Boursiquot, Murphy, Franklin to Leave Northeastern

By Milton Posner

Not one week after a surprising, inspiring, rejuvenating run to the CAA Championship game, Northeastern men’s basketball found itself in trouble.

Compounding the losses of CAA leading scorer Jordan Roland and versatile four-year starter Bolden Brace to graduation, three players — Max Boursiquot, Tomas Murphy, and Myles Franklin — announced their intent to transfer from the program.

Franklin logged decent minutes in non-conference play this year, but saw his workload wither as the season progressed. Though he showed flashes of a stabilizing, disciplined presence at the point, many of his better offensive performances came in games where the outcome was no longer in doubt. After sitting on the bench for two years behind All-CAA First Teamer Vasa Pusica, then watching freshman Tyson Walker start over him all season, Franklin probably figured his playing team wouldn’t increase next year. As a grad transfer, he’ll be eligible to play this fall.

Murphy was supposed to see a larger role this season, as the graduation of bruising big man Anthony Green left shoes to fill in the paint. But after playing just four games, Murphy injured his ankle in a mid-November practice. Though the team was initially hopeful he’d return before too long, he’d played his last game in a Husky uniform.

The four-star recruit averaged seven points and three rebounds per game across two full seasons, with excellent shooting efficiency and a burgeoning perimeter shot to boot. Husky fans will never get to see what higher usage would have done to his offensive footprint.

Murphy will head north to the University of Vermont. Because he played only four games this season, it will count as an redshirt year, meaning he has two years of eligibility remaining and can suit up this fall.

But by far the biggest loss of the three was Boursiquot.

As Murphy’s absence stretched from mid-November into conference play, Boursiquot took center stage. His offensive contributions — nine points and five rebounds per game — were solid, and his versatility on that end helped to keep the offense moving.

But his defense was otherworldly. Though he stood just 6’5” and weighed 211 pounds, he started most games at center, routinely frustrating taller, bigger players. He was as strong, pound-for-pound, as any player in the conference, and he used his low center of gravity to dislodge the conference’s skyscrapers and force them into areas where they were less comfortable.

The Husky defense allowed the fewest points of any CAA team, and Boursiquot was the versatile engine. His speed, quickness, and agility allowed him to bottle up guards on the perimeter, then battle big men in the post without missing a beat. In two matchups with eventual CAA Player of the Year and likely NBA draft pick Nathan Knight, Boursiquot held his own for long stretches and earned high praise from Knight. His active hands were a constant presence in passing lanes, forcing live-ball turnovers the Huskies converted into transition buckets.

He was arguably the most valuable defensive player in the conference. That Knight won CAA Defensive Player of the Year is unsurprising; award voters are more likely to evaluate defense through basic stats like rebounds, blocks, and steals, and Boursiquot was somewhat underwhelming on paper. But his effort, strength, intensity, spatial awareness, and basketball intelligence made him a sight to behold, and his exclusion from the All-Defensive Team was a horrific snub.

His finest hour came in the CAA Tournament earlier this month. With Roland struggling to find his shooting touch, Boursiquot picked up the offensive load, averaging 13 points on 58 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds. This in addition to guarding Towson’s formidable frontcourt, red-hot forward Federico Poser of Elon, and human-tank hybrid Isaac Kante of Hofstra.

Because he redshirted last year after a hip injury, Boursiquot will be a grad transfer, eligible to play this fall wherever he goes.

Though the loss of Franklin will likely prove negligible for head coach Bill Coen’s rotation, Boursiquot and Murphy were the two best returning forwards. Notre Dame midseason transfer Chris Doherty will likely provide a boost when he becomes eligible to play, but it will be up to 6’9” junior Greg Eboigbodin to anchor the defense until then.

The versatility of Shaquille Walters, who assumed some point guard duties in the last few weeks of the season, is suddenly paramount. So is the scoring punch of Tyson Walker, whose nine shot attempts per game this season pale in comparison to what he’ll likely post next year.

But the solution can’t be as simple as those two turning into stars. Besides Walker and Walters, no returning Husky averaged more than four points per game. For Northeastern to fill the shoes of their two graduates and three transfers, everyone will need to step up.

Northeastern Loses CAA Championship

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — Before the swarming zone defense, before the frantic scrambles for offensive rebounds, before the drives and the kickouts and the one-on-one brilliance, Tuesday night’s game was about vengeance.

The Northeastern Huskies knew it better than anybody. Two years ago, after locking up a share of the CAA regular-season title, battling their way to the conference championship, and building a 17-point lead in the second half, the Huskies slowly collapsed as the Charleston Cougars clawed their way to an overtime victory.

The Cougars went to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies went home.

That loss stayed with the Huskies. It fueled them. As they embarked on their 2018–19 season, they focused on a singular goal: returning to the championship game and seizing the moment that had slipped through their fingers. After exacting revenge on Charleston in the semifinal, the Huskies did just that, knocking off the Hofstra Pride, 82–74, to win the March Madness berth they’d dreamed of for a year. It was vengeance, and it felt fantastic.

The Huskies went to the NCAA Tournament. The Pride went home.

But on Tuesday night, in a rematch with the Pride, the Huskies found out what the other end of vengeance feels like. In a remarkably close, ludicrously energetic championship game, the Huskies fell to the Pride, 70–61.

The Pride are going to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are going home.

“It’s tough,” a visibly choked-up Max Boursiquot said after the game. “It’s called March Madness for a reason.”

“That feeling of losing and then coming back the next year and having another opportunity is a special feeling,” Bolden Brace added. “You don’t get that unless you lose . . . They played with an edge and played with that desire to win and I think they deserve it.”

Though Hofstra was coming off blowout wins over Drexel and Delaware, it was Northeastern that struck first, running up an early lead thanks to aggressive drives. Sometimes those drives yielded layups, other times they yielded open threes off the catch for Husky guards who filled to the corner when Hofstra shifted to protect the paint. With his team trailing 10–3, Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich called for time.

While the scoring came more evenly after that, the Huskies continued to earn quality looks. Hofstra famously plays a matchup zone, a combination of zone and man-to-man principles that allows for pressuring ballhandlers on the perimeter without the draining effort of man defense. The Huskies, who struggled against zone defenses in their other CAA Tournament games against Towson and Elon, countered by repeatedly entering the ball to small-ball center Max Boursiquot near the foul line, warping the zone and freeing up cutting and kickout opportunities. The Huskies’ threes were finally falling, they hustled to every rebound and loose ball, and held the Pride at bay.

But the squad with the best regular-season record couldn’t be subdued indefinitely, and when Husky point guard Tyson Walker aggravated a left shoulder injury and went to the bench, the Pride seized the momentum and sent their fans into a frenzy. Walker returned but struggled, finishing with just four points.

“When he started the second half he just didn’t look right to me, just didn’t look his normal competitive self,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen noted. “I gotta give him a world of credit just for going out there and trying. His competitiveness, his grit and determination, and his toughness are really admirable . . . that was a physical game and he put himself out there and put himself on the line for the team and the program.”

After a few minutes of hanging around and trading buckets, Hofstra finally drew even. Three Jalen Ray free throws were bookended by two eerily similar sequences in which a Hofstra guard drove into the paint and had a layup blocked, only for his teammates to secure the rebound and nail a three as the shot clock ran down. The upshot of these three mediocre possessions: nine points.

Guilien Smith, not to be outdone, let the Pride have the lead for all of 18 seconds.

By this point the energy in the building was palpable. Each team sensed the audible footsteps of the other and the gradual ticking of the clock, and boosted their energy accordingly. It didn’t matter that their workload — three playoff games in three days — was unprecedented in their schedules this season; they played like their jerseys had been set ablaze.

“The way we summoned that energy was just playing together and using each other and feeding off each other’s energy,” Brace said. “When somebody was down, I think there was always someone there to pick them up, and I think that just goes to show you how good of a team we were this year.”

A turnaround jumper from Shaq Walters afforded the Huskies a two-point halftime edge, far narrower than their double-digit halftime margins in their last two games. But that was the only real constant for much of the game: neither team could free itself from the other. For a 23-minute stretch spanning both halves, neither team built a lead greater than five points.

There was plenty for the Huskies to be happy about at the break. Boursiquot, Walters, and Brace all had at least five points and three rebounds, and all of them were shooting efficiently. On the opposite side of the box score, Eli Pemberton decidedly wasn’t; he’d missed eight of his 11 shots amid excellent pressure from Walters and Smith.

But there were also deficiencies that allowed the Pride to close the gap. Roland, the conference’s leading scorer, had shot the ball just three times. Hofstra pulled down six more offensive rebounds than Northeastern and netted 10 second-chance points to the Huskies’ none. Isaac Kante, the lone man in the middle on a team built around guards, snatched 10 rebounds.

The second half began with promise, as Brace knocked down a catch-and-shoot three from the corner. Brace often played with hesitation this season, opting for ball fakes, halfhearted drives, and slow-moving handoffs instead of relying on his elite perimeter shooting. That version of him completely vanished in the CAA Tournament, as he performed with the conviction, determination, and leadership of a senior who didn’t want to play his last college game.

Desure Buie didn’t want to play his last game either. While his scoring buoyed the Pride all night, it was his passing that turned heads, excited fans, and catalyzed the Hofstra run. He began with a quick first step around Walker, which forced Walters to help off Pemberton. Without looking, Buie wrapped a magnificent bounce pass around his head to a now-wide open Pemberton in the corner, who finished off the play to retake the lead.

Just seconds later, Buie snuck up behind Boursiquot and jabbed the ball loose. On the ensuing two-on-one, Walters planned his chase-down block, timing his approach and jump to meet Buie at the rim. But with the level of grace and smarts Buie has shown this year, he wasn’t about to be on anyone’s highlight reel. Instead he added to his own and forced Coen to call timeout.

The Pride looked poised to pull away and the Huskies needed an energy boost. And did Max Boursiquot ever respond.

Boursiquot has been anything and everything the Huskies needed to turn around a season marked by an unrealistic number of close, disappointing losses. He provides shooting, passing, positional versatility, perimeter and post defense, rebounding, and, most importantly, energy. He treats every rebound and loose ball as if it’s his birthright.

Right out of the timeout, Boursiquot, under duress, threw a picture-perfect cross-court pass to Roland for a triple. When Roland missed a three the next trip down, Boursiquot bodied Kante — who outweighs him by about 30 pounds — to snatch the rebound, received a pass at the top of the arc, and beat Kante with a right-to-left crossover and first step so quick that he seemed to teleport from the perimeter to the block. Even when he stumbled and lost the ball on a drive, Boursiquot grabbed it from Kante and threw a spot-on pass to a teammate — all while sitting on the floor.

When Boursiquot’s offense forced Mihalich to call timeout, his message to Kante in the huddle was simple: we need to defend Max Boursiquot because he’s killing us.

That said, Kante had his way offensively with Boursiquot on a handful of possessions. Kante would establish deep position, earning himself either an easy layup off a feed or an offensive rebound when a perimeter shot clanged off the iron. Though Boursiquot enjoyed slightly greater success when fronting Kante to deny him the ball, the Pride forward still posted a preposterous nine points and 15 rebounds. He had as many offensive rebounds (six) as the entire Northeastern team.

But it was not Kante that governed play down the stretch. It was Buie.

Buie had an admirable campaign a year ago, but was considered the third offensive option behind Pemberton and two-time CAA Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman. After Boursiquot and Roland each picked up their fourth foul and headed to the bench with 5:23 to play, and with Hofstra’s other top scorers — Pemberton and Jalen Ray — not shooting efficiently, Buie seized his moment.

He began with a tough, drifting, pullup long two, a difficult shot with low value. He made it anyway. As Northeastern’s offense sputtered amid suffocating on-ball pressure from the Pride, Buie stretched the lead to nine with a quick drive, a pump fake to get Guilien Smith in the air, and a strong finish through contact.

With less than two minutes left and the shot clock ticking down on a stagnant Hofstra possession, Buie sized up a top-notch defender in Guilien Smith, threw him a few crossovers, and fired up a contested three when the dribbles failed to earn him a sliver of separation.

Buie wound up on the floor. The ball wound up in the bucket.

Despite Roland’s impressive drifting three a short while later, Buie’s bucket proved the dagger. The Huskies’ second-half fouling had put the Pride in the double bonus, so the Huskies couldn’t get lucky with the Pride missing the front end of one-and-ones. They could only watch as the Pride made every one of their free throws.

The Pride had their first March Madness berth since 2001. They also had their revenge.

“It is awfully sweet,” Mihalich said after the on-court celebration, his undone blue tie still hanging from his neck. “Not just because we won. It’s something to be really proud of. We beat a bunch of champions. The championship went through them.”

“This feeling is everything,” Ray said. “This has been our mission since day one . . . this time we completed our mission.”

“We came up about 20 minutes short,” Coen said. “I thought we played a really strong first half, very competitive game overall, and these guys played their hearts out. But in the end I thought it was a little bit too much Desure Buie.”

With 19 seconds to play and the outcome no longer in doubt, both coaches opted for a platoon swap. While the Hofstra players enjoyed the applause, cheers, and adulation of a jubilant fan section, the Huskies filed off the court and into the waiting embrace of Bill Coen. The moment was especially poignant for Brace, Roland, and Smith, who ended their college careers on a brutal loss.

“I thanked those guys for their unwavering commitment to Northeastern University, to this program, all their hard work and dedication,” Coen said, his voice breaking a bit. “So much goes unseen — the long days in the weight room, long days of training, hours of practice, hours of individual time, hours of watching tape. It’s a commitment, and that group was a special group.

“Bo has played in three CAA Championship games in his four years; he’s made an incredible mark on this program. Jordan has made an incredible mark on this program. And I think if you asked every player on our team, maybe the favorite teammate in the locker room is Guilien Smith. In a short time he’s made an incredible impact in terms of relationships, and ultimately that’s what this whole experience is all about.

“You’d love to win championships each and every year, but . . . what lasts is the mutual respect that you earn by giving your best. And when you do that, whether you win or lose, nobody can take that from you for the rest of your life. These guys will share a bond because they know they gave it up for each other, and that’s the real championship in my mind.”

Men’s Basketball Downs Elon, Advances to CAA Championship

Reminder: Northeastern faces Hofstra in the CAA Championship tonight at 7 PM. Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner will have the call from Washington D.C., with covering beginning around 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Matt Neiser

WASHINGTON — No. 6 seed vs. No. 7 seed in a ten-team tournament. It sounds like an early-round matchup that no one cares about because neither team will threaten for the title. Right?

Wrong. It’s actually a semifinal, and both teams beat top-three seeds to get there.

Confused? You must be new around here. Welcome to the CAA. 

Northeastern and Elon, two teams most onlookers probably did not expect to make deep postseason runs, found themselves face-to-face in the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship semifinals on Monday night after beating No. 3 Towson and No. 2 William & Mary, respectively, the night before. 

Despite similar postseason expectations, the teams’ seedings arose for different reasons. For Northeastern, it was mostly a lack of consistency and inability to close out tight games. For Elon, it was more a lack of depth and talent.

Things finally began to make a little more sense in the semifinal, as the deeper, higher-seeded team came out on top for once. Using an early-game run to thrust themselves in front, the Huskies never looked back as they put together a convincing, wire-to-wire 68–60 victory to advance to the championship game for the third year in a row.

Defense has been the Huskies’ calling card all season. They called on it once again on Monday, stifling the Phoenix offense throughout the night. Bill Coen’s squad was locked in, flying all over the court with the boundless ferocity of their canine namesake. It took nearly six minutes for the Phoenix to put a number on the board, by which time Northeastern had tallied nine points.

“Our defensive energy to start the game really set the tone for us, allowing us to get into transition a little bit, and get our confidence going,” remarked Coen.

Elon head coach Mike Schrage had plenty of praise for Coen’s defensive game plan.

“Give them credit. They had a lot of juice and a good game plan, a unique game plan in how they guard our offense [after] not even a one-day prep,” Schrage remarked. “Defensively, he’s a great coach. He did some really good things to exploit our defense.”

The biggest driver of Northeastern’s blistering two-way start? If you’ve followed this team at all the past few weeks, you probably guessed already: Max Boursiquot. By the time Elon scored their first basket, the redshirt junior had already accumulated four points, two rebounds, and two steals. His energy was infectious; his teammates followed suit as they stayed attached to bodies, contested shots, and secured rebounds to limit the Phoenix’s offensive opportunities.

While Boursiquot buoyed the Husky defense, Bolden Brace carried the offensive torch. Brace, who’s no stranger to big games against Elon — he dropped a career-high 40 points against the Phoenix his freshman year — splashed home three triples in a four-minute span partway through the first half to extend the Northeastern lead to 13. The senior added a layup to finish the first 20 minutes with a game-leading 11 points and push the Husky advantage to its peak: 35–15.

Junior Shaquille Walters, who Coen identified as one of the team’s most improved players this season, left his mark on the opening half as well. The London native drilled a shot-clock-beating three from all the way across the pond, then followed it up with a pair of free throws, a steal and gorgeous one-handed feed ahead to Brace for his aforementioned layup, and an assist on a Jordan Roland three-pointer. All told, Walters dished out a team-high four assists in the half.

It’s fortunate for the Huskies that many different players made a significant impact in the first half; Roland, who had a relatively quiet game against Towson the night before, struggled again to start the semifinal. Though he chipped in eight first-half points, it was on an inefficient 3–10 shooting. 

Roland did find other ways to impact the game; he finished the half with two rebounds, three assists, a block, and zero turnovers. However, he was nowhere near his usual lofty standards.

That’s been the biggest question for Northeastern this season: can they stay competitive when Roland isn’t on his game? In this tournament, the answer’s been yes. Boursiquot, Brace, Walters, and Co. have all stepped up, and that’s why the Huskies are playing in the championship game.

Despite chugging along for much of the half, the Huskies’ offense sputtered as they neared halftime. The Phoenix took advantage, mounting a quick 6–0 run that forced a timeout from Coen with 33 seconds remaining. Roland hit a baseline jumper right out of the huddle to bring the Northeastern lead back to 16 points, throwing a splash of water on Elon’s spark.

The Phoenix kept striking that flint in the second stanza, but the Huskies were right there every time to stamp out the nascent flames. After the two sides traded a few baskets to begin the frame, freshman Hunter McIntosh knocked down a triple. Roland responded with a trey of his own, but the Phoenix came right back with an 8–0 run courtesy of a short-range McIntosh jumper and three straight interior makes from Federico Poser to cut the Husky lead to 11. 

All-CAA Second Team swingman Marcus Sheffield finally joined the party after that, pouring in 13 points in a six-minute span as Elon whittled the Northeastern lead to seven with just under three minutes remaining.

“He’s one of the hardest matchups in the league. Luckily we have a guy with Shaquille’s size and length who can kind of match it,” Coen remarked. “He’s quick enough to keep him off the dribble and long enough to get a hand in his shot pocket. That being said, I’m not sure anyone can guard him when he gets going.”

The Huskies were on their heels, but a familiar face burst back onto the scene to save the day.

“I just kind of felt like the game was getting close,” Roland explained. “I just wanted to do my part to help close out the game. I wanted to get a little more aggressive toward the end of the game even though I wasn’t shooting that well.”

Pull-up, triple, good.

Elon got two looks at a three-pointer on the other end, but McIntosh and Sheffield couldn’t connect. Rebound Northeastern.

Crossover, three-ball, money.

There’s the Jordan Roland Husky fans are accustomed to — the one who takes over games.

Elon was relegated to the foul game after that, and the Huskies knocked down enough shots at the charity stripe to close the game out.

Northeastern becomes just the fifth team in CAA history to reach three straight championship games, setting up a rematch of last year’s battle with the Hofstra Pride. The title-game rematch will be just the third since the league’s inception.

Coen started both Sunday and Monday’s press conferences by reiterating how grateful he is to still be playing this late into March, adding, “With everything that’s on the line, an NCAA bid and everything, there’s nothing else like it.”

Brace, a senior, is reveling in the pressure of his final season, remarking, “I’ve finally realized that every game could be my last and it’s made this tournament super awesome and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Hopefully we can get another one tomorrow.”

The Huskies have a tough task ahead of them, as No. 1 seeded Hofstra comes into the game blazing hot. Joe Mihalich’s squad won their previous two tournament games by an average of 16 points, including a 14-point drubbing of an impressive Delaware team in the other semifinal.

Said Coen of the impending matchup, “I think they’ve played with a chip. I think they’ve had great senior leadership. It’s going to be a difficult game for us, but that’s what you want if you’re a competitor. You want to go against the best, you want to try yourself against the best, and that’s what this time is all about.”

Men’s Basketball Topples Towson in CAA Quarterfinal

Reminder: Northeastern plays Elon at 8:30 PM EDT on Monday in the semifinal of the CAA Tournament. Michael Petillo, Milton Posner, and Matt Neiser will be on the call from Washington D.C., with coverage beginning about 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — The calling card of Northeastern’s conference season was an infuriating one: they couldn’t figure out how to win close games. They forfeited second-half leads large and small, going long stretches without a bucket and letting other teams pillage them down low with little defensive resistance.

So when the Huskies went up 16 a few minutes into the second half, and when Towson mounted a furious run to trim the lead to four, Husky fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst.

But not tonight.

With their season on the line and the Tigers bearing down on them, the Huskies found another gear, securing a 72–62 win and advancing to the semifinals of the CAA Tournament. They will face No. 7 Elon on Monday night in the first six–seven semifinal matchup since 1993.

The game began in a rather unexpected fashion. Pat Skerry’s Towson squads are known for size, strength, and defensive intensity, all of which manifest in fierce play around the basket. But the Huskies used a number of lateral cuts and slides to earn strong position in the paint, and their ballhandlers ably found the cutters for layups. Max Boursiquot set the tone for this style of play, scoring Northeastern’s three buckets and finishing with 16 points (7–10 FG). Greg Eboigbodin also notched a pair of buckets off penetration and drop-off passes from the Husky guards.

“We knew Towson was going to blitz on ball screens, so we had a game plan to slip me to the mid-post and try to be aggressive,” Boursiquot noted. “My teammates were doing a great job of finding me and I was doing a good job of getting in and out of screens.”

Eventually the Huskies diversified their attack, with Bolden Brace chipping in some outside shooting. His three triples keyed a 15-point, eight-rebound performance that helped to negate several of Towson’s physical strengths.

In an odd scheduling quirk, Northeastern had played Towson a week before in their last regular-season game. Northeastern head coach Bill Coen attributed the Huskies’ three-point loss in that game primarily to Northeastern’s excessive second-half fouling, which give the Tigers a hefty advantage from the charity stripe and landed several key forwards in foul trouble.

Tonight there would be no repeat mistake. The Huskies played brilliant defense throughout the first half, limiting the Tigers to 23 points and fouling just five times. By holding their defensive positions on the low block and maintaining verticality when contesting shots, the Huskies turned the Tigers’ famous physicality against them, drawing offensive fouls that killed any chance Towson had at offensive momentum. It also placed nearly every Towson starter in foul trouble.

“We left our feet a lot when the ball came [inside],” Skerry said. “We were a little bit all over the place.”

After a slow start, Husky point guard Tyson Walker turned on the jets to boost Northeastern’s lead to 10 by halftime. Walker injured his shoulder two weeks ago against Drexel, and until he emerged from the tunnel before the game it was unclear if he would play. But he said the shoulder felt “perfectly fine” and undoubtedly played like it, netting 14 points.

The true oddity for the Huskies was Roland, who went scoreless in the first half amid foul trouble. When he finally stole a pass and slammed home a breakaway dunk with 18:24 to go in the second half, he immediately picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench.

Coen deployed him in short bursts for the rest of the game, playing him for just 10 minutes in the second half when Roland would normally play all or almost all of it. He finished with just eight points after missing most of his shots and committing two turnovers. (The Huskies as a team were extraordinarily disciplined, turning the ball over just seven times to Towson’s 15.)

Northeastern wasn’t missing Roland, though, and after a pair of bailout threes from Walker and Shaq Walters — plus a layup form Guilien Smith — the Husky lead stood at a game-high 16 points.

But Towson finally tightened the screws, switching to a 3-2 zone.

“They were findings guys for a lot of layups . . . we couldn’t handle them off the dribble,” Skerry explained. “We probably played a lot more zone tonight than we’ve played in 20, 25 games, but we needed it to try to get back in the game.”

The zone threw Northeastern’s offense off the rhythm it had established from the opening tip. The Huskies started turning the ball over and forcing up contested long-range shots. Towson, normally the slowest-playing team in the CAA, used every defensive rebound as a chance to push in transition. Between their layups, foul drawing, perimeter shooting, and offensive rebounding, the Tigers went nine possessions without an empty trip. The zone threw Northeastern’s offense off the rhythm it had established from the opening tip. The Huskies started turning the ball over and forcing up contested long-range shots. Towson, normally the slowest-playing team in the CAA, used every defensive rebound as a chance to push in transition. Between their layups, foul drawing, perimeter shooting, and offensive rebounding, the Tigers went nine possessions without an empty trip. The run was keyed by Brian Fobbs — who finished with 21 points to lead all scorers — as well as Nakye Sanders and Dennis Tunstall, who each scored nine without missing a shot.

Combined with their rediscovered defensive restraint — they didn’t commit a foul for the first ten minutes of the second half — it allowed the Tigers to seize the momentum, with a resounding rejection by Sixth Man of the Year Nicolas Timberlake prompting a Jakigh Dottin layup that trimmed the lead to four.

But with Towson bearing down on them like a bowling ball, the Huskies refused to fall. Brace hit a quick three off a baseline inbounds to stem the tide, then Boursiquot threw down an basket-shaking jam off a slick pick-and-roll feed from Walker.

But the final dagger would come with a minute left when Walker stole an errant dribble and flew downcourt. With Towson big man Nakye Sanders bearing down on him, Walker tossed a pass to Walters — the man who filled in for him at point guard last week — who flushed home a clean one-handed dunk to seal the game and end Towson’s season.

The Tigers truly had a commendable year, leaping several spots in the conference standings after posting one of the largest record improvements of any team in the country. But this is the CAA, where absurdity is the new normal and calling a team an underdog proves only that you’re about to lose the money you bet against them.

The Huskies’ next opponent is a perfect example of that. After needing last-second heroics from Marcus Sheffield just to squeak by the worst team in the conference, No. 7 Elon scrapped their way to a win over No. 2 William & Mary and Nathan Knight, their newly crowned Player of the Year. Northeastern and Elon will square off at 8:30, and god only knows what happens then.

“We’re really, really excited to still be playing basketball in March,” Coen said with a wide smile. “It’s the greatest month of the year, and if you’re involved at all — as a player, as a fan, as a coach — the excitement around these tournaments is just unbelievable.”

Men’s Basketball Media Day

By Milton Posner

The CAA Tournament is a funny thing.

Save for the top six teams receiving a first-round bye — which Northeastern has — there isn’t much advantage in being a one seed instead of a six seed. This is especially true this season, in which the league’s almost ludicrous parity limits the matchup advantages higher seeds would normally enjoy.

With just a few days left before the Huskies depart for Washington D.C., WRBB Sports caught up with them during their Wednesday practice at Northeastern University’s Cabot Center to talk about their quarterfinal matchup, their preparation, and the mental challenges of a conference tournament.

Head Coach Bill Coen

What’s the prognosis [on Tyson Walker]?

He’s working hard with our trainers. We’re hopeful he can he can give us something, but nothing’s been decided yet. Obviously he’s an elite competitor, he wants to get out there and help the team. But right now he hasn’t practiced yet, hasn’t been cleared to practice five on five yet, so it’s going to be day to day for him and probably a game-time decision.

Is he practicing today?

He’ll be conditioning and doing everything you could do, everything short of playing basketball.

So what do you do to try to flood the hole with that? Who has to step up?

Shaquille Walters finished the [Drexel] game, played really, really well on the ball. Then he had a terrific game against JMU, played the point against Towson last game, played 35 minutes on the ball and had nine assists and one turnover. So he’s done an unbelievable job in Tyson’s absence. We’ll need another great supporting effort from Shaq, I’m sure.

What went into the decision to have Shaq slide in for Tyson at the point?

He’s played there all year long, since really the beginning of the season. Part of our system [is] we like guys that play multiple positions. We try to rotate around — whether it’s developing our offense or defense — we’ll move guys around. Right from the beginning he played some point guard. He has a natural ability because of his size and length, the way we play in a ball-screen motion offense. He’s able to make passes with both hands, handle the ball, and get into the lane. So he’s gotten better and better at it and I think you’ve seen that over the last couple games. But still, you have to give him credit for his mental toughness to be able to step up in that type of situation and really try to help the team.

And for Guilien who’s slid into the starting lineup for Tyson, how does his defense and offense compare to what Tyson brings to the table?

Completely different player than Tyson. But he’s a very good on-ball defender, gives you some athleticism and some rebounding and has shown the ability to make shots. He’s gonna have to play at a high level in order for us to be successful. He’s a mature kid, a fifth-year student athlete. He’s played a lot of college basketball, so I know where his heart is and what he’d like to do. If we’re going to be successful, it’ll come down to some of his contributions.

How does your team change depending on whether Tyson plays?

With two different point guards you get two different styles of play. Shaq has shown the ability in the half court to run offense and make passes. Tyson can be more of an open-court player; he’s got a little bit more quickness where he can get to the rim and penetrate and draw some fouls. Hopefully, we’ll have both those guys available and that’ll give us a nice little option.

How is the health overall of the team? How many cylinders are you firing on?

I think everybody this time of year is . . . a little banged up, a little sore but really, really excited because it’s March and if you’re a college basketball player or college basketball fan, you know what that month means. Our guys are excited to get out there and compete. It’s kind of the third portion of the season where you’re out there you’re in one-and-done territory. So the urgency is at the utmost high and they’re excited to get ready and get down to D.C.

What kind of a challenge does Towson bring to you guys? What do you guys have to do well in order to beat them?

They’re playing almost as well as anybody in the country. They’ve been on kind of a hot streak since we played them the first time back in late December. They’re a team that’s built on aggressive defense and rebounding. What’s really allowed them to have great success during CAA play is that their offense is highly efficient, both from the free-throw line and from the three-point line. When you marry that type of offense with great defense and rebounding, you’ve got a pretty good club.

Did you learn much from the last game?

You’re certainly in the neighborhood, but you’ve got to finish the game a little bit better. We had maybe a five-point lead with about six minutes to go. We’ve got to do a better job of keeping them off the foul line. I thought we gave them too many easy points and ultimately that was the difference in the game. They outscored us by nine at the line. So we’ve got to be a little bit more disciplined there and try to keep them off the line.

Why do you think you guys are so highly considered in this tournament? You’re a six seed but the oddsmakers are saying you’ve got a good shot here.

We’ve played competitively all year long. I think each and every team and each and every game we’ve been competitive. Out of 18 league games, we’ve had one game where it was kind of lopsided. In one-possession games, everything comes down to maybe just get one possession better and that’s what we’re trying to do this week is to improve in those areas.

So playoffs now — what do you tell your guys?

They know that. It’s not too much explaining for me to do. It comes down to execution in the moment. As John Wooden would say, “You have to be best when your best is required.” That’s what makes March so special; guys step up and you get some magical moments when guys really live out their dreams in this type of environment under this type of spotlight.

Have you ever seen a team lose so many close games and at the same time keep showing up?

I think it speaks to the resiliency of this group. Certainly there’s a level of frustration. We’ve been in more close games and had opportunities to win and opportunities to reverse the fortunes of the season, but this group is coming to practice each and every day. That keep believing in themselves and keep trusting in the system and in the coaching staff. We’re hoping that resiliency will bear fruit in the tournament down in DC.

Who are one or two guys that you’ve seen the most improvement from over the course of the season?

One guy we talked a lot about is Shaquille Walters. He’s a guy who had shooting struggles early on and was more of a defensive-minded guy, now he’s proven at the end of the year with a lot of his hard work that he’s a more-than-capable point guard. He’s able to make plays, makes his free throws, and has learned to attack the basket a little bit more and create some offense for us that way. So I think he’s made the biggest improvement over the course of the year.

You have a few guys from last year’s team in leadership positions. How helpful will they be [in the tournament]?

You’re going to need that leadership and that tournament experience. It’s an emotional time. You have to stay ready; the preparation time is very, very quick in between games. And just keeping the guys focused and keep everybody in it. We need that voice in the locker room and we have a couple of guys who have been on championship teams and played in that environment. That should help us.

Are there any Towson players that you’re particularly looking to key in on after Sunday’s game?

They have a very balanced attack right now, but I think Brian Fobbs and Allen Betrand are the two guys who have been most consistent throughout the year. Freshman [Jason] Gibson played really well against us, had a very efficient game. So, not so much keying in on, but you have to know everybody’s tendencies and take try to take the best part of their game away from them. And that’s hard to do against a talented group like Towson.

Is there a sense that if you guys could just win one of these close games, it would be a breakthrough that would get you going?

I thought we did that kind of towards the end the year. We had some terrific outings against Charleston both times. We played well down the stretch, had one very competitive game down at Drexel, and they’ve been great at home. We’ve been close.

Unfortunately, foul trouble put us in a position where we couldn’t finish the game. We’ve just got to be better in certain areas. It’s not always that; sometimes it comes down to making a shot, sometimes it’s getting rebounds, sometimes it’s making a smarter play, better execution. But we have to find a way to be one or two possessions better and then we’ll be right in the mix.

When teams key in on Jordan, what do you have to do?

You’ve seen that all year long. Teams will try to take him out of what he does. He’s hard to deal with because he’s a prolific scorer. Two things have to happen. He’s got to kind of give himself up a little bit and pick his spots and not feel rushed at the end of the game that he’s got to do it all by himself. And then somebody else has to step up and help carry the load.

So I think we’ve been much better at that as of late; we’ve had a more balanced scoring attack, and Jordan’s been better in terms of understanding he can be a little bit more of a playmaker and pick the spots where he’s most aggressive.

What’s it going to be like playing in this new venue?

It’s supposed to be a beautiful venue. I’ve never been in it, but it’s an NBA arena. The G League team from the [Washington] Wizards plays there. It’s fairly new so it’s going to be a first-class arena and I know our guys are excited going down in that area. I think having a tournament down in D.C. gives — at least for a northern school — more of a chance for our fans and alums and students to get there. It’s a little bit more accessible than some of the other venues we’ve competed at. So we’re hoping people come out and support the team.

Bolden Brace

How do you think your experience will help you and the team heading into this tournament?

Personally, I think I feel a lot more comfortable than some of these guys who haven’t been here. Jordan and I both — as well as some other guys — won it. We also know the feeling of losing as we did like against Charleston two years ago. But having experience kind of just calms you. You can think back on that and use that to your advantage.

It’s amazing to look back at the schedule and all the close games, all the close losses, and you guys keep putting yourselves in that situation. Where do you fall whether to take more bad out of it or more optimism?

I think that the theme this year has been trying to learn from our losses, try to learn as much as we can, try to get better from that. But the fact that we’re in with every team and we have a chance is good, and we can beat anyone. The three-day tournament is awesome, because it’s hard. If you win, it’s one of the most amazing feelings ever. So just knowing that we can stay with any team, we’ll have a chance. We’ve just got to prepare and be ready.

What are some takeaways from the game you just played against Towson that you could use for this Sunday’s game?

The offense that they run isn’t really that difficult. In terms of a scouting perspective, they just play really hard and they’re athletic, and they rebound. So just knowing that we know what they’re going to do and better preparing ourselves on the scout perspective is going to be big. And just fighting on the glass and playing as hard as we can knowing it could be our last game.

And what’s been the difference just from your standpoint with Shaq running the offense versus Tyson?

They’re different players. They both bring different things to the table, and Shaq’s been playing really well at the point. He can pass well. I think he if he can keep doing that, we the guys around him just have to play better and help him succeed.

But Tyson’s great, hopefully we can get him back. He brings another dimension to our offense and scoring, passing, and just doing a bunch of little things. So no matter who we have, we just got to do our best and work together as best we can.

You get to the doldrums of February, then all of a sudden you’ve got to turn it on. It must get you rejuvenated.

Yeah, Coach always says there’s three parts of the season: the non-conference, the conference, and the conference tournament. It seems like every year the conference goes by super fast; non-conference goes pretty slow, but once we’re done it seems like it went fast. And then the conference tournament is just a whole new beast.

Some guys have never been here before and preparing for that three days in a row is tough. But I think just knowing what we’re getting ourselves into and knowing that we can stay in the game with anyone and hopefully beat anyone is going to be big for that.

How have you viewed your role this year, your leadership position?

I think of my role this year as a little bit similar to last year. I think going into the season, Coach told me that I’d have to have a little bit more aggressive offensively and keep trying to play well defensively, guard some of the best four men in the league.

It’s taken me a while to kind of assert myself offensively; I haven’t played that style since high school. Last year we had great passers like Vasa and a bunch of guys who could do different things, and we all worked together well last year. So this has kind of been about figuring it out as we go. And I think right now, I’m playing with more confidence than I have all season just knowing my role and trusting the guys around me. I’m ready. I’m ready to get it going.

You had an uptick in the number of shots you were taking as conference play went on. Was that confidence?

Yeah. Coach was telling me to shoot the whole time but I had to remind myself throughout the game: do the little things — rebound, defense — and the shots will come. And that’s kind of how I’ve been trying to provide for the team this year. It’s kind of hard for me to always remember to shoot but once my shot gets going, I forget about it and just play my game.

Have you had to play bigger this year because of injuries to big men?

Max has done a great job down low. He kind of took away some of that pressure that we felt earlier when we lost Tom. And Greg’s played well. I definitely have tried to rebound more in terms of playing big and guarding other teams’ big men. But the way our offense works, I don’t really feel like I’ve had to play bigger defensively.

Jordan Roland

Sometimes when defenses set up stop you, you have to change your game and make the other players around you better.

I think that’s definitely something I have to work on, passing the ball to put the other guys in a situation where they could be successful. But it’s something I’ve been running into all year. It’s a constant adjustment. Especially going to tournament time this will be the third time that we’ve seen teams, so going in and knowing what their scheme will be [is important] and I’m trying to make that adjustment for those guys.

You got off to a great start, teams started reacting. How did you learn to adapt to the defenses that you saw?

I came on the scene pretty quickly. Just a matter of trying to keep my composure. I was getting a lot of attention, and just like I was saying earlier, I’m just trying to make those adjustments. Try to figure out what kind of looks teams are going to give me before the game. The biggest thing is trying to keep my composure.

What’s the excitement of tournament time been like?

This is the best time of the year for almost all sports. I feel like the brackets are super fun, especially us getting to be a part of last year, winning the championship. So we kind of have a taste of what that feels like. I think that experience will definitely help us. Me, Bo, and a bunch of guys have been in this situation already. It’s a super fun time for sure.

It is weird playing a team in the first round of the tournament that you played so recently? Is it an advantage?

Yeah, it’s definitely kind of weird, I don’t think a lot of teams are in the situation where they’re playing the team that that they just played. But I don’t think it’s necessarily an advantage or disadvantage. Whoever we play we would have played twice already. So it’s definitely a weird coincidence, but I don’t I don’t really look at it any different.

How was it for you against Towson’s defense on Sunday, and how do you think that factors into the game plan for this Sunday?

They’re a good defensive team with how they how they attack you off the ball screens and everything. They’re a team that you’ve got to be able to move the ball against and we have a whole week to prepare in practice, so we’ll definitely be ready for them.

How much do you think your experience will help you?

I think it’ll be huge. I think experience is huge in college basketball. Senior teams are usually the teams that do well. We don’t necessarily have a lot of seniors, but we have a lot of guys who have been around. Max played in the conference championship two years ago. Bo has won a conference championship, as I have. Shaq has been around in college basketball for three years. So I think experiences is one of the biggest examples, it’ll definitely be able to help us.

Your record wasn’t what you would have hoped, but you were [close] in every game. Do you think there’s a lot of respect for your team heading into this tournament?

I would think so. I’m not sure what other teams are thinking about us. But I don’t think that really matters. I think we’re really confident that we can beat any team in this league. I think that we’ve shown that. I think any team that we haven’t beat we’ve been within one possession and if you can play with a team you can beat them. So even though we’re a six seed I think we’re going in with the mindset that we have as good a chance as anybody to win the whole thing.

Last year the pressure was all on you guys. This year you’re a little bit of an underdog. Do you feel that makes things a little bit easier?

I wouldn’t say it makes anything easier or harder. It’s definitely a different situation. Last year I feel like we were in a situation where the tournament was kind of ours to lose. I think the league is also so much more open this year. I think we have as good a chance as anybody, but there’s seven or eight teams that are thinking the same thing. You’ve got to win three games in three days regardless of what your mindset is, so I’ve just got to be ready to play every day.

How do you guys manage your energy and the fatigue of playing three games in three days?

Just trying to be smart with this week. You don’t want to go too hard but you want to make sure you’re in shape. These guys have been there before. The biggest thing, I think, is the quick turnarounds and just getting ready, coming off of the game and going through scout the next morning and just getting the game plan in a short time, more than the fatigue.

Men’s Basketball Tumbles Against Towson

By Milton Posner

BOSTON — Playing the Towson Tigers is like fighting an actual tiger. They’re fierce, they’re territorial, and the longer you’re locked in with them the more fatigued you get.

So if you’re the Northeastern Huskies, and you have an extra day to prep for a Sunday showdown with Pat Skerry’s squad, you know exactly what kind of foe lies in wait. Any hope of topping them depends on mustering enough rebounding and physical play to beat a team that, per their account of their Thursday win over first-place Hofstra, “cleaned the glass better than Windex.”

But despite an even rebounding battle, Jordan Roland’s usual scoring heroics, and a scintillating show from a stand-in point guard, the Huskies fell just short, falling to Towson, 75–72, in their last regular-season game.

The Huskies’ prize? Another bout with Towson. While Northeastern (15–15, 9–9 CAA) would have finished sixth regardless of Sunday’s result, the Husky loss ensured that Towson (19–12, 12–6 CAA) finished third, setting up a rematch this coming Sunday at 8:30 PM EST in the CAA quarterfinal. WRBB will have live coverage of that game from the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington D.C., with Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner on the call.

“We’re going to be more familiar,” Roland remarked on the impending rematch. “We’ve got a whole week to scheme for them.”

While Sunday’s game was by no means critical for either club since both had already clinched first-round byes, it is perhaps more instructive as a preview of their win-or-go-home quarterfinal matchup next week. While the Huskies’ persistent defensive pressure did silence the Tigers, 61–45, in the teams’ first meeting in December, both teams have evolved plenty since then.

So what does Sunday’s game tell us?

First, and most importantly, the Huskies need to improve their defense and inside play. The problem is not rebounding, as the Huskies hung with the self-proclaimed “glass act” all game and even doubled up the Tigers in second-chance points.

The problem is one of fouls. The fouling pattern closely mirrored that of the Huskies’ dogfight with Drexel last Saturday, in which neither team entered the bonus in the first half, but both teams found the double bonus in the second as the game grew more physical. But this time Northeastern was on the wrong end, putting Towson in the double bonus with more than six minutes to play.

The foul disparity did two things. First, it gave Towson — the CAA’s best free-throw-shooting team in conference play at 81 percent — 23 tries from the charity stripe. They converted 18 of those tries, earning nine more points at the line than Northeastern.

But just as essential was its effect on Northeastern’s rotation. While no Towson player accumulated more than three fouls, multiple Huskies did. Chief among them was Max Boursiquot, who fouled out after jostling nonstop with Towson’s towering frontcourt. Northeastern had lost its defensive stopper.

“When you’re in foul trouble you tend to be a little more tentative on the defensive end, a little bit softer,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen observed. “The next time we play, the emphasis will be on playing defense without fouling. We’ve got to make sure we keep them off the line.”

On a much brighter note for the Huskies: Shaquille Walters. When Tyson Walker injured his left shoulder last week against Drexel, it wasn’t immediately apparent who would fill his shoes. Roland’s ballhandling and driving prowess would suggest him, but he already dominates the ball with Walker in the lineup, and giving him more touches could take other players out of the offense and allow the defense to gear up on Roland. Myles Franklin usually runs point when he plays, but can’t punish defenses the way the Husky starting guards can. Guilien Smith drives occasionally, but hasn’t proved that he can run point for the Huskies.

And so Walters, the lanky 6’6” junior forward, took the wheel. Though his 15-point, six-assist showing on Thursday was excellent, it was difficult to know how much stock to put in it given that it came against James Madison’s league-worst defense.

But against one of the best defensive teams in the conference, the newly minted point guard didn’t blink. He posted 12 points, four rebounds, and a career-high nine assists courtesy of outstanding passing patience, discipline, awareness, and accuracy. He has 15 assists in his two games running the offense and has turned the ball over just twice.

“Adversity hits everybody . . . injuries happen. Some people just have a way of responding to that, and I think he’s responded in a big, big way,” Coen said. “His effort this afternoon was just terrific. He’s playing a little bit out of position [but] really controlled the game. [He had a] little bit of foul trouble — my staff was telling me to take him out, but I had to leave him in, he was just playing too well.”

Walters’ steadying presence will likely serve the Huskies well next week — especially if Walker, who Coen described as day-to-day, is unavailable — but neither his offensive contributions, nor Jordan Roland’s 25 points, nor the 14 apiece that Brace and Boursiquot contributed, could account for Towson’s strengths.

There was Brian Fobbs, who rebounded from an invisible performance against the Huskies in December to drop 18 points. There was freshman guard Jason Gibson, who notched 18 points of his own on just eight shots as the Huskies consistently left him alone from behind the arc. There was Dennis Tunstall, who obliterated several Husky shots in the paint. There was Charles Thompson, who threw down two one-handed dunks to swing the momentum Towson’s way in the first half, then took a charge on Roland and screamed with such intensity that his neck veins were visible from the media center.

The upshot was Northeastern’s sixth one-possession conference loss, and their eighth by five points or fewer.

The game was also the final home game for seniors Jordan Roland, Bolden Brace, and Guilien Smith, all of whom were honored at midcourt before the game. Smith, who transferred from Dartmouth for his final season, professed appreciation for the group’s quick acceptance of him at a time when he didn’t know many people. Brace and Roland identified last year’s CAA Championship as a favorite moment.

“I was sitting out the year that they lost to Charleston in the CAA final,” Roland said. “Being able to come back after a hard loss and contribute to that was really special for me.”

“I was very, very fortunate that they, at one time, took a chance on this program,” Coen said. “Their families trusted us to give them the experience not only of playing basketball, but trying to become better men, good people, and good students.”

Coen was also optimistic that the week between now and the rematch with Towson — which coincides with Northeastern’s spring break — will benefit his squad.

“It allows you to invest a little bit more time in your rehab, your rest, your recovery, fine tuning, individual meetings along with practice. Nobody’s under the dual obligation of being a student and an athlete. Now you can be more athlete than student.

“It’s a long week; it’s an exciting week. It’s a complete restart for every team in the league. Whether you finish first or last, everybody has a chance.”

Men’s Basketball Jackhammers JMU

By Michael Petillo

BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies defended home court on Thursday night, defeating James Madison 77–57 to secure a first-round bye in next week’s CAA tournament. Graduate transfer Guilien Smith led the Huskies with 20 points and Shaquille Walters dropped in 15 points to go along with six assists.

Northeastern (15–14, 9–8 CAA) jumped out to an early lead thanks to three early three-pointers by Smith and used a balanced scoring effort to stretch the advantage to 20. The second half was more even, but JMU never mounted a significant run.

The contributions of Smith and Walters were particularly valuable to due to the absence of starting point guard Tyson Walker, who is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder during Saturday’s game against Drexel. In his stead, Smith stepped into the starting lineup and played a season-high 36 minutes, nailing five threes and playing his signature lockdown defense.

“It felt great to get that first one to go and from there I was just feeling it,” Smith said.

Walters assumed most of the ballhandling duties with Walker sidelined. He comfortably handled JMU’s pressure and got Northeastern into their halfcourt offense throughout the game. 

 “He had to be the primary ball-handler out there tonight,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said of Walters. “He had really great court composure and was able to quarterback the offense.”

In addition to overcoming Walker’s injury, the play of Walters and Smith allowed Northeastern to secure a win despite an uncharacteristic off night for Jordan Roland. Normally the Huskies’ leading scorer, Roland managed only 11 points amid stifling JMU defense.

The win gives Northeastern a two-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s regular season finale against Towson, who knocked off CAA-leading Hofstra on Thursday night. Coverage begins at 3:45 PM EST with Milton Posner and Alex Bensley on the call.

Men’s Basketball Bests Drexel in Crucial Late-Season Matchup

By Milton Posner

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, 77–68.

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 defense.

“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 start.

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.

Men’s Basketball Decimated by Delaware

By Milton Posner

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 sledgehammer.

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 eight.

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 timeout.

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 Husky momentum.

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 foul.

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.

Second-Half Woes Sink Men’s Basketball Again

By Matt Neiser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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