’s not something I’m super concerned with,” he said. “We’re trying to win a CAA Championship this year and that’s the main thing that I’m really focused on.”

Northeastern returns to action at Matthews Arena this Saturday against Davidson, where they’ll try to extend their winning streak to three games. Milton Posner and Mack Krell will be on the call, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST.

Nineteen Turnovers Sink Men’s Basketball Against Drake

By Milton Posner

Photo by Sarah Olender

As the game clock steadily ticked off its final seconds, Jason Strong took charge. He took the ball out top, put his head down, and drove down the right side of the lane. He tossed the ball with a gentle hooking motion, and his layup settled neatly into the basket with 0.6 seconds remaining.

His teammates were frustrated. A couple of them had yelled at Strong as he charged down the lane. Bolden Brace gestured animatedly to no avail.

Northeastern needed a three, not a two. Strong’s layup pulled cut the deficit to one, and there wasn’t enough time left to do anything about it.

An execution mistake. But Northeastern’s 59–56 loss to Drake on Tuesday afternoon didn’t stem from Strong’s mistake alone.

It began with turnovers. Both teams had 64 possessions, and Northeastern gave the ball up on 19 of theirs. Nearly every Husky had at least one giveaway; five players had more than two. Jordan Roland led the way with six; Max Boursiquot — despite playing just 12 minutes before fouling out — had four.

The turnovers handed the Bulldogs a 20–7 advantage in points off turnovers, but in a game without a ton of transition basketball, the biggest turnover-induced hurt came elsewhere. Northeastern lost despite outshooting Drake by 14 percent, a fact possible only because Drake attempted 59 shots to Northeastern’s 39. Northeastern’s turnovers — combined with the Bulldogs’ 11–2 offensive rebounding margin — allowed for the gap in attempts.

Foul trouble hampered the Huskies in the first half, with Brace and Tyson Walker both heading to the bench with two early fouls. It was the third consecutive game in which foul trouble has limited Brace’s playing time. Walker, who exited after just five minutes, did not return. The personnel losses hurt a team already missing starting big man Tomas Murphy, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury.

Heavy Drake fouling put Northeastern in the bonus around the halfway mark in the first half; they spent the last four minutes in the double bonus. The Huskies turned this into an 11–4 free-throw advantage, which helped them reclaim the lead after an 8–0 Drake run to open the game. Myles Franklin led the way, netting five points from the charity stripe.

Roland struggled for the second straight game. Though he enjoyed some success driving to the basket and nailed a spectacular, standstill, fadeaway three-pointer. Drake’s constant, intense defense often denied him the ball and crowded him on jumpshots. He made just one of six attempts from three and lost the ball trying to burrow his way to the basket through multiple defenders. He finished with 13 points and, for the first time this season, ceded the title of nation’s top scorer. Delaware guard Nate Darling now tops the list.

That said, this and-one floater was gorgeous.

Brace stayed out of foul trouble in the second half and netted himself a milestone. His two three-pointers tied him with Chaisson Allen for sixth place on Northeastern’s career list.

Shaq Walters played a strong first half for the Huskies, scoring nine points and helping the Huskies to a 7–0 run and a three-point halftime lead.

Roman Penn and Anthony Murphy led the Bulldogs, combining for 32 points. Penn had an inefficient shooting night but made up for it at the foul line, while Murphy nailed six of his 11 shots and pulled down seven boards.

Though the offensive struggles felled Northeastern, their defense was largely solid. They rotated well to perimeter shooters, limiting the Bulldogs to a measly 24 percent from downtown. Greg Eboigbodin played well on the interior, contesting inside shots and picking up just two fouls, a big improvement considering his foul troubles in the season’s first few games.

But it was ultimately in vain. The mistakes kept piling up — errant passes, unsure ballhandling, a slew of travels and offensive fouls, anything to end possessions without attempting a shot. The frustration came to a head on the last play.

With Northeastern inbounding the ball down three with 11 seconds remaining, it’s possible head coach Bill Coen instructed his team to sprint downcourt, get a quick two, and foul. It would certainly explain Strong’s no-hesitation drive. But Myles Franklin stumbled catching an inbounds pass in the backcourt. Though he ultimately saved the ball, it ate several precious seconds off the clock. When Drake put the lead back up to three with a pair of free throws, Northeastern couldn’t do anything with 0.2 seconds left.

Northeastern will play its final game of the tournament tomorrow at 11 AM EST against the loser of the Murray State–Weber State game.

Men’s Basketball Claims Largest Win in Program History

By Milton Posner

WORCESTER, MA — From 1096 to 1271, the Roman Catholic Church waged a series of wars against Muslim powers in the eastern Mediterranean. Though the Crusades arguably increased Christianity’s reach, the Church’s wealth, and the Pope’s power, the Crusaders repeatedly failed in their main goal of retaking the Holy Land.

On Tuesday night, in a conflict with far lesser stakes, the Northeastern Huskies rode into Worcester to battle the Holy Cross Crusaders on the basketball court. The modern Crusaders fared even worse than their namesake.

In 100 years of men’s basketball, Northeastern has never dominated like they did Tuesday night. It was overwhelming. It was absurd. It was borderline unfair. They eviscerated Holy Cross 101–44.

The 57-point margin of victory eclipsed the previous record of 56 set against Connecticut in 1946 and equaled against Suffolk in 1984. It is the second school scoring record the Huskies have broken in their last four games, with Jordan Roland’s 42-point masterpiece against Harvard on November 8 setting a new individual record.

Holy Cross got the scoring going with a free throw two minutes in. It was their only lead of the night, and it lasted for 15 seconds.

Their first field goal was a three-pointer five minutes in. It would be their last bucket from downtown for 35 minutes.

Northeastern turned the first half into an unmitigated farce. They clogged the passing lanes, poked the ball away from incautious ballhandlers, and reaped the benefits with easy transition buckets down the other end. They pushed the pace on almost every possession whether they had stolen the ball or not, as they recognized early that the Crusaders couldn’t keep pace.

Jordan Roland, the nation’s leading scorer entering the game, played perhaps his best basketball of the season in the first half. He dropped 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting and made all five of his threes. Almost every perimeter shot he took was tightly contested, fading away, or both. He was in such a rhythm that he almost shot from 30 feet while bringing the ball up. When a hard close forced him to shovel the ball to a teammate, his wide grin matched the feeling he and every fan in the arena had: it probably would have gone in.

Though Roland didn’t have as dominant a second half — he played just 27 minutes all game in light of the Huskies’ enormous lead — he did hit the most unbelievable shot in a game full of them. After a hesitation move forced his defender to run into him near the foul line, Roland chucked the ball up. He was nearly parallel to the floor, shooting with an awkward flailing motion, only because he thought a foul would be called.

It wasn’t, but Roland made it anyway. He finished with 28 points on 11-for-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from downtown. When he left the game for good with 12 minutes remaining in the second half, he was one point shy of outscoring the Crusaders by himself.

“Jordan is the centerpiece,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked. “I’m actually shocked when he misses.”

When Roland wasn’t dominating, Jason Strong was. The seldom-used forward contributed 17 minutes on a night when regular starting big man Tomas Murphy sat with an ankle injury (Coen doesn’t expect the injury will sideline Murphy for long). Strong nailed seven of his eight shots — including all four threes — and finished with a career-high 18 points and six rebounds. His textbook, upright shooting form was on full display.

“I think he’s been a little bit frustrated at times early on,” Coen said of Strong. “But he attacked practice this week. That’s the type of player he can be. He might be our second-best shooter [after Roland].”

By halftime, Northeastern had opened up a 63–23 lead. Coen typically waits to empty his bench until the closing minutes of a blowout, when his lead is secure beyond any reasonable doubt. By the end of the first half, all 11 Huskies that dressed to play had seen the court. Strong, Quirin Emanga, Vito Cubrilo, and Guilien Smith — who entered tonight’s contest with a combined 13 minutes of playing time this season — played 53 combined minutes tonight.

“It was an opportunity for us to go deeper in the bench,” Coen observed. “We’re going to need that later on in the season, certainly in the tournament down in Florida.”

Northeastern shot a ludicrous 71 percent from the floor — and 75 percent from three — in the first half. Some of the threes were difficult, contested shots that went in anyway, but many of them were open shots earned through crisp passing, strong ball screens, movement off the ball, and a nearly constant transition pace.

“When you’re catching the ball in rhythm, [you get] much better shots,” Coen said. “We shared the ball at a high level tonight, and I think that set the tone. That type of passing got contagious, and then the basket got real big for us.”

Northeastern’s 42–24 rebounding edge makes sense in light of Holy Cross’s abysmal shooting (17–57 FG, 2–27 3FG). It’s easier to get rebounds when the other team is bricking most of their shots. But Northeastern’s 11–9 offensive rebounding edge is nothing short of remarkable considering they had so few opportunities to get them. Greg Eboigbodin led the rebounding with eight, followed by Strong’s six. Emanga and Shaq Walters both registered five-point, five-rebound games.

Eboigbodin scored six efficient points, but his biggest contribution was his defense. He played a season-high 25 minutes and committed one foul, a season low. His coverage on Holy Cross’s ball screens — stepping up on good shooters, dropping back to contain drivers, and hedging when appropriate — defended Northeastern’s interior territory against the Crusaders and helped the Huskies build and sustain momentum.

Tyson Walker, Myles Franklin, and Max Boursiqout all finished in double figures. Walker stood out, earning 15 points with a series of drives.

Besides shooting and rebounding, Northeastern won the battle of assists (23–7), steals (13–7), fastbreak points (21–6), points in the paint (38–22), and points off turnovers (24–6), among others. There were no individual bright spots for the Crusaders; their four leading scorers combined for just 32 points and all of them missed more shots than they made. Leading scorer Drew Lowder missed all six of his three-point attempts in Holy Cross’s biggest home loss since they started playing at the Hart Center in 1975.

The win bumped Northeastern to 3–2 on the year; the Crusaders are winless in four games. Northeastern will fly to Fort Myers, Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase, where they begin play against South Alabama Monday at 11 AM ET.

Even though Northeastern entered the game on a two-game skid, and even without the hot-handed Tomas Murphy, the Huskies were expected to handle Holy Cross. They were not expected to bludgeon them to this degree, in this manner.

The first half was a wonder, when any Northeastern player could cast up a contested three with everyone in the building assuming it would fall. The hot shooting, mixed with the volume of turnovers the Husky defense forced, made it seem as though Northeastern was making more shots than Holy Cross was taking. The game was a fastbreak and the Huskies were running it.

It wasn’t suspenseful. It wasn’t competitive. It bordered on being a joke. But, especially for the first 20 minutes, it was a sight to behold.

CAA Preview: Northeastern Huskies

Last season: 23–11 (14–4 CAA, second place), won CAA Tournament, lost in first round of NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: Bill Coen (14th season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Third

Losses

  • G Vasa Pusica
  • G Donnell Gresham Jr.
  • G/F Shawn Occeus
  • F/C Jeremy Miller
  • C Anthony Green

Additions

  • G Vito Cubrilo
  • G Tyson Walker
  • G Guilien Smith
  • G Quirin Emanga
  • G/F Shaquille Walters
  • F Greg Eboigbodin
  • F Connor Braun

By Milton Posner

Notwithstanding the clobbering from Kansas that sent the Huskies home, Northeastern had an superb 2018–19 season. They overcame injuries to key players as they battled through a challenging non-conference slate, then finished second in the conference standings behind a balanced offense and crippling perimeter defense.

In the CAA Tournament, they dismissed UNCW, exacted revenge on Charleston for the previous year’s tournament final defeat, then knocked off the Hofstra Pride and its unanimous Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman to capture the conference crown. The March Madness berth was Northeastern’s first since 2015.

Two-time CAA first-teamer Vasa Pusica graduated, as did bruising center Anthony Green and backup big man Jeremy Miller. Northeastern also lost two juniors. Savvy combo guard Donnell Gresham Jr. joined the Georgia Bulldogs for his final college season. Lockdown perimeter defender Shawn Occeus turned pro and was drafted 35th in the NBA G League Draft by the Salt Lake City Stars, the G League affiliate of the Utah Jazz. He joins Jarrell Brantley and Justin Wright-Foreman, both CAA first teamers, in the organization.

Sweet-shooting senior guard Jordan Roland figures to be the Huskies’ biggest offensive threat. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season behind Pusica, with his school-record 99 three-pointers accounting for 60 percent of his points. He did most of his damage as a spot-up shooter, letting Pusica and Gresham create in the pick-and-roll and benefitting from the open looks their gravity created. Without them, Roland may have to create more opportunities for himself through drives, floaters, and off-the-dribble jumpers.

After two productive years coming off the bench — the second one worthy of the CAA Sixth Man of the Year Award — Bolden Brace made the starting lineup last year. He didn’t disappoint, starting all 34 games — the only Husky to do so — and averaging ten points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent from three. His six rebounds per contest led the team, and his 6’6”, 225-pound frame let him slow speedy guards and hold firm against bruising forwards. The Huskies will need every ounce of his versatility this season.

Redshirt junior Max Boursiquot can provide solid offensive contributions and defensive flexibility, though the hip injury that sidelined him last season may affect his mobility. Jason Strong, Myles Franklin, and Shaquille Walters saw limited minutes off the bench last year, but will likely be called on to score a bit and prop up the Huskies’ formidable three-point defense. Redshirt sophomore Greg Eboigbodin, who practiced with the team last season, will try to fill the hole the graduating Green left in the middle.

Quirin Emanga stands out among the new recruits. He’s an athletic 6’5’ guard/forward with a seven-foot wingspan and a burgeoning skill set. For a more detailed player profile of Emanga, click here.

Connor Braun is a mobile 6’8” forward with solid handles and driving ability. Vito Cubrilo’s speed and quickness earn him buckets on drives, he’s got a sweet-looking perimeter stroke, and, like Emanga, has played high-level European youth ball. Guilien Smith averaged 12 points per game his sophomore year at Dartmouth but missed almost all of the next season due to injury and saw his minutes — and numbers — drop when he returned. If he returns to form, he can mitigate the loss of Pusica at point guard. Tyson Walker, at just six feet and 162 pounds, will look to stand tall with his flashy drives and transition speed. Bill Coen, now the CAA’s longest-tenured coach after the firing of William & Mary’s Tony Shaver, is tasked with blending the new talent.

Bottom Line: This will likely be the first time in six seasons Northeastern doesn’t have an All-CAA first team player. This makes their balanced approach even more important. Unlike last year, they have a slew of new players whose production will prove necessary. How well Bill Coen incorporates the new players, and how well they perform, will determine whether Northeastern contends for a second straight CAA title or falls to the middle of the pack.