PHILADELPHIA — The
last time Northeastern faced Drexel, the Huskies tore the Dragons up in every
way imaginable. The Huskies nailed nine of their 17 tries from beyond the arc
as their balanced attack carried them to a 85–52 victory.
Northeastern played seven games between then and Saturday
afternoon’s rematch with Drexel. They posted a subpar showing from three-point
land in every one of those games and, unsurprisingly for a perimeter-oriented
team, their offense has suffered. Five of those seven games were losses. Their
perimeter performance Saturday was among the worst of the year, with just three
of the Huskies’ 15 long-range bombs settling into the bucket.
But Northeastern finally found a way around the distance
deficiency. Led by Jordan Roland and Shaq Walters, the Huskies used ball
movement and timely cuts to earn numerous layups and outlast the Dragons,
The win is vital for the Huskies’ playoff hopes, as it
guarantees they won’t fall below seventh place and — combined with Elon’s loss
to Towson on Saturday — greatly boosts their chances of finishing in the top
six. The top six seeds in next month’s CAA Tournament receive a first-round
bye, essential given the league’s remarkable parity and the rigors of playing
three games in three days (four in four days without the bye). If the Huskies
split their games against JMU and Towson next week, they will secure the bye.
Saturday’s win was also essential in rebounding from Thursday’s 22-point loss against Delaware.
“You look up and down the league and everybody seems to have
one of those games that’s an outlier,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen
observed. “We understand it’s the next play mentality . . . [we] have a mature
team that doesn’t have a hangover effect into the next game.”
The Huskies jumped out to an early lead, keeping the
pressure on the Dragons’ defense despite Roland heading to the bench with two
fouls. Walters and Tyson Walker keyed the Husky attack in his stead, with Guilien
Smith and Max Boursiquot joining them in nailing multiple buckets.
Roland attempted just two three-pointers, his lowest-ever
total in a Husky uniform. It was, more than anything else, a function of Drexel’s
“We all know what Roland does; he’s an elite shot maker, and
if he gets going from three life can be pretty hard,” Drexel head Zach Spiker noted.
“You want to make him work to get the basketball, you want to make him work to
catch it in the right spot. So when you limit him from three and he back cuts,
if you don’t have proper rotation he’s going to have a clean look at the rim.”
Nearly every Husky shorter than 6’6” spent most of the game
doing just that. Roland, who usually spends most of his time outside the paint,
often faked a flare toward the perimeter and slashed back toward the basket,
receiving passes and displaying impressive touch and body control to lay it in
over larger defenders. Shaq Walters finished a number of buckets inside en route
to 16 points, while Boursiquot and Bolden Brace added 10 apiece.
The cuts yielded easy buckets early on, bolstering the
Huskies’ resolve and energy. While the Delaware game was marked by stagnant
offense and little off-ball movement, Saturday’s contest featured constant
activity. Every Husky who made a pass instantly looked for the next cut or
screen. Whereas Delaware pressured the Huskies’ passing lanes, Northeastern forced
Drexel to choose between covering the passing lanes or the cutters.
“They’re a pressure-and-deny team,” Coen explained, “and
when you do that [backdoor cuts are] one of the things that’s available to you.”
Drexel kept things close throughout, trading the lead with
Northeastern in the waning minutes of the first half and responding quickly when
the Huskies built an 11-point lead after the intermission. Led by 20 points
from sophomore guard Camren Wynter and 17 from junior forward James Butler, the
Dragons matched the Huskies with 36 points in the paint.
The Dragons also took excellent care of the ball all game, committing
just nine turnovers. While the Huskies turned the ball over frequently in the
first half, they lost the ball just three times in the second, making it
difficult for the Dragons to build momentum and cut into the lead.
But besides the cuts for layups, Northeastern won its
biggest advantage at the foul line. While both teams committed just four fouls
apiece in the first half, the second half grew more and more chippy as the
clock wound down. Northeastern’s 10 fouls were spread out across the half, and
were therefore less destructive than Drexel’s concentrated 14. The Dragons shot
just six free throws in the second half, while the Huskies shot 20 and made 18
of them. Roland and Brace both went six-for-seven, with Boursiquot and Walters
cashing in multiple times as well. Though the Huskies made three fewer field
goals than the Dragons in the second half, they outscored them by seven.
The Huskies did have one scary moment or, more precisely, a
scary moment in two parts. A few minutes into the half, Butler received a pass
on the low block with good position against Boursiquot. Walker rushed over from
the weak side to help and reached in with his left hand trying to knock the
ball away. When Butler raised the ball to avoid the steal, he caught Walker’s
arm in the process, and the freshman point guard doubled over in pain.
Smith subbed in for Walker, who went to the locker room. Walker
rejoined the team on the bench a few minutes later, re-entered the game, and
played for six minutes without registering a stat before attempting a three and
immediately grabbing his arm again. He exited for good this time, though he
remained on the bench with his teammates.
“He just kinda ran into Butler and that’s kinda like running
into a brick wall,” Coen lamented. “He got him pretty good in the shoulder so
when we get back to campus we’ll get it evaluated.”
We won’t speculate on the condition of Walker’s left
shoulder, but any time he misses is a body blow to the Huskies, for whom every
game now holds critical playoff importance. If Walker is sidelined, Guilien
Smith is the most likely candidate to replace him in the starting lineup, as
Smith has proven his defensive mettle against some of the conference’s best
guards. It would be the first game of the season in which Walker does not
The Huskies (14–14, 8–8 CAA) will play their penultimate regular-season
game on Thursday at home against last-place James Madison. Michael Petillo and
Christian Skroce will call that one, with coverage beginning at 7:45 PM EST.
Those moments when you’re riding high, when you feel invincible,
when you feel like you have all the momentum and confidence . . . those are the
moments you’re most likely to be smashed over the head with a hefty
Such was the story of the Northeastern Huskies on Thursday
night. They entered Bob Carpenter Center for a showdown with the Delaware Blue
Hens, the best CAA team in non-conference plat, winners of seven of their last
But Northeastern had every reason to feel good about their
chances. After several weeks of failed crunch-time execution leading to blown
second-half leads and close losses, the Huskies won both of last week’s games.
Their win against Charleston was particularly encouraging, as the Huskies held
the Cougars’ excellent offense scoreless for 10 straight minutes. Grant Riller,
the conference’s best pure scorer, eked out nine points in the first half and
didn’t score at all in the second. The Huskies ran away with the game.
But Thursday night’s game would not build on that success.
Instead it would revive last month’s demons, as Nate Darling and the Blue Hens
hit the Huskies hard and quickly en route to a 70–48 win. It was the Huskies’
largest loss since their 34-point NCAA Tournament defeat against Kansas last March,
and their worst loss in conference play in nearly three years.
When the Huskies and Blue Hens met at Matthews Arena four
weeks ago, Nate Darling’s unconscious second-half shooting (28 points on 11
attempts) keyed a steady comeback, and the Blue Hens overcome a 16-point
deficit to win by two. Darling, who averaged more points in his last six games
than any player in the nation, went right back to torching the Huskies.
He began with a catch-and-shoot three from the corner on the
first possession of the game. A stepback long two, another catch-and-shoot
three, three free throws, and a semi-transition pull-up three later, the teams
headed into the first media timeout. With less than five minutes in the books,
Delaware had opened up a 16–4 lead, one that they would never relinquish.
Fourteen of those points were Darling’s, and he had yet to miss. It was the second
straight game in which Darling scored a dozen or more points before the first
Darling would hit another three after the break, then miss
his next five shots to end the game with a surprisingly modest, yet still
game-high 17 points. Though Northeastern contained him for the rest of the
game, the wounds he inflicted could not be stitched up.
It didn’t help that Northeastern’s offense wasn’t clicking.
A few wide-open misses notwithstanding, the Huskies had a tough time generating
quality looks. The Blue Hens pressured ballhandlers, kept them out of the
paint, and made routine passes difficult. The Huskies, normally one of the best
in the conference at protecting the ball, spent the first chunk of the game discombobulated.
Tyson Walker threw away a couple of passes, allowing Delaware to get out in
transition and build their momentum.
By contrast, the Huskies saw a set, staunch defense every
time down the floor. The long-armed Kevin Anderson was particularly effective
in denying clean looks to Jordan Roland, who registered a decent overall game
but never reached the flamethrower status Husky fans have become familiar with.
By the time eight minutes had been played, Darling’s scoring
had been supplemented by a Justyn Mutts tip-in, two free throws from Anderson,
and a pair of inside buckets from Colin Goss. Delaware led 24–4.
In a play that encapsulated the Huskies’ struggles, Greg Eboigbodin
leaped, snatched a rebound, and went right up for a putback bucket. But the
momentum from his jump carried him underneath the hoop, and his shot was
blocked by the underside of the backboard.
Not that the backboard was the only one blocking Husky
shots. Dylan Painter, the 6’10” transfer from Villanova, made his presence felt
on the inside, blocking three shots in the first half. Northeastern guards who
were already having a tough time driving into the paint were further dissuaded
by Painter’s paint patrol.
The Huskies finally got something going around the middle of
the first half, with Roland keying an 8–0 run. But the lead never dipped lower
than 15 points, and Ryan Allen’s brilliant and-one dissolved any lingering
Delaware led 43–21 at the half. Northeastern’s total was
their lowest in any half this season, a product of an offense unable to
generate clean looks consistently. Bolden Brace remained aggressive but made
just one of his eight shots. Shaq Walters notched two buckets but often stagnated
the offense by catching the ball, taking a couple of meandering dribbles in the
midrange, then dishing the ball to a teammate. Neither Guilien Smith nor Jason
Strong, both efficient shooters who played meaningful minutes off the bench,
tried a shot all night. By contrast, all but one of the Blue Hens who saw
first-half action had logged a bucket.
The second half changed absolutely nothing, as both teams
scored 27 points. Darling and Roland, two of the CAA’s minutes leaders, played
less than their averages once the score was a foregone conclusion. Vito
Cubrilo, who had played just 16 minutes all season for the Huskies before
Thursday, entered the game with almost 17 minutes remaining. His only shot
attempt was a doomed drive against Goss, who pounded Cubrilo’s layup toward the
floor. Cubrilo is the only Husky this season who has seen the court but not scored.
This is not to say that the second half lacked interesting
moments. Delaware energized their home crowd with a few dunks from Allen and
Mutts, the latter of whom has established himself as one of the conference’s
best highlight generators.
But it was Jordan Roland who recorded
the play of the night. After hitting a tricky standstill, no-rhythm three over
Painter the possession before, Roland used a behind-the-back dribble and a
massive stepback to separate himself from Kevin Anderson. When Anderson leaped
forward to contest the shot, Roland leaned in, trying to draw a three-shot
But Roland’s stepback had created too
much room for that, so Anderson landed cleanly. Roland was left to jack up a
twisting, flailing, double-clutch, left-handed prayer from several feet beyond
the deepest part of the three-point line, a shot he tried only because he was
banking on a foul call, and a shot that no right-minded player would attempt
under normal circumstances.
With any other player you’d assume the
shot was a fluke, but Roland hit a similar left-handed three against Hofstra
two weeks ago.
Miraculous though the shot was, it was
ultimately a splash in a disappointing bucket. No Husky besides Roland and
Walker scored more than five points, and even those two combined for just 26
points on 27 shots. The team shot 37 percent from the floor and 29 percent from
downtown. The Huskies scored just 48 points, their lowest total since a 47–44
win over Towson more than four years ago. They haven’t scored so little in a
loss since December 2014 against Harvard, and haven’t done so in conference
play in more than six years.
Fortunately for the Huskies (13–14, 7–8
CAA), Towson and Drexel both lost Thursday night, meaning the Huskies remain in
sixth place, one game behind Towson and a half game ahead of Elon. With only
three games left to play in a conference season marked by remarkable parity,
securing a sixth seed or higher is imperative for the Huskies. The top six seeds
get a first-round bye in the CAA Tournament, a major advantage given the small
number of games and the fatigue of playing on consecutive nights. The Blue Hens
(20–8, 10–5 CAA) remained in third place.
The Huskies will look to rebound Saturday afternoon against
the Drexel Dragons, who they defeated last month by 33 points. Michael Petillo
and Milton Posner will call that game, with coverage beginning at 1:45 PM EST.
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
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
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’s 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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.
— 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
“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
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 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
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
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
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.
If you took a shot every time a CAA coach, player, or
commentator said the word “parity,” you’d probably wake up the next morning
with a raging hangover, an empty wallet, a lower-back butterfly tattoo, and no
clue how you wound up two cities over.
It’s entirely justified. The Hofstra Pride, last year’s
regular season champion, finished just one game ahead of the second-place
Northeastern Huskies. The last-place UNCW Seahawks finished just one game below
James Madison and Towson. The year before, Charleston and Northeastern tied for
first, with four teams — Elon, Drexel, Delaware, and James Madison — tied for
This is the definition of parity: few outliers. In any given
year, a handful of the CAA’s ten teams have a legitimate chance at the conference
championship and the automatic March Madness berth that comes with it.
The conclusion of Saturday’s games marked the halfway point
of the conference season. Each team has played every other team once, with the
distribution of home and away games as even as possible. A cursory glance shows
the parity we’ve come to expect; three teams boast 6–3 records and three more
boast 5–4 records.
But a deeper dive reveals something completely different.
This is not just parity; this is insanity.
Whether by pure chance or the interference of a few rogue
basketball gods looking for a laugh, the Colonial Athletic Association’s men’s
basketball teams have spent the last month setting, then destroying, the
expectations of fans and analysts. By way of a midseason roundup, I’ll try to
make sense of the ongoing tornado, beginning with . . .
Let’s define “game-winner” as a field goal made within the
last 10 seconds that gives a team a lead they don’t relinquish. The six
game-winners in CAA play have produced two storylines.
The first, and the less interesting of the two, is how often
Hofstra is involved. Four of their nine games have been decided by game-winners,
with the Pride winning twice and losing twice.
The second, more interesting storyline is the convergence of
Northeastern and Delaware.
The Huskies began conference play with wins over Towson, James Madison, and Elon by a combined margin of 41 points. Delaware stalled, losing four of their first six CAA contests in a surprising turnaround for a team that won the most non-conference games of any CAA squad. But game-winners would quickly swing each team’s fortunes.
For Northeastern, last-second shots proved fatal. The first
one, a forced layup from William & Mary star Nathan Knight on January 4, handed
the Huskies their first conference loss.
Five days later, Hofstra star Eli Pemberton decided that one
Husky loss on a last-second lefty layup wasn’t enough, and did it to them again.
This time a national television audience got to see it.
The following week, Delaware, by this point trending toward
the conference cellar, found themselves in a dogfight with bottom-tier Elon.
Ryan Allen drove, drew three defenders, and found infrequent three-point
shooter Jacob Cushing atop the arc for the decider.
One game later, Kevin Anderson launched himself to the top
of SportsCenter’s nightly top 10 when he fielded an inbounds pass, swerved
around reigning Defensive Player of the Year Desure Buie, and drove the length
of the court for the layup that gave his team a win. Tyus Edney was probably smiling
So when the two teams met on Saturday,
and when Delaware steadily closed the lead in the second half, you’d be
forgiven for assuming a dramatic ending was in store. Would Delaware’s third
consecutive game-winner hand Northeastern their third last-second loss in as
many weeks? Would Northeastern flip the script on the Blue Hens (and the rest
of the CAA) with their own season-defining moment?
Neither. Delaware finally tied the game
at 67 with 3:55 remaining. Of the 16 points scored between then and the final
buzzer, 10 came from the free-throw line. The last field goal splashed through
with 1:53 still left on the clock. When Tyson Walker tried to drive for a
game-tying basket with five seconds left, he stumbled and coughed up the ball. The
final score — 76–74 in Delaware’s favor — was the product of a sluggish march toward
an uncertain conclusion. A game ripe for fireworks fizzled instead.
It’s unreasonable to expect juicy,
coherent, fulfilling storylines after just nine conference games. But these
squads had polar opposite game-winner storylines. The way the first 35 minutes
of Saturday’s game played out inspired hope that a dramatic finish was in
order. When such a finish failed to materialize, it was easy to wonder whether
the storyline was over. Or, just maybe, the narrative letdown was in itself a
But those who require a different sort
of absurdity are in luck because . . .
The CAA’s Blowouts Make No Sense
A blowout is defined here as a game
decided by a margin of 20 or more points. There were five blowouts in the first
half of CAA play.
As with the game-winners, there are two
we will ignore because they are of incidental concern. This is primarily
because both games — a 27-point Hofstra win on January 4 and a 22-point Drexel
win on January 16 — came against the Elon Phoenix, who sit in ninth place and
haven’t finished a season higher than seventh place in three years. Especially
given that they graduated most of their key players last year, it is
understandable that stronger teams can run up the score on them. It is the
other three blowouts that make no sense.
On January 2, William & Mary
stormed into Hofstra’s house and knocked off the reigning regular-season
champions 88–61. Eight Tribe players scored at least six points, and their five
starters nailed 25 of their 31 shots. The Tribe held the guard-heavy Pride to a
meager four-for-25 from beyond the arc.
The smashing of Hofstra looked to be the
crowning jewel in what became a six-game winning streak. But this is the CAA,
where all observations are eventually proven wrong.
On January 18, the undefeated Tribe
were flattened by the Drexel Dragons 84–57. Zach Walton, Camren Wynter, and
James Butler combined for 60 efficient points. Drexel shot the ball well inside
and out and limited Tribe center Andy Van Vliet on both ends. It was Drexel’s
third straight win, pushing them to 5–2 in conference play and putting everyone
And . . . yeah you see where this is going. Five days later Northeastern steamrolled Drexel off the floor 85–52, the largest margin of victory in CAA play this year. Even more remarkable was that Northeastern built a 32-point lead by halftime, responding to Drexel’s first bucket with 18 unanswered points and flooring the gas pedal for the rest of the half. Jordan Roland and Bolden Brace turned in stellar performances on both sides of the ball, and seven other Huskies scored at least five points.
Then Northeastern turned around and
lost their next game.
In a league with remarkable parity, you
wouldn’t expect consistent, overwhelming dominance from one or two teams. But
what do you make of swings this large? What do you make of it when the
literally cartoonish stereotype of one fish eating another fish, then being
eaten by a third larger fish comes to pass on the hardwood?
Even if the blowout train stops here, the
abject craziness of the conference slate still begs the question . . .
Who is Actually the Title Favorite?
The meaning of life and the existence of
god might be easier questions to answer than this one, so I’ll present the best
case I can for each team, starting from last place and working my way up.
Madison: The Dukes are 1–8 in non-conference
play and have the worst average margin of victory (–8.3) of any CAA team. That
said, they had the third-best non-conference record and are extremely young,
with their top six scorers comprising three juniors, a sophomore, and two
freshman who are still developing. Their precipitous plunge in the last month
is one of the biggest surprises of the year, and it isn’t unreasonable to think
they can rediscover their form in time for the CAA Tournament.
My mom always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say
anything at all.
Two weeks ago, the Seahawks’ entry would be the same as Elon’s.
They had just lost to Elon by 17 — Elon’s first conference win marked UNCW’s 11th
straight loss — and remained the last winless squad in the CAA.
Two days later, UNCW fired head coach
C.B. McGrath, who managed just 26 wins in two-and-a-half years at the helm. The
promotion of assistant coach Rob Burke to interim head coach didn’t cause much
buzz around the league. Why should it? It was mid-January and the Seahawks hadn’t
won since before Thanksgiving. Grad transfer Carter Skaggs and point guard of
the future Kai Toews had left the program, and junior guard Jay Estimé was done
for the year after knee surgery.
But Burke and the Seahawks were about
to put everyone on notice. After battling Hofstra to a two-point loss, they
faced off against Northeastern on January 18. Burke’s sideline demeanor was
just as captivating as the action on the court. His energy was limitless; he jumped
around and clapped and encouraged his players. He turned to the crowd,
encouraging them to get loud. At one point he started doing jumping jacks. When
Shykeim Philips nailed a shot to end the first half, Burke slammed his hand on
the scorer’s table.
His energy somehow increased during his
team’s second-half comeback. Sometimes he displayed a defensive stance, sometimes
he got down on one knee and pounded the floor with his open hand. Trask
Coliseum was electric, with fans and players alike feeding off Burke’s energy.
By game’s end, he was sweating as much as any of his players.
are still just 2–7 in conference play, and their seven straight losses might
keep them from a top seeding even if they run the table. But in three games
since Burke took over — against the preseason poll’s top three teams, mind you
— they’ve had a two-point loss and two two-point wins. They can’t be ignored
Northeastern: Spots two through seven on this
list are all within one game of each other, so that the CAA’s tiebreakers put
Northeastern seventh is hardly a matter of concern. But what’s curious about
the Huskies’ 5–4 record is that their average margin of victory (7.7) easily
outstrips every other CAA team.
of Northeastern’s five wins came by 16 or more points; when they win, they win
convincingly. But all four of their losses have come by two points. It’s disingenuous
to say that the Huskies are therefore eight points away from a 9–0 record, but
their loss margins indicate that their win–loss record could be just as
forward Tomas Murphy misses the rest of the season — something head coach Bill
Coen seems increasingly concerned about — the Huskies still have enough dynamic
scoring to contend for the CAA title. There isn’t a player in the CAA who can
match the shot-making of an on-fire Jordan Roland, and freshman point guard
Tyson Walker has shown flashes of stardom and established himself as the
favorite for CAA Rookie of the Year. Throw in Max Boursiquot’s versatile
defense, and the defending conference champions are in decent position to do
Drexel: The Dragons arguably have the
worst chances of any team outside the bottom tier, but their 27-point win
against William & Mary and the emergence of Camren Wynter as a bona fide
star mean that they can’t be completely written off. The continued development
of James Butler and Zach Walton gives Wynter some backup, though all three need
to click for the Dragons to have a shot at beating top teams.
Delaware: It’s tough to say where the
Blue Hens stand now. They began the season with nine straight wins, lost seven
of their next ten, and have now won three straight games by a combined four
said, they’re scary. None of their top five scorers are seniors and two are
transfers, so their development and chemistry progression throughout the rest
of conference play could make a difference come tournament time. Nate Darling
is a flamethrower, dropping 28 second-half points on Saturday against a
Northeastern team that had no answer for him. Kevin Anderson is shooting threes
at an elite level in addition to his usual all-around contributions, and
versatile forward Justyn Mutts’ play has bolstered the Blue Hens’ attack. Don’t
be shocked if things pick up for them soon, especially as Villanova transfer
Dylan Painter gets more comfortable in the rotation.
Towson: After losing their first three conference
games, the Tigers reeled off six straight victories, all of them by seven or
more points. The emergence of sophomore guard Allen Betrand as a backcourt
force alongside Brian Fobbs has upped the Tigers’ attack, and, as is typical
for a Pat Skerry team, they lead the league in scoring defense, field goal
defense, and rebounding margin. If their offense can take another step forward
in the next month, no team will feel comfortable against them.
Charleston: The Cougars won their first five,
and though they have lost three out of four, only the William & Mary loss
was by more than three points. That Grant Riller’s scoring volume hasn’t
increased from its non-conference level masks the fact that his three-point
shooting, long his biggest offensive weakness, has jumped from 26 percent in
non-conference play to 44 percent in conference play. Throw in slightly
increased offensive contributions from Brevin Galloway and Sam Miller, and the
Cougars are as threatening as they’ve been all season.
Hofstra: Desure Buie has established
himself as arguably the conference’s best two-way guard, and his shooting
efficiency is on par with Jordan Roland’s. Isaac Kante’s numbers are inflated —
unsurprising for a big man on a guard-heavy team — but his inside play has
helped cover up the team’s size weakness. Tareq Coburn’s 45 percent mark from
downtown in conference play has bolstered the Pride’s attack.
Pride haven’t always looked great this year, but they’re still a threat. If second-leading
scorer Eli Pemberton ever finds his shooting efficiency, watch out.
William & Mary: Though the Tribe have lost two
of their last three, their white-hot start laves them as the only CAA squad
with seven wins. Though some teams boast solid stretch fours, there are only
two genuine centers in the CAA who can protect the rim and score from anywhere
at an elite level. William & Mary has both of them.
is playing his usual elite basketball, Andy Van Vliet is just as scary when he
gets going, and Luke Loewe went from afterthought backup to elite perimeter
marksman. Throw in Thornton Scott and Bryce Barnes and you have a balanced team
on both sides of the ball. When they’re clicking, it’s hard to imagine another
CAA team keeping pace. So . . .
Does This Leave Us?
left to do when parity becomes absurdity? How do we predict? How do we analyze?
How do we set our expectations?
going to sit back, not take anyone’s predictions too seriously, and enjoy the
ride. The biggest gift of all this madness is the gift of the unknown — just
about any team can realistically beat any other team, in any place, by any margin.
I want to see whether Rob Burke’s energy makes UNCW into a contender despite a
talent deficiency. I want to see whether anyone can stifle William & Mary’s
twin towers. I want to see whether Northeastern’s performance rises and falls with
Roland — and Charleston’s with Riller — or whether their supporting casts will
back up the stars.
is no king in this conference. The throne is wide open. Let the crazy continue.
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
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.
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.”