By: Matthew MacCormack
Now was the time to make a run.
Northeastern had trailed by double digits in the first half of Friday afternoon’s matchup with the Detroit Titans, but thanks to senior guard David Walker, had cut the Titan lead to just five at the break. With a little momentum and a vast age advantage over a young Detroit lineup, it felt like it was time for the Huskies to turn it on.
Then, they proceeded to turn the ball over on their first five possessions of the second frame.
Turnovers-24 of them to be exact-were the biggest of several problems that plagued the Huskies in Friday’s matinee in Detroit. Despite a slow start and a host of mental errors, NU had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but missed two open three-point attempts and ultimately fell, 76-73. Walker was brilliant, racking up 29 points and five rebounds on seven of nine shooting from beyond the arc. But a lack of ball security, including a combined 13 turnovers from senior forwards Quincy Ford and Zach Stahl, led to the Huskies’ undoing.
“It’s just totally uncharacteristic of us,” head coach Bill Coen said after the game. “They played with a hell of a lot more energy, they exhibited a bunch of ball pressure, got us rattled and really got us away from our team-first game.”
The Titans (3-3) rarely give up home games to non-conference foes, as evidenced by their 79-19 record at Calihan Hall against non-Horizon League opponents. Friday’s game was no different. Although sophomore guard Paris Bass, last season’s Horizon Rookie of the Year, remained sidelined with a suspension, the Titans’ up-tempo attack overwhelmed the Huskies.
Detroit entered the game as the nation’s ninth-fastest paced offense, per Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Tempo metric. The Titans frazzled the Huskies all afternoon, scoring 27 points off of turnovers and pouring in 11 fast break points, compared to just three from NU. Freshman guard Josh McFolley (20 points, 8-15 FG) pushed the pace for the Titans, capitalizing on NU’s mishaps and igniting fast-breaks for most of the game’s 40 minutes.
“I don’t think we played particularly well today,” Coen said. “We have to use the best parts of each other to get ball reversals and ball movement and we didn’t do a good job of that today.”
The teams traded runs for most of the first half, and Detroit began the game with a quick 8-0 advantage thanks to a pair of threes. The Titans’ built a 10-point lead at the nine-minute mark, but NU claimed a 27-25 lead after Walker and senior guard Caleb Donnelly combined for four consecutive threes in a two-minute stretch prior to the 5:47 mark. A few Detroit steals turned the tide, and the Titans grabbed a 42-37 advantage at half. Particularly disappointing was the play of T.J. Williams, who registered five turnovers in the game and played just one of his 15 minutes in the second half.
The Titans held the lead well into the second half, when Ford (14 points) hit a layup to put NU up, 65-63. The lead changed four times in the next two minutes, and the Titans eventually took a 75-72 advantage with 22 seconds to go. Freshman forward Jeremy Miller and Ford each missed a potential game-tying three on the ensuing possession, and from there, the Huskies were buried.
One bright spot in the game was the play of Walker, who once again looked the part as the Huskies’ go-to option.
“He’s gonna be as good a guard as we see all year long,” Detroit coach Ray McCallum Sr., whose son Ray Jr. plays with the San Antonio Spurs. “He’s got next level talent. I feel like we played against a pro-level player.”
Despite some solid numbers from Ford and Stahl (17 points, six rebounds), Coen said he needed more guys to step up to complement Walker.
“[David is] playing with the senior urgency that you’d hope to see in a guy with his ability and his stature and his experience level,” Coen said. “He did an outstanding job tonight, but unfortunately we didn’t get enough of those efforts up and down the lineup to pull out a victory.”
The Huskies will remain in Michigan for the next couple of days, as they square off with Western Michigan on Monday night. After an uncharacteristically poor showing, Coen is confident his team can bounce-back.
“This team’s got a lot of character, they got a lot of experience,” Coen said before walking out to the team bus. “We gotta learn from today’s effort and recommit and come back out because we have a tremendous opponent coming up on Monday night.”