Men’s Basketball Routs Cougars Behind Dominant Second Half

By Milton Posner

BOSTON — You’d be forgiven for thinking that disaster was in store.

As they entered Matthews Arena on Saturday morning, the Northeastern Huskies had lost five of their last seven contests, each one featuring a blown second-half lead, faltering defense, and lackluster rebounding.

Their Saturday afternoon opponent seemed perfectly primed to exploit those weakness. The Charleston Cougars rank third in the CAA in scoring. They boast quality three-point shooters and athletic big men, and senior guard Grant Riller routinely drives to the basket with impunity, torching defenses with hyper-efficient shooting around the basket.

Flash forward to the 13:46 mark of the second half. The Huskies lead by two. Neither team has led by more than five points, and the lead has changed hands nine times. The game appears destined for the same close finish as the teams’ meeting last month.

The Husky defense throttled the Cougars for the next ten minutes. Passes were picked off, balls stripped from careless dribblers, shots contested into misses and those same misses corralled. A combination of Jordan Roland jumpers and Max Boursiquot layups produced 17 points. The Cougars scored none, and that was all Northeastern needed. They built a 19-point lead en route to a statement 65–51 win.

This can’t be emphasized enough. Northeastern, a team that has struggled in the past month defending CAA cellar-dwellers, held the third-place Charleston Cougars scoreless for 10 straight minutes.

“We wanted to make sure we defended without fouling,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “It’s really hard to keep them off the foul line, especially with Grant Riller, who’s great at attacking the basket and getting to the line. I thought one of the best things we did today was defending without fouling and finishing defensive possessions with rebounds. When we do that we’re able to get out in transition and cause some great offensive possessions.”

The Huskies’ defensive dominance was a team effort, but two players made outsized contributions. The first is Guilien Smith, who guarded Riller for most of the second half.

Riller is generally regarded as the favorite to win CAA Player of the Year. Smith held him scoreless for the entire second half. Riller finished with just nine points on 12 shots and turned the ball over three times.

“Riller’s a guy who can get hot early and really carry a team . . . he’s going to go down as one of the best all-time CAA players,” Coen noted. “Guilien was tremendous today. He was laser-locked in, did a great job on his defensive assignment, rebounded the ball, played with a physical presence, really gave us a chance . . . [He had] high energy and was there step-for-step with him and kept him in front, which is really difficult to do.”

The other spectacular Husky defender was Boursiquot, who is building as good a case as anyone for Defensive Player of the Year. Boursiquot held his ground in the post all game against Charleston forwards Sam Miller, Jaylen McManus, and Osinachi Smart, the smallest of whom still has two inches and 20 pounds on Boursiquot.

“I pride myself on defense and seeing guys defend just gives me more and more energy to keep defending,” the redshirt junior explained. “Seeing other guys do it, it’s a beautiful thing to see.”

Charleston lapsed into inefficient isolation basketball. Weak-side movement ground to a halt as players took turns trying to create for themselves and failed under strong on-ball pressure from Husky guards. Northeastern, just as Coen emphasized, defended without fouling, holding Charleston to a season-low 51 points without putting them in the bonus in either half.

The Huskies, led by Boursiquot, turned their stops into offense. Coen considered Boursiquot’s effort — six rebounds and a career-high 18 points — to be his best of the season.

“There’s always a difference in height or a difference in size when I play the five,” Boursiquot explained. “So there’s always a quickness advantage. I was more aggressive today; I think I exploited that . . . I got a couple drop-off passes for dunks which gave us energy and a good boost.”

Tyson Walker posted an active 11 points in what Coen called perhaps his “best game in a while.”

Jordan Roland added 17 points and five rebounds. Though he never found the range from downtown, he helped the Husky offense with a number of shot-creating passes and preserved Northeastern’s movement and spacing.

Bolden Brace, who has arguably slowed the offense at times this year with hesitant play, was as aggressive as he’s been all season. He sought driving lanes, broke down the Cougar defense, and logged 13 points, mostly on layups. He also followed up a 14-rebound performance against UNCW on Thursday with an eight-board afternoon on Saturday, helping the Huskies best the Cougars on the offensive and defensive glass. He was visibly and atypically fired up, screaming “LET’S GO!” on his way to the huddle after a Husky run forced Charleston head coach Earl Grant to call timeout.

“He’s an x-factor for us,” Coen said. “When he rebounds the ball and pushes the tempo, it makes it easy for other guys to get easy baskets.”

The sum of those efforts led to what Coen called, as far all all-around play was concerned, “our best half of the year.”

The win marked a milestone for Coen, as he passed former Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint in career conference wins. Coen’s 159 wins are second only to Jim Larrañaga’s 183. But in the post-game press conference Coen was in an altogether different headspace, one that reminds us of the power of sports to connect people.

“In the short term, we’re all about trying to win basketball games,” he said. “In the long term, we’re trying to create an environment where we create unbreakable bonds between teammates, coaches, staff, relationships that last a lifetime. We’re very fortunate to do what we do. I’ve been blessed with some great coaches in my life that influenced me and have taken time away from their families to help me fall in love with the game and be a better person.”

He then explained that Larry Kollath, a teammate of his from Hamilton College in the 1980s, had recently succumbed to cancer. Kollath funeral service was scheduled to begin at 2 PM on Saturday in Asheville, North Carolina, just as Northeastern was putting the finishing touches on its win.

“There’s about 40 Hamilton guys that are down there celebrating his life,” Coen said. “Larry Kollath was a college All-American, but he was an All-Universe human being. Great friend, and I love him, and I’ll miss him.

“I shared with the team before [the game] that it’s my hope and goal as a coach to create an environment and a bond that someday, when adversity hits their lives, their teammates are there by their side.”

Men’s Basketball Subdues Seahawks, Summarily Snapping Subpar Skid

By Michael Petillo

BOSTON —  Coming off a tough two-week stretch in which they lost four straight games, Northeastern returned to Matthews Arena on Thursday and picked up a much needed win, defeating UNCW 71–63. The Huskies held the Seahawks to just 24 first half points and Jordan Roland poured in 27 on the night to lead the Huskies.

Northeastern burst out of the gates with a sense of urgency, holding UNCW scoreless for the first six-and-a-half minutes. That set the tone for a strong defensive showing in which Northeastern forced 11 first-half turnovers and led by 10 at the break.

The second half was more of the same for the first few minutes. Undersized forward Max Boursiquot brilliantly defended the Seahawk big men, using his active hands to create turnovers and easy buckets for the Huskies in transition. 

“Defense is something I try to bring every game; I think it’s my best attribute,” Boursiquot said. “I have a long wingspan and I try to set the tone for other guys. Size doesn’t really matter to me. I think I can guard one through five. I just have a dog mentality about it.”

Northeastern’s lead had stretched to 16 points before UNCW mounted their biggest run of the game. With 11:30 to play, freshman swingman Jake Boggs knocked down a triple, the first of five consecutive threes for the Seahawks. Guard Brian Tolefree contributed three of the five makes during that span. But Northeastern weathered the Seahawks’ hot stretch with sound offensive execution. The Husky lead never dipped below ten during the UNCW’s four-minute downtown deluge.

“I thought we had a good enough cushion there, but they came back and every team’s going to make a run at you,” head coach Bill Coen said. “You can’t take your foot off the gas and you have to play buzzer to buzzer.”

The win was doubly important for Northeastern (12–13, 6–7 CAA), as it snaps their losing skid and, combined with a Drexel loss to William and Mary, moves them back into sixth place in the CAA. The league’s top six teams earns a first-round bye in next month’s conference tournament.

The win also moved Coen into a tie with former Drexel coach Bruiser Flint for the second-most career CAA wins with 158 wins, an accomplishment Coen, true to form, understated.

“There are a lot of players that have come through this program that have won a lot of games,” he noted. “It’s been many years since I’ve scored a basket or grabbed a rebound . . . it’s about the student athletes and we’ve had some great guys in the program.”

Next up for Northeastern is a Saturday showdown with third-place Charleston. Milton Posner and Matt Neiser will call that game, with coverage beginning at 11:45 AM EST.

Second-Half Woes Sink Men’s Basketball Again

By Matt Neiser

HEMPSTEAD, NY — The Northeastern men’s basketball team came into Saturday afternoon’s game against Hofstra on a three-game losing streak, desperate for a win as William & Mary, Charleston, and Hofstra have begun to separate themselves at the top of the CAA.

Looking for revenge after Eli Pemberton’s last-second game-winner in their last matchup, the Huskies came rocketing out of the gate and built a sizable first-half lead. But Northeastern’s demons followed them to Hempstead, as they succumbed to yet another second-half comeback and lost 75–71.

The Huskies’ (11–13, 5–7 CAA) defense stifled the Pride (18–7, 9–3, CAA) early on, keying an 8–0 run to start the game and forcing a timeout from Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich just two minutes in. Shaquille Walters started the game matched up with Pemberton, who dropped a team-high 24 points in the reverse fixture at Matthews earlier this season. Walters defended his assignment exceptionally, using his size and length to bother the 6’5” Pemberton, who is used to rising up over defenders for shots. Clearly affected by Walters, Pemberton missed his first five shots and seven of his first eight.

Likewise, freshman Tyson Walker’s defense on Desure Buie — Hofstra’s leading scorer this season — was a huge part of the Huskies’ early success. Buie clanked six shots to begin his afternoon and struggled throughout the game to create separation from Walker.

While Walters and Walker kept things in check defensively, Jordan Roland kept it rolling on the offensive end. The redshirt senior poured in 19 efficient first-half points, going seven-for-12 from the field while knocking down a trio of triples. Fellow senior Bolden Brace knocked down six free throws en route to eight points of his own in the first 20 minutes. 

Despite the great individual efforts in the first half, a Buie buzzer-beating jumper cut Northeastern’s lead to 10 heading into the break. With Hofstra’s league-best offense looking to break free and the Huskies’ penchant for letting teams back into games, the second half was bound to entertain.

And entertain it did. Well, if you’re a Pride fan at least.

With Max Boursiquot committing three fouls in the first half, Husky head coach Bill Coen went to Jason Strong to start the second half. Equal to the task, the redshirt sophomore compiled a quick six points over the first 3:14 of the frame — the only Husky to score in that span. 

“Jason’s got some ability . . . he played with some energy today. We needed it,” Coen said. “I thought he made some really nice plays for us.”

His last basket of the stretch put the Huskies up 46–32, and they looked to be in the driver’s seat.

From then on, those pesky demons reared their ugly heads once again. From the 18:24 mark to 10:23, Northeastern was whistled for 10 fouls to Hofstra’s one. When the dust settled, Roland and Boursiquot each had four fouls, while Walker and Strong sat at three apiece. The free throws awarded from those fouls helped the Pride rip off a 21–6 run over the next seven minutes after Strong’s bucket, capped off by a Jaylen Ray three-pointer to give Hofstra their first lead of the game at 53–52 with just over nine minutes to play.

Roland briefly regained the lead for the Huskies with a jumper of his own, but Buie responded with a pair of swagger-filled triples and a couple of free throws to push the Hofstra lead back to seven points. Try as they might, Northeastern just couldn’t find the juice to claw their way back. 

Strong drilled a clutch three-pointer with 33 seconds left to cut the deficit to three.

After Ray went one-for-two at the charity stripe, Roland missed a trey on the other end. Guilien Smith came up with an offensive rebound off the miss, and the ball found its way back to Roland. The Huskies’ star proceeded to hit one of the most ridiculous shots you’ll ever see — an off-balance, left-handed, Hail Mary of a prayer. Because it’s Jordan Roland, it of course swished right through.

Now in a one-point game, the Huskies tried their best to play the foul game. But six straight made free throws from Buie and Ray held the Huskies at bay, as Northeastern fell to the Pride for their fourth straight loss and fifth in six games.

“I don’t know if I have a message [to the team]. You’ve gotta play winning basketball. Somebody’s gotta make a winning play,” Coen lamented. “A defensive stop, a rebound, a shot . . . obviously we’re not finding a way to win, we’re finding a way to lose.”

Roland finished with a game-high 32 points while pulling down five rebounds. Strong, with 14, was the only other Husky in double-digits. Walters chipped in nine points, nine boards, and four assists of his own, while Brace contributed eight, eight, and three. Ray and Buie ended with 22 points apiece to pace the Pride, while Pemberton added 12.

Northeastern will look to break out of their funk on Thursday, when UNCW makes its way to Matthews Arena. WRBB will provide live coverage, starting with pregame analysis at 6:45 p.m.

Men’s Basketball Loses Third Straight, Drops Below .500

By Milton Posner and Adam Doucette

ELON, North Carolina — The last name the Northeastern Huskies visited the Elon Phoenix, dominant overtime play gave the Huskies an 11-point win and moved them to 2–2 in CAA play.

That was January 10, 2019. It was also the last time the Huskies would possess a losing conference record. Until Saturday.

The Huskies entered the Schar Center having lost their last two and three of their last four. In a game that, at least for standings and momentum purposes, was a must-win, the Huskies faltered down the stretch and let Elon slip past, 74–69. Northeastern is now 11–12 and 5–6 in conference play. They are alone in seventh place.

Elon entered the game shooting more threes than any other CAA team, but averaging only 33 percent on those attempts. They shot plenty of threes on Saturday, but unfortunately for Northeastern they made 53 percent of them, including six makes on eight attempts in the first half. Unlike Thursday against William & Mary, the Huskies struggled to close out the three-point line, giving Elon a number of great looks. Freshman guard Hunter McIntosh’s 12 first-half points led his team to a 36–30 halftime lead. (McIntosh finished with 24 points and missed just one shot all game.)

Elon also came up big on defense. From the beginning, Northeastern guard Jordan Roland struggled to find his rhythm and didn’t score until the three-minute mark of the first half. He finished with 19 points but made just four of his 16 shots. Elon head coach Mike Schrage credited the 6’6” McIntosh whose “positional length” allowed him to tightly contest Roland’s shots.

“The job we did on Jordan Roland and Tyson Walker — big difference in the game,” Schrage noted. “Our guards were better today.”

Northeastern coach Bill Coen seemed to agree, saying of Roland, “He’s got to be aggressive, he’s got to be our leader, no one’s denying that. But I think everybody in the gym knows that at the end of the game he’s going to get it. So he’s got to use that to his advantage and maybe create easy baskets for his teammates . . . He’s a little bit frustrated right now because he can’t get quality looks.”

Elon also stifled the Northeastern offense by neutralizing its screening actions. When the teams met last month, Northeastern did an excellent job making contact on its screens, getting Elon into the habit of switching them. Elon refused to switch this time, double teaming the ballhandler — often Roland — to deny a shot or pass.

“If you’re coming off the screen with the sole intent to score, you’re gonna miss the window when that guy’s open,” Coen said. He also agreed that the Huskies need “better spacing on offense and better play and player movement.”

“The ball’s sticking right now,” he noted. “We’re dribbling the ball too much and not passing and cutting enough. When you hold the ball . . . the defense loads up on all the good players and you end up not getting as good a shot as you would like.”

One of the bright spots for Northeastern was Shaquille Walters, who kicked off Northeastern’s scoring with an and-one layup and stayed aggressive throughout the first half. He notched nine points on five shots to lead the team at halftime.

Though a massive Marcus Sheffield block on Tyson Walker — and Sheffield’s subsequent three-pointer — made it seem as though Elon would control the second half too, Northeastern reversed the tides. The Huskies pushed the ball inside, sometimes earning layups but more often earning free throws. After missing seven of their 11 tries from the line against William & Mary last night — a clip Coen cited as the largest reason for the loss — the Huskies made all 19 free throws tonight.

“We came into practice yesterday and made sure got our rhythm from the line,” Coen said. “Free throws are about routine and confidence. We’re a good free-throw-shooting team.”

The Huskies’ impeccable foul shooting somewhat mitigated a subpar effort from the field, which saw them shoot 39 percent from the floor and 29 percent from beyond the arc. Northeastern also displayed active hands the entire game, forcing a season-high 14 steals and generating 26 points off turnovers.

“We were trying to fit really close passes,” Schrage explained. “They ramped up their pressure even more . . . Pick six turnovers are the worst and we gave up too many of those. That’s where the lead swung in their direction really quickly.”

With 4:26 to go in the game, Northeastern had outscored Elon by 14 points in the second half, led by eight, and appeared to have the game in hand. But Sheffield, Elon’s top scorer this year, scored 14 points to power an 18–5 run. He hit big shot after big shot, none more important than the huge three pointer he nailed with 1:25 left to go that gave Elon a two-point lead. Sheffield ended the night with 28 points on 10–15 shooting including three-for-six from three-point land. Elon made five of its last six shots; Northeastern made one of its last 10.

“He can get his shot any time,” Schrage said of Sheffield. “You could always use or two guys like that.”

“It felt like their either scored a bucket or got fouled,” Coen said. “We didn’t get stops in the last three minutes . . . Our defense let us down today.”

When the Huskies first started dropping conference games by close margins, the problem wasn’t exclusively their execution down the stretch. Against William & Mary it could be Roland’s seven points, against Hofstra it could be the Huskies’ innumerable first-half turnovers, and against UNCW it could be the sudden surge of energy interim head coach Rob Burke brought to his squad.

But after another second-half lead fizzled out, this time against an eighth-place team that had won just two games since Christmas, it has become clear that crunch time failings are this team’s most glaring weakness.

The Huskies will have a week off before their matchup with the tied-for-first Hofstra Pride. Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser will call that game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST on February 8.

Men’s Basketball and The Knight That Won’t End

By Milton Posner

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia — The green-and-gold-clad players leapt joyfully on the sidelines. The similarly dressed fans erupted into deafening cheers. And the scoreboard, for the final time on a frantic Thursday evening, changed its mind.

But Northeastern fans who were paying attention — and perhaps even a few who weren’t — would have noticed something peculiar. Hadn’t this happened before? Hadn’t Nathan Knight, William & Mary’s uber-talented, hyper-versatile senior big man, done this to them in almost exactly the same way about four weeks before?

For anyone who thought that the eerie similarities between Northeastern’s games against William & Mary and Hofstra reeked of basketball screenwriters too lazy to conjure up an alternate script, the Tribe’s 59–58 win over the Huskies re-opened every recently healed wound.

Once again, a superhuman defensive effort by Max Boursiquot was wasted. Though Knight and fellow big man Andy Van Vliet combined for 23 rebounds, they mustered just 24 points on seven-for-23 shooting.

“Huge credit to Max,” Knight said. “He’s deceptively strong . . . a lot stronger than he appears on paper. His physicality and his quickness, being the size of a guard with the strength of a big, really grants him some upside on the defensive end playing against guys like me who play a little more inside out.

“He’s 212 [pounds], I’m 250, so I try to take advantage of that size by getting the ball as close as I can to the basket. He did a tremendous job today of pressuring our bigs, making us catch the ball where we didn’t want it when there were plays drawn up for us to get on the block.”

But once again, after being locked down by Boursiquot in the first half, Knight came alive in the second, this time logging 13 points on four-of-five shooting from the field and five-of-six from the line.

“The biggest thing was our guards making themselves available when we got the ball in the post,” Knight said of the second-half surge. “Backdoor cuts, getting into open spots for us to see them and get them the ball. Also just being a little more aggressive when we got the ball in the post.

“Being aggressive like that puts a lot of pressure on the defense. It makes them decide: are they going to come help or are they going to stay on the shooters? Applying that kind of pressure was probably the biggest change from the first to the second half, when we weren’t as aggressive getting to the rim, settling for long shots, jump hooks 15 feet away from the basket. But the biggest thing for us was getting into their bodies and making them decide. And it paid off for us.”

And once again, Knight broke Husky hearts with a last-second layup. The Tribe placed Van Vliet and Miguel Ayesa, both excellent three-point shooters, in opposite corners, forcing Northeastern to respect their spacing.

“He gets the ball where he wants to get it and there’s not a whole lot we can do,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked. “We thought it was coming to him, but I didn’t think it was going to be off the dribble. Max has a quickness advantage there, so I thought they’d post him and hunt a foul.”

But the Tribe had other plans, inbounding to Knight 75 feet from the rim with 6.8 seconds to go. Boursiquot stayed attached to Knight until the big man reached the lane, at which point Boursiquot probably figured there was nothing left that he could do and that his teammates would pressure Knight. But Bolden Brace stepped out of Knight’s way, Shaq Walters’ rotation was too little too late, and the Huskies fell short when (once again) a halfcourt heave from Tyson Walker didn’t fall.

“It was drawn up for me to go make something happen,” Knight said of the play. “Seven seconds is a long time in the grand scheme of things. They’re obviously not going to let you walk the ball up the court and you don’t want to launch the ball down the court, so someone has to go get it. We were expecting some pressure, so the best way to get the ball in my hands was to go get it.”

But while the lasting image of Thursday’s game will be Knight’s game-winner and the striking resemblance it bears to his last game-winner against the Huskies, it would be disingenuous to pretend that Knight’s layup is the reason the Huskies lost. After all, Northeastern limited star center Andy Van Vliet to a meager seven points on two-for-11 shooting. They plugged passing lanes, pressured ballhandlers, and denied post players the chance to work in open space. The Tribe shot just 37 percent from the field and a pathetic 12 percent from beyond the three-point arc; Northeastern outshot them handily in both categories while limiting the CAA’s best offensive team to one of its lowest outputs of the year. So how did they lose?

“It wasn’t a defensive loss,” Bill Coen stated flatly. “It was a free throw loss.”

Free throws, as Coen pointed out, are arguably the last way Northeastern would expect to lose. Entering Thursday, the Huskies boasted a free-throw percentage of about 80 percent, the best mark in the CAA and the third-best mark in the country. Yet the Huskies made just four of their 11 free-throw attempts in the second half.

The free throw tallies were a function of accuracy but also of each team’s volume of fouls. While the Tribe certainly dealt with foul trouble — Bryce Barnes, Knight, and Van Vliet all picked up four fouls, with Knight missing minutes he otherwise wouldn’t have — the bug bit Northeastern hardest.

Greg Eboigbodin fouled out with nine minutes still to play. Brace picked up his fourth foul with 18 minutes to go. Boursiquot was whistled for his fourth down the stretch. Shaq Walters played most of the second half with three. Because the fouls were so concentrated in the Husky frontcourt — none of the guards had more than one — they further wounded the Huskies. Northeastern was trying to contend with a surging Nathan Knight — inarguably the most powerful post force in the conference — without much minute-to-minute lineup consistency.

Jordan Roland’s performance also sheds light on the game’s momentum swings. Roland’s respectable stat line is the product of a high-octane first half (16 points on 10 attempts) and a near-invisible second half (two points on four attempts).

“There was no change schematically,” Knight said of his squad’s defense on Roland. “Huge credit to Luke Loewe — probably one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve ever seen in my life. It was him on top of a group of guys out there determined to stop him. Jordan Roland is a dynamic scorer, scores the ball in a bunch of ways. One of the biggest things for us was making him uncomfortable and having a crowded floor when he did get the ball in space. Make him get the ball out, make the secondary guys beat us.”

That said, Roland’s effort was not without larger meaning.

While the win kept William & Mary atop the conference standings with an 8–2 record (16–7 overall), the Huskies dropped to 5–5 (11–11 overall). With Delaware and Drexel not playing Thursday, the Huskies assumed sole possession of seventh place.

Some measures would indicate the Huskies are better than that. Their average margin (6.8 points) in conference play is still best in the CAA, and their five losses have come by a combined nine points (Thursday’s one-point loss follows four two-point losses). But even the admittedly small ten-game conference sample indicates that the Huskies are struggling to execute at the end of games, an issue they’ll need to resolve given the CAA’s preposterous parity this season.

“It’s frustrating to be this close,” Coen said. “We’ve been around the block here and there’s nobody in this league that we can’t compete with . . . it should have been more than a one-possession game.”

The Huskies will travel a couple hundred miles south for a Saturday tilt against the Elon Phoenix. Milton Posner and Adam Doucette will call that game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST.

Men’s Basketball Falls to Delaware, 76–74

By Milton Posner

BOSTON — At the close of CAA action on Saturday, the Northeastern Huskies’ average margin of victory in conference play rested at 7.7 points, nearly three points better than the next-best team. And yet they sat tied for fifth, owners of a 5–4 conference record, an anomaly possible only because each one of their losses has been by two points.

Four losses. Three of them in front of their home crowd. Two of them on last-second game-winners. Eight combined points.

The Huskies appeared to be in the driver’s seat for most of Saturday’s tilt against the Delaware Blue Hens. They took a 13-point lead into halftime, buoyed by Jordan Roland’s 14 points. Max Boursiquot and Myles Franklin each contributed eight points without missing a shot.

Northeastern picked up where it left off Thursday night against Drexel. Players moved constantly and the ball didn’t sit in one person’s hands for too long. Boursiquot, Bolden Brace, and Greg Eboigbodin sprung ballhandlers loose on screens; if the screens didn’t force switches or create separation, they would spread out and re-screen the ball. Roland earned a number of open perimeter looks by dashing around staggered pindown screens. The offense was efficient, precise, and energetic.

On defense, Boursiquot once again held fast against larger matchups, in this case 6’10” Villanova transfer Dylan Painter and 6’7” standout Justyn Mutts. The Huskies fought through and around screens, rotated swiftly, and swiped errant or lazy passes. Transfer guard Nate Darling, who nearly kept pace with Jordan Roland’s scoring in non-conference play, registered just six points on eight shots.

The first half mirrored Thursday’s game against Drexel; the second mirrored last week’s game at UNCW. Once again, a 16-point second-half lead steadily evaporated. Once again, Northeastern allowed the opponents’ guards easy access to the lane. Once again, the game ended in a 76–74 Husky loss.

“We just couldn’t get a stop in the second half,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked. “We just came out really, really flat . . . They made a couple shots, got their energy up, and decided to play attack basketball.”

On one level it was a team problem. Northeastern’s rotations weren’t as crisp in the second half as they’d been in the first, and sometimes close contests didn’t happen even when the rotations did. Perimeter defenders had a harder time keeping their assignments in front of them. The Blue Hens tried 12 second-half two-pointers and nailed 11 of them.

But the biggest post-halftime change was Darling, who poured in 28 points and missed just three shots all half. He established his perimeter shooting and his assertive driving simultaneously, leaving the Huskies wondering which way to force him. He finished with a game-high 34 points — his best total since November 10 — and catalyzed the Blue Hens’ 47-point second half.

Just like the UNCW game, the meltdown didn’t happen all at once. In the absence of speedy transition basketball (the squads combined for just 13 fastbreak points) or numerous turnovers, the lead shifted gradually.

The Huskies also suffered from factors outside their control. Junior forward Shaq Walters was not present at Matthews Arena, which Coen attributed to a “violent stomach bug.”

“Just really, really bad timing for Shaq . . . it was a day that we could really use him,” Coen noted. “With his perimeter defense he would have been the perfect guy in this role.”

It was a significant loss for a Northeastern frontcourt already missing junior forward Tomas Murphy, who has been sidelined for more than two months with an ankle injury.

“Tomas hasn’t returned to practice yet,” Coen confirmed. “I’m not really sure where it’s gonna go but he hasn’t been healthy enough to get back and practice . . . The deeper it gets into the season I’m less hopeful.”

All the challenges aside, the Huskies had a chance to pull out a victory. Down two points with the shot clock turned off, they planned to feed Roland for their last shot, with an inside option for Boursiquot as well. But with 10 seconds left, Tyson Walker found himself with the ball out top, guarded by the larger, slower Jacob Cushing. Walker started his drive, but lost his balance on a crossover, fell, and couldn’t bet Cushing’s dive for the ball.

Roland finished with 27 points and is averaging 30 points per game across the team’s last five contests. Boursiquot chipped in a career-high 18 points, adding six rebounds and immeasurable defensive presence in the first half. Besides Darling, the only Blue Hen with a great stat line was junior guard Kevin Anderson, who notched an efficient 12 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.

The Huskies have shown brilliance at times in non-conference play, but the brilliance has been dulled by poor execution down the stretches of close games. They will try to get back on track Thursday night at William & Mary, the team that dealt them the first of their four two-point losses. Milton Posner and Adam Doucette will call the game, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.

Men’s Basketball Destroys Drexel Dragons

By Michael Petillo

BOSTON — Coming off a disappointing overtime loss to UNCW on Saturday, Northeastern returned to Matthews Arena Thursday night badly needing a bounce-back win. They got it against Drexel, soundly defeating the Dragons 85–52 in a game that was never in doubt. Jordan Roland led the scoring charge for the Huskies as usual, netting 26 points in just 28 minutes of action.

From the jump, it was clear that it was going to be the Huskies’ night. Drexel (12–9, 5–3 CAA) got on the board first, but Northeastern (11–9, 5–3 CAA) reeled off 18 unanswered points keyed by several Roland jumpers. When the halftime buzzer sounded, Roland had scored as many points (17) as the entire Drexel team.

Bolden Brace also came up big on offense, scoring 14 of his 17 points in the opening half and helping his team push the lead to 32 points at the break. The senior swingman was coming off arguably his most disappointing effort of the season against UNCW — he took just one shot — and his impact was much needed.

“We got together as a team at the beginning of the week and talked about what we can be,” Brace said. “I know we were all disappointed with the results on Saturday.”

The second half was more of the same, with Northeastern maintaining a lead of at least 30 while smothering Drexel on defense. They forced Drexel’s best perimeter players, Camren Wynter and Zach Walton, into a combined ten turnovers. Wynter, the conference’s fourth-leading scorer, was limited to just six points on 3–12 shooting; Walton was scoreless.

“We challenged our guys to step it up on the defensive end,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “I think they bought into that.”

The blowout win allowed Coen to rest Roland, Brace, and some of his other starters for most of the second half. The Huskies have a noon tip against Delaware on Saturday, making that extra rest even more important. Michael Petillo and Milton Posner will be on the call, with coverage beginning fifteen minutes before tipoff.

Saturday’s game is the annual Coaches Against Cancer game; coaches will wear suits and sneakers in an effort to raise awareness and money to fight cancer. 

“I’m hoping everybody will come out and support us,” Coen implored. “For every student that comes to the game on Saturday, I pledge a dollar to the American Cancer Society. I hope they come out and cost me $5,000 because it’s a great day to partner with our student body against this deadly enemy.”

Men’s Basketball Succumbs to Streak-Snapping Seahawks

By Matt Neiser

WILMINGTON, North Carolina — Fresh off a 15-point comeback win over CAA heavyweight Charleston, the Northeastern men’s basketball team was riding high as it made its way to Wilmington for a Saturday night matchup against the winless-in-conference UNCW Seahawks. The Seahawks pulled the Huskies back down to earth in Trask Coliseum, however, rallying from a 16-point deficit to take down the defending conference champs in overtime, 76–74.

Saturday’s game capped off an eventful week for UNCW (6–15, 1–7 CAA), which started with the Seahawks relieving head coach C.B. McGrath of his duties on Monday. The team went on to lose by just two to heavyweight Hofstra on Thursday, and finished with the victory against Northeastern (10–9, 4–3 CAA), their first in almost two months.

The two sides battled throughout the first half, with neither team pulling away by a substantial margin. The Seahawks took a 20–18 lead at the 6:16 mark, but a 17–8 run gave the Huskies a 35-28 advantage heading into the locker room.

UNCW held the Huskies within range coming out of the break, but a 13-point unanswered run by the visitors partway through the second half brought the deficit to a game-high 16 points with 10 minutes remaining.

The Northeastern lead seemed insurmountable for the Seahawks, but slowly and surely they forced their way back into the game. Ten points from Brian Tolefree and a six-point burst from Ty Gadsden helped drag UNCW back from the depths as they took a two-point lead. Back-to-back jumpers from Jordan Roland with a Seahawk turnover sandwiched in between re-established the Husky lead, but a Mike Okauru dunk with 2.5 seconds left evened the game. Jordan Roland’s half-court effort came close but clanged off the rim, sending the game to overtime.

The Huskies jumped out to a quick four-point lead to start the extra frame, but missed free throws from Myles Franklin and Tyson Walker left the door open. UNCW burst through that door, scoring eight unanswered as Northeastern went on a three-and-a-half-minute drought. The Huskies were forced to play the foul game, and a pair of missed free throws from Jaylen Sims a few possessions later gave Northeastern a chance to respond, down two points, with 11 seconds remaining.

Roland stepped on the sideline with less than three ticks on the clock, but Franklin forced the ball off of Marten Linssen’s leg with .6 seconds left. The ensuing inbounds play found Roland in the corner with a chance to win, but he couldn’t get the shot off in time as the Seahawks came away with the victory.

“I thought UNCW played harder than we did tonight and they earned the victory,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen. “The team that plays harder usually wins. There isn’t that much talent separation in this league where if you come in and you’re playing at a six or a seven and the other team is playing at a nine or a ten that you can feel comfortable.”

Interim head coach Rob Burke took over head coaching duties from McGrath, injecting some much-needed energy into his squad. Burke was animated throughout the game, imploring the crowd to get loud and slamming his hand repeatedly on the floor as his team fought their way back. The Trask crowd responded in kind, giving the Seahawks the extra oomph needed to pull off the victory.

“It’s always a very supportive fan base,” Coen said. “They’re worth five points with the energy they bring to the building.”

Four players recorded double-digit scoring for the Seahawks, led by Tolefree’s 17 and Okauru’s 16. The latter recorded a double-double and even came close to a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and six assists.

Roland did everything he could to keep his team in the game, logging 38 points (the most in the 43-year history of Trask Coliseum) and a career-high seven rebounds.

Walker chipped in 17, and Max Boursiquot and Greg Eboigbodin pulled down nine and seven rebounds, respectively.

Northeastern will look to rebound on Thursday at home against Drexel. Mike Petillo and Adam Doucette will have coverage of that one starting at 6:45 PM EST.

Men’s Basketball Conquers the Cougars in Courageous Comeback

By Michael Petillo

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Coming off a pair of heartbreaking, buzzer-beating home defeats to William & Mary and Hofstra, the Northeastern Huskies marched into TD Arena Thursday night badly in need of a win. Against Grant Riller and the second-place College of Charleston Cougars, snapping that two-game skid would be no small feat. But in a wild back-and-forth contest the Huskies did just that, defeating the Cougars, 79–76.

Jordan Roland was at his sharpshooting best, starting strong and keeping Northeastern within striking distance throughout a tumultuous first half. Over a stretch of four-and-a-half minutes in the first frame, Charleston went on a 13–0 run capped by senior forward Sam Miller’s third three pointer of the game. That brought the score to 35–21 in the Cougars’ favor.

But with just under five minutes to go in the first half, Northeastern began clawing back and a Roland layup trimmed the deficit to just two. Riller sparked a quick 5–0 Charleston response, yielding a 43–36 Cougar halftime advantage.

The start of the second half belonged to Charleston, with Riller leading the charge and extending the margin to double digits. Once again, however, the Huskies refused to roll over, with Roland dominating the scoring.

But Roland wasn’t the only key to the win. Graduate transfer Guilien Smith came off the bench to guard Riller in the second half and made an immediate impact. His quick feet and energy disrupted Riller on multiple occasions and several of Riller’s seven turnovers came when Smith was defending him.

“Guilien just had fresh legs and the appropriate amount of aggressiveness,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “And really kind of bothered him a little bit [with] his athleticism and toughness.”

Smith helped the Huskies get back into the game, but with the score tied at 72 and barely 30 seconds to play, Northeastern turned to their star to deliver the final blow. Roland used a Greg Eboigbodin screen to drive to his left, stepped back, and buried a contested three. The shot silenced a raucous Charleston crowd and Northeastern took the lead for good.

Playing well on the road will make any coach happy, but this one was extra special.

“We talked about the losses,” Coen remarked. “Everybody was obviously frustrated that we didn’t get the results we wanted, but we got back into the gym, guys got recommitted to what we gotta do, work on the fundamentals, and get better . . . it was just a complete, total team win. Proud of the guys.”

Roland finished with an efficient 33 points and tacked on four steals. Bolden Brace recorded his third double-double of the year with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Riller paced the Cougars, finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists for the first triple-double in Charleston history. That said, his mildly inefficient shooting and seven turnovers caused some headaches for the Cougars. Miller’s six three-point makes on seven tries netted him an uber-efficient 20 points, and Zep Jasper finished with 13.

The win moved Northeastern to 10–8 (4–2 CAA) and kept them tied with Drexel for fourth place. Charleston has lost its last two games after a 5–0 start to conference play.

Northeastern will look to pick up another conference win on Saturday when they travel to UNCW. Coverage will begin at 6:45 PM EST with Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser on the call.

Men’s Basketball Falls to Hofstra on Pemberton’s Game-Winner

By Milton Posner

Thursday night’s ending was a test of just how much déjà vu the college basketball gods can cram into one play.

Just like Saturday, Northeastern faced a top-tier CAA opponent at Matthews Arena. Once again, the Huskies overcame first-half struggles, closed the deficit with hot second-half shooting, and tied the score in the game’s waning minutes with a clutch three.

But, unbelievably, and again, their opponent’s elite senior scorer caught a pass above the arc, drove left, and hit an athletic lefty layup with tenths of a second left on the clock, leaving Northeastern to miss a halfcourt heave as the buzzer sounded.

The only difference: tonight’s victor was Hofstra, not William & Mary. The final assassin was Eli Pemberton, not Nathan Knight. But the result was the same: a two-point loss to a top-notch CAA foe in a game Northeastern arguably should have won. It was like finding out your friend has an identical twin they never mentioned.

The Huskies fell to the Pride, 74–72, losing their second straight game and dropping to 9–8 (3–2 CAA) and fourth place in the CAA. Hofstra (13–5, 4–1 CAA) is third.

After the 66–64 loss to William & Mary on Saturday, the Huskies were left wondering if a few things going right — namely Roland shooting better — would have yielded a victory. Tonight’s first-half culprit was . . . well, how much time do you have?

It began with turnovers. Northeastern surrendered the ball 11 times in the first half, seven of which were Hofstra steals. Forfeiting possession that many times will always hurt your prospects, but the harm is amplified when so many of the giveaways are live-ball turnovers. Though Hofstra didn’t eviscerate the Huskies on points off turnovers or the fastbreak, the Pride benefitted from the extra possessions, took more shots than Northeastern, and retained their momentum for most of the first half.

Northeastern also repeatedly missed uncontested layups. Besides the obvious loss of two points, each miss ended with the shooter underneath the Husky basket, allowing Hofstra to push the ball in transition and attack Northeastern’s defense before it was set.

Northeastern struggled in navigating Hofstra’s matchup zone, a defense that combines zone and man principles, prioritizes switching, and employs quick perimeter defenders. The Pride pressured Husky guards along both sidelines, and the Huskies struggled to circumvent the traps with quick passes. Even when the passes found their targets, their lack of accuracy and zip meant that Northeastern couldn’t make Hofstra pay for doubling.

“Their matchup zone is not the typical zone; it’s not like you run your zone offense and you get [shots],” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen explained. “You have to be able to move, manipulate the defense to be able to create some openings, and understand their slides and their movements. It gets you guarding yourself a little bit and you get timid.”

Coen also remarked that his team’s “ball screen coverage was very soft,” which allowed Hofstra to invade the lane and grab rebounds. The Pride also took advantage by screening to spring shooters loose on out-of-bounds plays, which netted several baskets.

Roland followed up his poor showing Saturday — seven points on woeful three-for-14 shooting — with just three points on five shots in the first half.

“I think I’m just gonna have to play better for us to be able to win games,” Roland said, one of several similar comments he made after the game. “If I played [well] for 40 minutes I feel like we win today.”

It was shocking to see Roland be so hard on himself. True, he was absent in the first half save for one made three, one of many reasons why the Huskies trailed by 16 at the break. But his second half was a fireworks display. Roland posted 25 second-half points, splashing home seven of his nine threes to key the Northeastern comeback. His final stat line — 28 points on 17 shots — was patently ridiculous, and his final three tied the game with 21 seconds left.

There’s no disputing that Roland’s play in the last six weeks has been inconsistent from game to game, and even within games. But when knocks down a few shots, when he finds his rhythm and finds his range, he has a gear most college players can’t reach with a stepladder. It almost doesn’t matter how far he is from the basket or how close the defender is to him; he will rain down three-point fire from above and make opposing guards look foolish for trying to defend him.

The other key Husky performer was Bolden Brace, whose 18-point, 10-rebound effort was easily one of his best games all year. In the first half, he became the 39th player in Northeastern history — and the second player this season — to reach the 1,000-point plateau. He was the only Husky who played well throughout the first half, repeatedly sliding into open space, making intelligent passes, and using his gravity to bend the Hofstra zone.

Tyson Walker, fresh off his second straight and fourth overall CAA Rookie of the Year win, scored 10 points but made just five of his 15 shots. He did notch a couple of gorgeous layups, though, showing impressive driving strength and body control for a six-foot, 162-pound player.

For Hofstra, it was Pemberton and Desure Buie, both senior guards, who led the way. The pair finished with similar stat lines — 20+ points, efficient shooting inside and out, and four rebounds — but Pemberton, courtesy of his game-winner, walked away the center of attention. He made the most of his time on national television, chatting with a CBS reporter as the Huskies trudged off the court. Isaac Kante also made his mark, logging 15 points, making all seven of his shots, and snagging 12 rebounds.

Buie’s efficiency has been remarkable this season, trailing only Roland in shooting efficiency among CAA guards. He has been on fire in conference play, and entered Thursday’s game fresh off a 44-point explosion against Elon. His performance was expected. Pemberton’s was much more in doubt, as his efficiency has been relatively low and his scoring inconsistent. But he showed the Huskies why preseason expectations pegged him as the best player on the conference’s best team.

“He just made a really, really athletic play to his left hand off the glass,” Coen said. “We had a little bit of a sloppy closeout, he’s a terrific athlete, and he’s been a very good player in this league for a long, long time.”

It’s hard to know where the Huskies stand after five conference games. They won their first three conference games by 16, 16, and nine points, then lost the next two on game-winners. They’ve seen stellar performances and season-lows from Roland. They’ve protected the ball brilliantly — just five turnovers against William & Mary — and tossed it around carelessly, committing 11 first-half turnovers tonight. They were outrebounded cleanly by bottom-dwelling Elon, then held their own down low against William & Mary’s twin tower lineup of Knight and Andy Van Vliet.

Sometimes they’ve looked like a first-place team.

And sometimes they’ve been overpowered.

“We got two losses in this league by a total of four points,” Coen lamented. “It’s not where we want to be, but we know we’re not that far away.

“What I do like about both these losses is the character of this team. We got down in both games, came back, and narrowly missed salvaging both games. It’s in these guys, they know it. The standard in this program has been pretty high, it’s a championship-level standard, and their efforts and expectations are the same.

“It’s all about where the teachable moments are . . . and getting to the point where these guys can learn from it and get better. I know the desire is there.”

After Thursday’s games, there are three teams ahead of Northeastern in the conference standings. They just lost to two of them in heartbreaking fashion, making next Thursday’s game against the undefeated Charleston Cougars all the more essential.

Losing will lower their overall and conference records to .500, likely move them to the middle of the standings, and cast serious doubts on the team’s ability to repeat as CAA champions. A win would prove their talent, their execution, and their resilience after a pair of tough losses.

Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser will call that game, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.