Men’s Basketball Tops Harvard, Roland Sets Franchise Record

Photo by Sarah Olender

By Michael Petillo

On Tuesday night against BU, Northeastern senior guard Jordan Roland scored 39 points, just shy of the school record of 41 held by Husky legends J.J. Barea and Reggie Lewis. Northeastern needed every one of those points, as they edged BU out in the closing seconds.

Tonight, the Harvard Crimson, a team that has received votes in the AP Top 25 rankings, strolled into Matthews Arena. The Jordan Roland Experience awaited them.

Roland dropped 42 spectacular points, setting a school record and leading the Huskies (2–0) to an 84–79 win over the Crimson in their home opener. Roland bumped his per game scoring average to 40.5, still the best in college basketball.

Roland got his offense going early, netting the Huskies’ first 11 points in an outburst that included three three-pointers. The Matthews Arena crowd was rocking as Northeastern leapt out to a 13–2 advantage within the game’s first four minutes. Roland’s hot hand was complemented by 10 first-half points from freshman point guard Tyson Walker, and Northeastern took a 44–27 lead into the halftime locker room.

Photo by Sarah Olender

The tide changed in the second half as Harvard’s offense kicked into high gear. Sophomore guard Noah Kirkwood and senior forward Chris Lewis led the charge for the Crimson (1–1), who cut the Husky lead to as little as three points on two separate occasions. 

Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said of the Crimson’s second half performance, “It looked for a while we were never gonna get a rebound. But, you gotta give them credit; they’re a good team, they’re an experienced team, they’re a tournament-tested team.”

Photo by Sarah Olender

But it was Roland’s night. Every time Northeastern needed a key bucket to stop a Harvard run, they turned to their budding superstar to make it happen. Roland dropped an efficient 23 points in the second half, and his most important bucket came with three minutes remaining and his team clinging to a three-point advantage. After catching the ball at the top of the key, Roland rose into his jump shot while being bumped by Harvard guard Rio Haskett. Roland buried the three anyway. The Huskies regained the momentum and rode out the last few minutes thanks to clutch free throw shooting and ball security.

Roland was humble as ever following his record-breaking night, saying of the record, “It means a lot. More importantly we got the win, but breaking records obviously is something that feels kinda good.”

Coen was complimentary of Roland, saying “I can’t say enough about his approach in the offseason. He’s been so professional and consistent every day — getting extra shots, getting into the gym, taking care of his body, doing all the right things.”

Northeastern returns to action on Tuesday night at 7 PM against UMass Amherst.

Men’s Basketball Bests BU in Exhilarating Season Opener

By Milton Posner

When the 2019–20 season ends and the CAA releases its all-conference teams, it’s entirely possible that Jordan Roland’s left hand will make the first team.

Roland is right-handed, not that you could tell from watching Tuesday night’s game. The 6’1” senior guard, who usually feasts on a steady diet of long-distance bombs, spent his 36 minutes of court time taking a carving knife to Boston University’s interior defense.

He used off-ball curl screens and pindowns to get half a step on his defender, put them in jail, and finish over the Terrier big men with lefty layups and floaters from every conceivable angle. His shots hit the rim, lost all momentum, and bounced gently around the cylinder before falling through the net.

“I’ve always been kinda naturally ambidextrous,” he said after the game. “I work on that all the time, trying to finish with both hands. I have a tendency to go left.”

“My grandpa always says I never make [lefty shots],” he laughed. “So I have to give him a call tonight.”

His grandpa won’t have much of a retort. Roland’s midrange exploits yielded 39 points and powered the Northeastern Huskies to a 72–67 win over their crosstown rival, tying the all-time series at 74 wins apiece. Northeastern has won eight of the last eleven meetings.

“We were excited to get out there and play,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “This is a rivalry that goes back to the beginning of time.

“It always comes down to this.”

The first half was frantic. BU took a short lead within the first few minutes and retained it, though they never pulled ahead by more than seven. Sophomore Walter Whyte keyed the run for the Terriers, cooking the Huskies with perimeter shooting, active rebounding, and consuming defense. Sophomore Alex Vilarino was a bouncing ball of energy, jawing at the Northeastern guards on defense and darting to the basket on offense. The two finished with a combined 40 points on 16-for-25 shooting on the night.

Both teams played a bit sloppy to start, fumbling the ball on drives and passes in the way you’d expect in a season opener when the teams are a bit rusty. The small miscues didn’t yield a ton of transition basketball, but, when combined with the close score, they gave the game a sense of urgency. BU took a one-point lead into the halftime break.

Northeastern emerged from the locker room with fresh energy. They gained the lead several minutes into the half and, though the game would see numerous ties, BU never led again.

Roland’s play was consistently spectacular across both halves, but it was particularly apparent in the game’s last ten minutes. He had committed three fouls in 14 seconds and gone to the bench, but Coen quickly inserted him back into the game.

“I was obviously pretty upset with myself,” Roland said. “I just wanted to be able to go sit down and take a second . . . I thought I was gonna have to take a little bit more time on the bench.”

“He just put us on his back and carried us right when we needed him,” Coen remarked. “I couldn’t be more proud of him and the rest of the guys.”

Roland wasn’t the only Husky who played a stellar game. Junior Max Boursiquot chipped in 10 points, four rebounds, and three steals in his first game back after missing last season with a hip injury. But with eight minutes to play in the second half, he took a hard fall and watched the rest of the game from the bench.

“We’ll get him checked out and see how he comes out of it tomorrow morning,” Coen said. “It’s always an anxious moment to get back on the floor and trust your body . . . I thought he [gave] us a really nice spark.”

Tyson Walker was a pleasant surprise for the Huskies in his first college game. After an offensively quiet first half, the six-foot guard spent the second half charging fearlessly to the basket, finishing, and opening up chances for teammates. He finished with 11 points, second on the team after Roland.

“You can see the obvious talent,” Coen gushed. “He’s still adjusting to college basketball . . . when you see him later on in January and February I think you’re gonna be really excited about what he brings to the floor.”

But for all the deserved hype for Roland’s performance, the joy of seeing Boursiquot return after a year sidelined, and the obvious potential of Tyson Walker, the night’s biggest moment went to a player whose six-point effort would otherwise vanish into the box score.

With less than one minute remaining and the game tied at 65, Northeastern looked to separate themselves. They sought Roland, who had maintained his hot hand all night. But the Terriers weren’t about to let Roland beat them, and didn’t give him sufficient room to shoot. So with the game clock showing 35 seconds, and the shot clock nearly exhausted, Bolden Brace nailed a three to give Northeastern a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“Jordan gave it up unselfishly and Bo stepped in confidently,” Coen said. “He’s a guy that’s played on championship teams and knows what this is all about.”

It was hard to know what to make of this team heading into the season. The graduations of Vasa Pusica and Anthony Green were expected, but the premature exits of Donnell Gresham Jr. and Shawn Occeus cast doubt on whether the team could defend its CAA title.

First-game rust notwithstanding, the Huskies made a statement in tonight’s opener. Tyson Walker proved he’s for real. Max Boursiquot proved his mobility and aggressiveness are back. Bolden Brace proved he’s not afraid of the big shots. And Jordan Roland, with each tough shot he hit, proved he belongs in the same sentence as the CAA’s best.

The Huskies take on the Harvard Crimson in their home opener at 8 PM on Friday. Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser will have the call for WRBB.

CAA Preview: Northeastern Huskies

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

Head Coach: Bill Coen (14th season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Third

Losses

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

Additions

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

By Milton Posner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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