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 sixth, 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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
BOSTON — On December 31, 13 hours before the clock hit midnight and the year reset, Tyson Walker was named CAA Rookie of the Week for the third time this season; no other player has won it more than once. The main reason the league cited was his scoring; Walker notched a combined 32 points in the Huskies’ double-digit wins over Towson and James Madison on Saturday and Monday.
But apparently three awards weren’t enough. Tyson Walker
wants a fourth.
Think 32 points in two games isn’t impressive? How about 32
in one game? Walker’s performance — remarkable for anyone but astonishing for a
freshman — buoyed Northeastern throughout a 77–68 victory over the Phoenix. It
was the fourth straight win for Northeastern (9–6) and their third straight to
begin conference play.
“He’s got the ability to score the ball. He’s got the
ability to distribute the ball,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “He’s
got great feel, he’s got great confidence, and he’s got great presence.
“The hardest position in college basketball to transition
into is the point guard position. You’re growing into your own game, trying to
get a feel for how the coaches would like you to play, get a feel for how your
teammates play. But Tyson has been unbelievable. It’s been a seamless
transition to the position.”
Much of the offensive success that Walker and the Huskies
found could be attributed to Elon’s strategy of — or, at the very least, resignation
to — switching on Northeastern’s ball screens.
“When they kept switching,” Walker remarked, “and it was a
mismatch where the big man’s guarding me, I recognize that I’m pretty fast and
it’s hard to guard me.”
“It gets teams to slow down their pace,” Coen added. “Tyson’s
a hard guy to switch on. A lot of teams have tried it, but he’s able — with his
quickness — to get to the rim and use his shooting ability to create shots from
In case his driving layups weren’t sufficient, Walker also
splashed home four of his seven three-point attempts, raising his season three-point
mark to a blazing 46 percent.
Walker was aided by Northeastern’s constant offensive activity.
Players moved well without the ball, cutting to the basket and popping into
open perimeter space. When a player completed an action, be it a dribble, pass,
or screen, he immediately looked for the next one. Particularly essential was 6’5”
Max Boursiquot, who started his fifth consecutive game as an undersized center.
His effort has boosted the Huskies’ inside presence and floor balance in the
absence of injured forward Tomas Murphy, who Coen confirmed has not been
cleared to return to practice.
“When we gang-rebound it really helps our transition game,”
Coen explained. “Max can really run the floor; he can rebound and run and push
the ball. So it makes us a little bit more deadly in transition. Obviously we
give away a little bit of size and girth down underneath, but Max is a tough,
physical competitor and he’s battled through that.”
Elon jumped out to a 10–2 lead before Northeastern’s
shooters found their rhythm. The teams traded buckets — yielding eight lead
changes and four ties — until Walker got hot, with Elon’s last lead of the
evening coming with 7:21 to play in the first half.
Walker had 14 points at halftime, then dropped another eight
in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the second half. When Walker went to the
bench and the Phoenix made a run, Jordan Roland was there to slow them down
with a series of midrange jumpers. Roland finished with 17 points and four
But when Elon closed the gap down the stretch, even trimming
the lead to two points three separate times in the game’s waning minutes, it
was Walker who held them at bay.
The Phoenix (4–11, 0–2 CAA), who have struggled all year
after graduating or losing last year’s top five scorers, were led by freshman
guard Hunter McIntosh and grad transfer guard Marcus Sheffield II. Both scored
17 points, though McIntosh was markedly more efficient, making six of his 11
shots and four of his six triples. Freshman guard Hunter Woods contributed 12
points and eight assists.
The Huskies were extremely disciplined, committing a season-low
five turnovers and scoring 15 points off 11 Elon giveaways; nine of the 11 came
off Northeastern steals. Though Walker’s superhuman scoring allowed the Huskies
to weather it, they did lose the rebounding battle, 37–24, to a team that
entered the game with the conference’s worst rebounding margin. The Phoenix pulled
down nine offensive rebounds to the Huskies’ two and scored 14 second-chance
points to the Huskies’ three. Things worked out against Elon, but such a
deficit could prove more costly against a great rebounding team like William
Northeastern closed the 2019 calendar year with a win on
Monday at James Madison, then opened 2020 with a win at home. After a sporadic
start to the season leading to a 6–6 record in non-conference play, the Huskies
appear to have hit their stride.
“We’ve gained valuable experience,” Coen observed. “Tyson’s
not the same player he was [in the season opener] at BU. He’s grown. Shaq had a
whole year off; now he’s 15 games into it and getting a little bit of rhythm.
Max was out with an injury for a year; he’s getting a rhythm. Greg was out for
a whole year. It takes time to blend in those new pieces.”
The Huskies will remain in Boston awaiting the William &
Mary Tribe, who will visit Matthews Arena on Saturday afternoon. WRBB will call
the game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 EST. It will be the Huskies’ first
major test in conference play, but the Huskies are up to the challenge,
especially if Walker can carry Thursday night’s momentum into Saturday’s
“We’ve had a lot of really good point guards here,” Coen
said. “I think Tyson, when everything’s said and done, will be one of the best
ones we’ve had.”
For a few games, it appeared as though Jordan Roland had
settled down. His scoring average dropped from the national top-five toward
slightly more reasonable territory, and he was shooting just 30 percent in the
team’s last three games.
But he couldn’t lie dormant forever, and on Monday evening he woke up, burying a James Madison lineup stocked with talented juniors. The Huskies ran past the Dukes, 88–72, in one of their best offensive showings of the year. The last Northeastern sporting event of the 2010s had a happy ending for the Huskies.
Roland wasted no time, putting himself on the board with an
He made it into double figures before the midway point of
the second half, assailing the Dukes with his trademark blend of lefty floaters
and three-point bombs. He was particularly zoned in on attacking late closes;
if a defender didn’t get back to him in time, Roland would field the pass and
take a quick, strong first step in the direction the defender was coming from.
When his man couldn’t change direction in time, Roland drove to the basket and
When Roland’s white-hot shooting touch faded a bit, Tyson
Walker picked up the torch.
By the end of the first half, Roland had amassed 21 points
on 11 shots. Walker was somehow more efficient, collecting 15 points and making
all six of his attempts, including three triples. Northeastern’s backcourt had
outscored James Madison all by themselves.
But the Huskies’ first-half success also stemmed from their solid defense. Save for Deshon Parker and Matt Lewis, who both scored nine points, none of the Dukes really got going in the first 20 minutes. Just as they did against Towson on Saturday, Northeastern packed the lane, forcing difficult shots that frequently dripped off the rim.
Husky forward Max Boursiquot, starting his fourth
consecutive game as a small-ball center, was once again tasked with guarding a
larger player. Though James Madison forward Dwight Wilson was three inches
taller and 40 pounds heavier, Boursiquot rose to the challenge with a deranged
intensity, fighting for every rebound like his life depended on it. He
routinely tipped balls away from Wilson’s reach, turning easy James Madison
rebounds into scrambles for loose balls. Boursiquot also held firm on the low
block, denying Wilson favorable position and limiting him to two points on
one-of-four shooting in the first half.
The Huskies led by 12 at halftime. Four minutes into the
second half, the lead had all but evaporated.
Lewis and Darius Banks drove in for layups. Wilson notched
back-to-back buckets from point-blank range. Banks. Parker. Wilson. A 16–5
James Madison run shaved the Northeastern lead to one with 15:19 to play.
“They came out fired up and they were scoring — it felt like
— in the first two seconds every time,” Roland remarked. “They played so fast
that it catches you off guard. They’re laying the ball up before you’re even
ready to play defense.”
But the first-half offensive floodgates were about to burst
open once more. Roland got things back on track with a triple. Bolden Brace
slid a slick bounce pass to a cutting Shaq Walters for an easy jam.
Roland drove to the basket for a layup, then notched another
layup on a leakout. Brace nailed his first three-pointer of the evening.
Boursiquot scored off a nice dish from Walker. Walters
nailed a pair of free throws. Three minutes after the Dukes cut the lead to
one, Northeastern completed a 16–0 run and blew the game open. Though the lead
oscillated for the rest of the game, the outcome was never really in doubt.
Northeastern matched JMU bucket-for-bucket to keep the lead in double digits.
Roland finished with 33 points (12–18 FG, 4–9 3PT), three rebounds,
and three assists in his best offensive game in more than a month. Oddly
enough, he missed three of his eight free throws, the most he’s ever missed in
a college game. His CAA-best mark of 93 percent and streak of 26 straight made
free throws entering the game — along with the fact that he hadn’t missed
multiple free throws in a game in nearly two years — shows his prodigious skill
from the stripe.
Tyson Walker didn’t score in the second half, but added six
assists to accompany his 15 points. Brace and Walters contributed superb
all-around stat lines, with Walters notching 12 points, 12 rebounds, and four
assists and Brace logging 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
James Madison’s junior quartet of Lewis, Parker, Banks, and
Wilson paced the team; each finished in double figures. Parker played
brilliantly, notching 19 points and six assists while cutting through the
defense like a warm butter knife. He took note of how Husky defenders were
playing him, then made split-second decisions regarding whether to take or
reject his teammates’ screens.
Wilson turned on the jets in the second half to net another
double-double, while Lewis made up for inefficient field goal shooting with
eight free throws. Banks was the only one without a ton of upside, making just
five of his 18 shots.
The result boosted Northeastern to 8–6 (2–0 CAA) and dropped
James Madison to 7–6 (0–2 CAA). Both teams have a quicker turnaround than usual
due to compact nature of the CAA’s opening week schedule. Northeastern will
return to Boston for a Thursday matchup with the Elon Phoenix. Matt Neiser and
Milton Posner will call that game, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.
For years now, anyone who has strolled into SECU Arena to
face Pat Skerry’s Towson Tigers has known exactly what they’re up against. The
Tigers are tough, scrappy, and energetic on defense, and every point scored
against them is a point well-earned. They lived up to that reputation in
non-conference play this year, riding their CAA-best scoring defense to a
So when the Northeastern Huskies — who made their
non-conference living by sinking a CAA-best 41 percent of their three-pointers
— squared off with the Tigers on Saturday afternoon, the billing was
straightforward: Northeastern’s high-powered offense against Towson’s
The billing was wrong. Northeastern out-Towsoned Towson, stifling the Tigers’ attack all game en route to a 61–45 win. It was the Huskies’ eighth straight victory in a conference opener, their best defensive showing since crushing Holy Cross into the ground on November 19, and their best defensive showing in conference play since they topped Towson 47–44 almost four years ago.
Brian Fobbs is Towson’s only elite offensive threat, and
Northeastern suffocated him the entire game. Shaq Walters and Quirin Emanga,
both long-limbed guard/forwards, stayed attached to Fobbs whether he had the
ball or not, and left him precious little breathing room to get comfortable. It
took Fobbs completely out of any kind of offensive rhythm; he missed the first
shot of the game, didn’t shoot for about 12 minutes, then was stifled by Emanga
into a bad airball from close range. Fobbs finished with nine points on eight
shots — a far cry from his averages of 17 points on 13 shots — and committed three
But Fobbs wasn’t the only one struggling. Save for sophomore
guard Allen Betrand — who notched 16 points on 15 shots — and Nicolas
Timberlake and Jason Gibson (six points apiece), the Towson box score is a
zero-laden wasteland. Even Betrand, the best-performing Tiger by any standard,
committed three turnovers.
The Huskies took advantage of spotty Tiger spacing to clog
the middle, denying the Tigers easy looks at the rim. They shut off driving and
passing lanes. Towson, deprived of any consistent offensive rhythm, stopped
setting hard screens, allowing Husky defenders to remain attached to ballhandlers
Greg Eboigbodin was central to limiting the Tigers in the
paint, returning after missing both games on the Huskies’ Michigan trip. The
team said that fellow big man Tomas Murphy’s ankle — which had sidelined him
for seven games — was good to go, but he was ultimately a game-time scratch due
to flu symptoms. He is questionable for Monday’s game.
The Huskies’ defensive effort was never more apparent than
it was four minutes from the end of the first half. Freshman Tiger Charles
Thompson snagged a rebound and, with just himself and fellow freshman Jason
Gibson in the backcourt, fired a pass ahead of Gibson out of bounds. As the
whistle blew and the other eight players returned to the Husky frontcourt,
Thompson and Gibson stood facing each other, hands raised in exasperation, trying
to figure out who had messed up. The Husky defense was so successful in denying
the Tigers any offensive momentum that they were making unforced errors.
The Huskies’ 61-point offensive effort was among their
lowest-scoring of the season, but was sufficient in a game where the defense
led the way. Junior Max Boursiquot scored eight quick points in the first half,
starting as a small-ball center for the third straight game despite the return
of Eboigbodin. He finished with 12 points on seven shots to go along with five
Jordan Roland finished with 14 points and six rebounds, and
though he was active on both sides of the ball throughout the game, he never
quite got a rhythm going on offense, missing two-thirds of his shots and all
five of his threes. Many of the misses were quality looks that simply didn’t
But Roland wasn’t exactly unique in this regard. At the end
of the first half, the teams combined for one made three-pointer in 15 tries. Given
the strength of Towson’s defense and Northeastern’s reliance on perimeter shooting
this season, one would expect the Huskies to be trailing.
They were up 12. And while Towson nearly abandoned the three
altogether in the second half, the Huskies found their shooting touch and blew
the game open. Bolden Brace got things going with a swish from the wing a
minute into the half.
After Tyson Walker threw the ball away, then recovered to
pressure Towson’s Nakye Sanders into a missed layup, Northeastern had a five-on-four
the other way. Brace swished another three.
Then Walker took the baton. He would finish with a game-high
17 points, 12 of which came after the intermission. He began with a pull-up
three in semi-transition.
Then he popped the balloon of a brilliant Towson defensive
effort by draining a rainbow three over a close contest by Sanders as the shot clock
By this point, Walker was feeling himself. So when Towson
big man Dennis Tunstall switched onto him, Walker deployed a blistering series
of crossovers to set up a slick reverse layup.
Walker capped off his electric second half by throwing
another few crossovers, pulling up for three, and splashing it through. Walker
also added five rebounds and four assists to his stat line, emerging as the
game’s best performer despite playing just 23 minutes.
Amid Walker’s brilliance came a play that won’t be credited
to him on a stat sheet, but is the sort that makes coaches proud. Greg
Eboigbodin slid over to help on a drive, swatting the ball out of the air and
sending it bouncing toward the corner by the Towson bench. Walker leaped from
the edge of the court and, while in midair behind the baseline, caught the
ball, turned, and threw an accurate pass to Emanga. Emanga found Roland leaking
the other way, and Roland had just one man to beat as he earned himself an easy
layup. Northeastern led by 20 and the game was effectively over.
Northeastern didn’t just outshoot Towson; they outrebounded
them on the offensive and defensive glass. Besides Walker, Boursiquot, and
Roland, who all scored in double figures and pulled down five or more boards,
the rebounding catalyst was Brace, who secured eight. Many of his boards came
in the second half, which ensured the Huskies could burn clock and preserve
their lead. Though the turnover counts eventually evened out, Northeastern’s
13–0 first-half advantage in points off turnovers gave them a double-digit lead
they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Huskies will travel south to Harrisonburg, Virginia for
a Monday evening matchup with the up-and-coming James Madison Dukes. WRBB will
not broadcast the game — the last Northeastern sporting event of the 2010s —
but will upload written coverage to the website.
With the CAA’s conference slate beginning today, WRBB examined the non-conference performances of all 10 CAA teams and ranked them from worst to best. The rankings are based on each team’s record and strength of schedule, with occasional deviations if a deep dive into a team’s schedule, margins of victory, or statistics warranted one.
CAA teams played 125 non-conference games and won 68 for a winning
percentage of .544. Their average opponent, as determined by KenPom’s strength
of schedule metric, was very slightly below the Division I average.
They also spent a sizeable chunk of the last six weeks bludgeoning Division II and III squads. Eight CAA teams won a game by 40 or more points, with three teams winning by 60 or more. The largest margin of victory went to the Towson Tigers, who flattened Division III Bryn Athyn by 69 points. Only Northeastern’s biggest blowout — a 57-point laugher against Holy Cross— came against a Division I team.
Though a comment or prediction is given for each team’s
upcoming schedule, the rankings reflect only how the teams performed in their
completed non-conference games. Each section is prefaced with the team’s record,
strength of schedule rank (compared to other CAA teams), head coach, and, just
for kicks, the player with the best name along with an explanation for why.
With that said . . .
#10: Elon Phoenix
Non-Conference Record: 4–9
Strength of Schedule Rank: Fourth
Head Coach: Mike Schrage (first season)
Best Player Name: Federico Poser — fun to say whether you
pronounce it correctly or not
This is not to say that Elon had no bright spots in the season’s first six weeks. Stanford grad transfer Marcus Sheffield emerged as a premier scorer, posting 17 points per game to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
Freshmen Hunter Woods and Hunter McIntosh were also pleasant
surprises for a team that lost its top five scorers from last year. Both are
averaging double figures in scoring and shooting more than 40 percent form
downtown. Woods also leads the team in rebounding.
The Phoenix even managed to hang with No. 5 UNC for the
first 20 minutes of their November 20 matchup, despite the Tar Heels entering
as 30 ½-point favorites. Though UNC pulled away at the start of the second
half, the Phoenix faithful could take some small comfort in Sheffield’s poster
slam over former CAA standout Justin Pierce.
But the good news ends there for Elon. The UNC loss was one piece
of a six-game losing streak. Of their four non-conference wins, two came
against Division II teams, one against a Division III squad, and one against a Kennesaw
State club ranked 342 out of 353 Division I teams.
The Phoenix are last in the CAA in offense and scoring
margin, and are the only squad shooting below 40 percent from the floor. They
are last in offensive rebounds and rebounding margin. Their sole saving grace
is their three-point shooting; they are the only CAA club making more than 10
threes per game and are fourth in three-point percentage. But even then there
is a downside; they are worst in the conference at defending the three.
The emergence of Woods and McIntosh as scoring threats is welcome news for first-year coach Mike Schrage. But Elon’s lack of depth and veteran talent is evident. Given that the team finished with the CAA’s worst non-conference record despite multiple players exceeding expectations, it’s hard to imagine they can pose a threat during conference play.
#9: UNCW Seahawks
Non-Conference Record: 5–8
Strength of Schedule Rank: Third
Head Coach: C.B. McGrath (third season)
Best Player Name: Brian Tolefree — you don’t have to pay for
If the William & Mary Tribe were the CAA program most ravaged in the offseason — four of their top five scorers fled to other schools after the dismissal of longtime head coach Tony Shaver — then UNCW was the program most ravaged in non-conference play.
Though the Seahawks weren’t expected to shine much after the
graduation of monster forward Devontae Cacok and the transfer of junior
standout Jeantal Cylla, they at least had a few exciting pieces to fuel coach
C.B. McGrath’s up-tempo offense.
The first domino to fall was sharpshooting junior guard and
leading returning scorer Ty Gadsden, who began the season sidelined by injury,
played December 7 against Charlotte, and hasn’t played since. The team confirmed
he is out indefinitely, indicating that he may return sometime this season. The
same cannot be said for fellow junior guard Jay Estimé, who injured his knee,
went under the knife, and will miss the rest of the season. The injuries, when
combined with the departure of grad transfer Carter Skaggs in November, gutted
a Seahawks’ roster struggling for experience (the Seahawks are one of seven Division
I teams without a senior).
But the last and largest domino fell after the team’s
non-conference closer against Vanderbilt on December 21, when sophomore point
guard Kai Toews informed McGrath and his staff that he is leaving the program. McGrath
called the announcement a “total surprise.” The team said Toews planned to pursue
a professional basketball career in his native Japan; Toews announced on
Twitter that he was “thinking of going on a professional path or transferring.”
Toews said previously that he would like to compete for the Japanese national
team at the FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Though he was averaging just five points, four rebounds, and
three assists this year, Toews was a crucial component of the team’s future. Although
he wasn’t a major scoring threat, he was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team last
year after breaking the conference record with 253 assists.
In their stead, sophomore guard Jaylen Sims has picked up
some slack, leading the team in points (15) and rebounds (6) per game while
shooting a CAA-best 47 percent from behind the arc.
Sophomore forward Martin Linssen has also chipped in,
logging 10 points and four rebounds per game in his first season with the
Seahawks after transferring from Valparaiso. But the biggest surprise has been
six-foot freshman guard Shykeim Phillips, who is averaging nine points per
contest on 49 percent shooting. Though he isn’t scoring from the perimeter, he
uses a smorgasbord of quick hesitations, jukes, and handles to dart to the
basket for layups. Phillips began the season off the bench, but earned a
starting spot several weeks in.
But, like Elon’s, most of UNCW’s five wins have come against
Division III teams, with Campbell and FIU as the only DI victories. The four
departures and injuries are reflected in the CAA-worst five-game losing streak
they take into conference play. Their typically high-octane offense keeps their
scoring, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and assists in the CAA’s
top five, but their field goal, three-point, and scoring defense all rank
Even if Ty Gadsden returns for a good chunk of conference play, enough damage has been done to put the Seahawks in contention with the Phoenix for the CAA’s bottom spot.
#8: Drexel Dragons
Non-Conference Record: 7–6
Strength of Schedule Rank: Sixth
Head Coach: Zach Spiker (fourth season)
Best Player Name: Coletrane Washington — greatest jazz name
of all time
Like Elon and UNCW, Drexel needed to replace a mix of graduates (Trevor John, Troy Harper) and transfers (Alihan Demir). The three combined to average more than half of the team’s points last season.
Unlike Elon and UNCW, Drexel has maintained enough healthy
talent to post a winning record in non-conference play.
The biggest component behind the Dragons’ success has been
the miraculous progression of senior guard/forward Zach Walton, who jumped to
Drexel from Edmonds Community College (not in the NCAA) and played just seven
games last year before an injury ended his season. Walton had a breakout night in
the team’s third game against Abilene Christian, dropping 22 points and sinking
the game-winning three after reigning CAA Rookie of the Year Camren Wynter was
denied the ball.
Ten days later, he dropped a season-high 32 points in a win
over Bryant. Though Walton’s 28 percent clip from downtown leaves much to be
desired, his 13 points per game are keying a Drexel offense badly in need of
scoring punch. His four boards per night and a steady series of highlights aren’t
too shabby either.
Wynter and James Butler sit right behind Walton in the
scoring column with 12 points per game. Both lead the CAA in a key category,
Butler in rebounds (11.5 a game) and Wynter in assists (5.8). Butler’s inside
presence is by far the biggest reason for Drexel’s strong rebounding margin,
the third-best in the CAA.
But Drexel lacks both an elite scorer and a deep, balanced roster of offensive options, which will likely spell trouble in conference play. Their offense and defense both ranked eighth in non-conference play, and though their assist and three-point defense stats led the conference, they need to find another gear to exceed preseason expectations. They also need to figure out how to win away from home; they won five of their six contests in Philadelphia but lost all five road games.
#7: Northeastern Huskies
Non-Conference Record: 6–6
Strength of Schedule Rank: Eighth
Head Coach: Bill Coen (14th season)
Best Player Name: Greg Eboigbodin — save for the word “boing,”
there’s no better way to describe the motion and feel of a trampoline
It’s surprising to see the Huskies this far down on the list, especially given that their scoring margin ranked third in the conference. But a .500 record and the third-weakest strength of schedule leaves them here.
That said, their bright spot was brighter than anyone else’s.
In the season’s first few games, senior guard Jordan Roland torched every
defense he saw, leading the nation in scoring and forcing his name into
national conversations, award watchlists, and ESPN segments. He infuriated
defenses with a flurry of difficult lefty floaters and overwhelmed them with
twisting, drifting, contested threes from distances where no one in their right
mind would think to shoot a basketball.
Roland’s best game came in an 84–79 win against Harvard on
November 8. He scored 11 points in the game’s first three minutes en route to a
42-point firestorm that shattered the single-game school record held by Husky
legends J.J. Barea and Reggie Lewis.
Though he tailed off somewhat as the season progressed, his
22.4 points per game still lead the CAA and rank seventh in the nation. His marks
of 51 percent from the floor, 43 percent from three, and 93 percent from the
foul line are all preposterous, and rank as the conference’s fourth-best, second-best,
and best, respectively. He is also second in the conference in minutes per game
(37.3) and has established himself as the clear favorite for CAA Player of the
Year ahead of Delaware’s Nate Darling and Charleston’s Grant Riller.
Tyson Walker, Max Boursiquot, and Shaq Walters have stepped
up at various times, giving hope that the Husky offense can become more
balanced. Walker in particular has exceeded expectations, starting every game and
taking the offensive keys from graduating guard Vasa Pusica.
But the consistency hasn’t been there. Senior guard/forward
Bolden Brace, who was expected to be the team’s second scoring option behind
Roland, has shot efficiently but hasn’t scored in volume, logging double
figures in just four of the team’s 12 games. Without reliable scoring from him,
Northeastern will be hard-pressed to remain a top-three CAA team.
The team also suffered from injuries to big men; 6’8” Tomas
Murphy has missed the last eight games with an ankle injury and 6’10” Greg
Eboigbodin has missed the last two. Though there have been some fine
performances in their stead — namely back-to-back double-doubles by 6’5”
utility man Max Boursiquot — the lack of size has presented problems for the
Huskies. Though their CAA-worst rebounding numbers are partially attributable
to their having the slowest pace in the conference, their challenges in
crashing the boards without Murphy and Eboigbodin have often hampered their
ability to build and maintain momentum in games.
The Huskies excelled from the outside, nailing a CAA-best 41
percent of their three-pointers, with their three most frequent perimeter
shooters all shooting between 42 and 44 percent. They also sank 82 percent of
their free throws, easily the best mark in the conference. But they allow the CAA’s
highest field goal percentage, in large part due to the shortcomings of their
The Huskies’ non-conference slate left plenty for coach Bill Coen to be optimistic about. But offensive inconsistency, namely from players not named Jordan Roland, left the Huskies with a .500 record when they could have fared much better.
#6: Towson Tigers
Non-Conference Record: 6–6
Strength of Schedule Rank: Second
Head Coach: Pat Skerry (ninth season)
Best Player Name: Demetrius Mims — m’s in all the right
Last year, Towson struggled mightily, winning less than a third of their games while trying to incorporate 11 new players. This year, with 90 percent of their scoring and 86 percent of their rebounding from last year returning, the Tigers have a much better chance to develop.
Towson finished with the same 6–6 record as Northeastern,
but Towson had a higher strength of schedule. Oddly enough, their most
encouraging moment was a loss. Despite entering a mid-November game against the
No. 15 Florida Gators as 18 ½-point underdogs, the Tigers kept the game close
throughout. The clubs were tied with 80 seconds left before Florida salvaged a
As expected, senior guard Brian Fobbs has keyed the Towson
attack, averaging 17 points and five boards a night. However, his relatively
low efficiency marks (41 percent from the field, 29 percent from three) will
have to rise before he can join the elite tier of CAA scorers.
Sophomore guard Allen Betrand and senior forwards Nakye
Sanders and Dennis Tunstall have continued their solid offensive production
from last year. But all three will need to up their production before Towson
can take the next step.
The Tigers’ reliably scrappy, energetic defense has shown up
this year; they allow a CAA-best 65.4 points per game and boast the second-best
rebounding margin and third-best steal total. But they don’t rank near the top
of the conference in any meaningful offensive category and only Fobbs qualifies
as any sort of offensive standout.
Their excellent defense can only take them so far, and if Towson wishes to capitalize on the senior seasons of Fobbs, Tunstall, and Sanders, the entire team needs to boost its scoring.
#5: Charleston Cougars
Non-Conference Record: 6–6
Strength of Schedule Rank: First
Head Coach: Earl Grant (sixth season)
Best Player Name: Zep Jasper — plenty of powerful plosives
Charleston is a general consensus top-three CAA team that finished 6–6 in non-conference play. At first glance, this might lead to comparisons with Northeastern, but Charleston had a decidedly superior non-conference slate.
Though they suffered blowout defeats at the hands of
Oklahoma State and Central Florida, their other four losses were by
single-digit margins to good teams: Central Florida again, Wake Forest,
Richmond, and VCU. The Cougars fought through the most difficult non-conference
schedule of any CAA team and emerged with plenty to be happy about.
They are led by senior guard and CAA Preseason Player of the
Year Grant Riller, who is logging 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists per
night. His scoring mark is good for third in the CAA (20th in the
nation) and his field goal and free throw percentages are both top five in the
conference. His scoring is coming in the same way it did last year: subpar
three-point shooting and a sky-high percentage around the rim.
On November 29, Riller keyed a win over Providence and
passed former teammate Jarrell Brantley for third on the school’s all-time
scoring list. Two weeks later, he notched his 2,000th collegiate point.
That said, there is room for Riller to improve, particularly
regarding his 26 percent mark from three-point land. He’s had a strong season,
but at his best he is the conference’s greatest scorer and arguably its top
player overall. He hasn’t hit his ceiling yet.
The Cougars lack a clear second scoring option behind
Riller, but junior guard Brevin Galloway and senior forwards Jaylen McManus and
Sam Miller have all assumed larger roles in the offense. Miller in particular
has stood out, notching seven points and seven rebounds per contest thanks in
part to moderately efficient perimeter shooting.
The Cougars boast a strong defense, led by a combined four
steals per game from Riller and Galloway. Though their CAA-worst perimeter shooting
badly warrants improvement, many of their other low ranks in team stats
compared to other CAA squads can be explained away by their slow pace of play
and the tough competition they’ve faced so far.
Their record isn’t fantastic, and there is room for improvement up and down the roster. But don’t be fooled; this Cougars team is still dangerous.
#4: James Madison Dukes
Non-Conference Record: 7–4
Strength of Schedule Rank: Seventh
Head Coach: Louis Rowe (third season)
Best Player Name: Michael Christmas — because Christmas time
At the outset of the season, James Madison appeared poised to snap a streak of three consecutive losing seasons, and they haven’t disappointed so far.
Leading the way is junior guard Matt Lewis, who ranks fifth
in the conference in points (18), rebounds (7), and minutes (35) per game, and
adds a third-best five assists per game as well. He’s taken the lead on a team
with no seniors in the regular rotation.
His backcourt partner and fellow junior Darius Banks is
faring almost as well, averaging 14 points (on 41 percent from downtown) and
five boards a night. He has also continued his thievery from last year, swiping
the ball 1.6 times per contest.
And if that wasn’t enough junior talent, try 6’8”, 250-pound
junior forward Dwight Wilson, who missed the first four games of the season but
has averaged a double-double since. Or junior forward Zach Jacobs, who chips in
eight points and six boards a game.
But the performance nobody saw coming, especially with so
many returning offensive centerpieces, is freshman forward Michael Christmas,
who is putting up nine points and six rebounds per game, shooting a comical 46
percent from three on decent volume, and has established himself as a one-man
The Dukes’ team stats require a bit of context to decipher.
At first glance, their counting stats and percentage stats appear to tell
opposing stories. This is explained by the team’s pace of play, easily the
fastest in the conference. The Dukes have the 26th-fastest pace out
of 353 Division I teams; the next closest CAA team is Hofstra, nearly 100 spots
down the list.
More possessions mean that the Dukes score more and give up
more points, skewing their counting stats. The percentage stats tell a more accurate
story. James Madison is eighth in the CAA in field goal and three-point
percentage; save for Banks and Christmas, the regular three-point shooters are
converting less than a third of their tries. They also struggled from the
charity stripe, making just 65 percent of their free throws.
The Dukes shone on defense, limiting opponents to the lowest
field goal percentage and second-lowest three-point percentage of any CAA team.
They also led the conference in blocks.
The Dukes’ offense has a high ceiling and is likely to improve as the season progresses. But it is their defense that has turned heads, going from a middle-of-the-pack unit last year to — along with Towson — the conference’s best so far this year. If they can overcome the offensive hole left by the graduation of Stuckey Mosley, the Dukes can join the CAA’s top tier.
#3: Hofstra Pride
Non-Conference Record: 9–4
Strength of Schedule Rank: Tenth
Head Coach: Joe Mihalich (seventh season)
Best Player Name: Stafford Trueheart — no idea why he’s playing
basketball instead of commanding the English army in the 12th
Hofstra begin their non-conference schedule with a mandate (a first-place finish in the CAA Preseason Poll) and the question of how to replace the offense of graduating guard Justin Wright-Foreman, the two-time reigning CAA Player of the Year and arguably the best scorer the conference has seen in years?
But, as it turns out, you can lose Wright-Foreman and still
have the best and deepest backcourt in the conference. It begins with a pair of
seniors: Eli Pemberton and Desure Buie.
The pair have remarkably similar numbers. Pemberton averages
17.1 points per game, good for sixth in the conference; Buie’s 16.6 points rank
eighth. Pemberton is third in minutes per game with 35.6; Buie is right behind
him at 35.5. Pemberton averages six rebounds per contest; Buie notches six assists,
good for second in the conference. Buie has also retained the defensive
brilliance that won him CAA Defensive Player of the Year last year; he leads
the conference with 2.7 steals a night.
Junior guards Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn round out the backcourt,
averaging a combined 18 points and 11 rebounds. Coburn’s seven rebounds per
contest lead the team, while Ray has been the most efficient scorer among the Hofstra
guards, shooting 41 percent from downtown.
Sophomore forward/center Isaac Kante, who sat out last
season after transferring from Georgia, has established himself on a squad short
on rebounding and defensive presence down low. He is averaging nine points on
61 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds.
The Pride also scored the biggest win of any CAA team so far
this season. On November 21, they walked into Pauley Pavilion and toppled UCLA.
Keyed by 29 points from Buie and 27 from Ray, Hofstra came
back from a 13-point first-half deficit to take the game 88–78. It was the
Bruins’ first loss of the year and one of the biggest wins in program history
The Pride are the best-scoring offense in the CAA so far,
though their numbers are inflated by their relatively fast pace of play and
their strength of schedule, which was the weakest of any CAA team. Their four
main guards are all among the conference’s ten best free throw shooters, with
Buie’s 91 percent second only to Northeastern’s Jordan Roland. The team as a
whole knocks down 78 percent of their foul shots, second only to Northeastern’s
82 percent. The Pride have the most steals, most offensive rebounds, and best
assist-to-turnover ratio of any CAA team.
Hofstra’s biggest causes for concern inside depth (as
evidenced by their middle-of-the-pack rebounding numbers) and efficiency — they
ranked seventh in field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
The Pride enter conference play riding a three-game winning streak. They have a quartet of guards that can outpace anyone. If they can find the efficiency and inside play buttons, they will be an imposing bunch.
#2: William & Mary Tribe
Non-Conference Record: 8–5
Strength of Schedule Rank: Fifth
Head Coach: Dane Fischer (first season)
Best Player Name: Thatcher Stone — if people were once again
named after their professions, you’d hire him to build you a sturdy house
This one was a surprise.
A month after their CAA Tournament exit last season, the
Tribe looked like a bomb had hit them. Tony Shaver, their coach of 16 years, had
been fired. Justin Pierce, Matt Milon, Chase Audige, and LJ Owens — four of the
team’s five leading scorers who had a combined eight years of eligibility
remaining — had transferred. Leading scorer Nathan Knight was thinking about
bailing on his senior season and declaring for the NBA draft.
New head coach Dane Fischer walked into this mess and pulled
everything together. The Tribe posted the CAA’s fourth-best winning percentage
in non-conference play; the three teams ahead of them had considerably weaker
It begins, as any William & Mary conversation inevitably
does, with Knight. When he decided to return for his senior season, the Tribe
retained the conference’s best big man and, along with Charleston’s Grant
Riller, a solid candidate for Player of the Year. He hasn’t disappointed,
posting nightly averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds, with his 56 percent mark
from the field and 1.5 blocks per game leading the conference. Along with
Northeastern’s Jordan Roland, Knight was named to the watchlist for the Oscar
Robertson Trophy, given annually to college basketball’s best player.
As spectacular as Knight has been, his elite play was
expected. What wasn’t as expected was the establishment of senior center Andy
Van Vliet as an elite two-way player. The seven-foot Wisconsin transfer is
averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds a night, the latter tied with the 6’10” Knight
for second-best in the conference. His is sixth in the conference in field goal
percentage and blocks.
Good shooters are not hard to come by in the CAA; good
shooters who are seven feet tall are rare. Both Knight and Van Vliet can space
the floor, nailing 35 and 39 percent of their threes, respectively. This allows
Fischer to play a twin towers lineup without sacrificing perimeter shooting,
creating matchup and switching nightmares even for well-balanced defenses.
The Tribe also have benefitted from a pair of guards: grad
transfer Bryce Barnes and junior Luke Loewe. Barnes is averaging eight points,
three rebounds, and four assists a night in his first and only season for the
Tribe after three years playing for Milwaukee. Loewe has taken a gigantic step
forward, upping his production and efficiency across the board. He’s averaging
11 points a night on a hyper-efficient 53 percent shooting from the floor and
47 percent from downtown.
Sophomore guard Thornton Scott has missed nine straight games
with a lower leg injury. In the four games he played — all of which the Tribe
won — he showed tremendous progress from last year, averaging 13 points, five
rebounds, and four assists with an absurd 52 percent clip from downtown. If he
returns soon, it will add another weapon to an already well-stocked arsenal.
The Tribe won their first four games out of the gate, three
of which came on the road. One of those wins came against Wofford, courtesy of
a game-winning layup by Barnes. Before Barnes’s shot dropped, Wofford had won
its last 17 home games in a row.
Fischer has picked up his predecessor’s tendency for a
relatively even distribution of minutes. Van Vliet leads the team with just 30
per game, trailed closely by Knight and Loewe. It begs the question of what
happens if Fischer decides to up their minutes, leaving opponents to face his
twin towers for longer stretches.
William & Mary’s team stats reveal no obvious weaknesses
so far. Their scoring, assist rate, points allowed, margin of victory, field
goal percentage, field goal defense, and three-point percentage all fall
between third and fifth. They rank second in defensive rebounds and blocks, and
first in rebounding margin. Even their bottom-half offensive rebounding and
three-point defense aren’t far off from respectable levels.
Entering the season, the Tribe were a question mark, with Knight projected to dominate but nothing else assured. With non-conference play complete, the Tribe have joined the CAA’s top tier and have as good a shot at the CAA title as anyone.
#1: Delaware Blue Hens
Non-Conference Record: 10–3
Strength of Schedule Rank: Ninth
Head Coach: Martin Inglesby (fourth season)
Best Player Name: Nate Darling — any Delaware fans who think
he’s cute have an easy poster idea waiting for them
December 3, 2019. Hofstra, the winner of the CAA Preseason Poll, was 6–3. Northeastern, the defending conference champion, was 4–4.
The Delaware Blue Hens, who most preseason observers had
placed outside the CAA’s top tier, were undefeated, winners of nine straight
games. And though they fell to earth by losing three of their next four to
close non-conference play, the statement had been made: Delaware is the team to
beat in the CAA.
Although many had high expectations for junior guard and UAB
transfer Nate Darling, he has outplayed those expectations and then some. His
21.4 points per game are second only to Northeastern’s Jordan Roland and rank
16th in the nation. He has played more minutes and made more threes
than anyone in the CAA, and his stellar three-point percentage of 42 ranks
third. Throw in his four rebounds and three assists per contest, and Delaware has
the best CAA transfer since Northeastern nabbed Vasa Pusica from San Diego.
But because one excellent transfer isn’t enough, the Blue
Hens have another: sophomore forward Justyn Mutts. In his first season with
Delaware after leaving High Point, Mutts is logging 14 points per game on 53
percent shooting (second in the conference to Nathan Knight) and 9.6 rebounds
(fourth in the conference). As if that weren’t enough, his highlights are
Now, for the returning play . . . what? They have another transfer?
He’s from Villanova? He’s 6’10”? He dropped 19 points in his Delaware debut?
Sure, why not? This might as well happen.
Dylan Painter is a midseason transfer, so he only recently
became eligible, playing in Delaware’s final two non-conference games. The Blue
Hens won nine games in a row, then added a major piece to compliment Mutts down
And finally we turn our attention to returning junior guards
Ryan Allen and Kevin Anderson. Both have long been ticketed for CAA stardom but
have seen serious injuries impede their progress. They’re healthy now, and at
the perfect time. They have similar numbers: double-digit scoring, a field goal
percentage in the high 40s, and a three-point percentage around 40 percent.
The Blue Hens are third in scoring, points allowed, field goal and three-point defense, and defensive rebounds. They lead the conference in scoring margin, field goal percentage, and assist-to-turnover ratio. Though they ultimately fell 78–70 to No. 20 Villanova, they proved they could hang around against a superior team. In the season’s fourth game, Painter and Anderson combined for 69 points.
Last year, Delaware finished with a losing conference record
and lost in the semifinal round of the CAA Tournament. Now they’re stacked, and
the road to the conference’s March Madness bid goes through them.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
His teammates were frustrated. A couple of them had yelled
at Strong as he charged down the lane. Bolden Brace gestured animatedly to no
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
is the centerpiece,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked. “I’m actually
shocked when he misses.”
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.
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].”
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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
Walker, Myles Franklin, and Max Boursiqout all finished in double figures.
Walker stood out, earning 15 points with a series of drives.
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.