By: Matthew MacCormack
David Walker caught the ball on the left wing midway through the second half of Thursday night’s battle with William & Mary. He hesitated, then took a dribble towards the paint, where Tribe guard Greg Malinowski stood waiting.
Malinowski poked the ball from Walker’s reach, sending it high in the air. Before Walker could recover, Malinowski whipped an outlet pass, igniting a WM fast break.
All it took was two seconds for the ball to end up in the hands of Tribe forward Omar Prewitt, who sliced through the defense and finished an easy transition layup at the left block.
It was a sequence that seemed to epitomize Northeastern’s 86-77 loss – the Huskies’ fifth straight conference defeat. Behind a 13-point, five-assist first half effort from David Walker, the Huskies jumped out to a 37-31 halftime lead, and led by as many as 10 points early in the second half.
But for the third time in as many outings, Walker and the Husky offense sputtered down the stretch. NU succumbed to a 22-8 William & Mary run that started with a slashing layup from Prewitt with 17 minutes to play – two of the 56 points the Tribe accrued in the paint. From there, a 43-36 NU advantage morphed into a 58-51 Tribe lead with nine minutes left: a deficit the Huskies failed to overcome. During the stretch, Northeastern went just two of 12 from the field.
“We had some really critical turnovers in the second half that led to easy baskets,” Head Coach Bill Coen said. “You just can’t leave the door with a crack open with an experienced team like this.”
Although Walker can’t take all the blame for the second-half offensive woes, he certainly contributed. The senior guard chipped in greatly (19 points, eight assists), but was held scoreless for the first 16 minutes of the second half until nailing a triple to bring the WM lead back down to 72-65.
“I think he scored enough tonight for us to win. I don’t want him to take bad shots,” Coen said. “He’s creating a lot of offense for us.”
Redshirt senior forward and second-leading scorer Quincy Ford missed his fourth straight game with injury, prompting Coen to play Ford’s brother, freshman Sajon, and fellow freshman Brandon Kamga for a combined 29 minutes.
“Taking [Ford] off the floor and inserting some freshman: you’re going to have some two for 12 moments,” Coen said.
Prewitt was sensational, abusing Northeastern in the paint to the tune of a season-high 28 points and five rebounds. The junior sharpshooter (34.2% from deep on the season) did so without even hitting a three, as Prewitt got whatever he wanted down low.
“A couple of times, he was very, very patient and made shots,” Coen said. “Other times he had the presence of mind to find someone else under four seconds, where other players panic.”
Junior guard Daniel Dixon chipped in 20 points, five boards and three assists.
Dixon was instrumental in helping the Tribe jump out to an early lead, pushing the pace and scoring his team’s first seven points, all in transition.
Jeremy Miller proved once again to be a legit scoring option for the Huskies, as the freshman tallied 23 points (4-6 3pt FG) in just 19 minutes of play. Miller missed a lot of time due to foul trouble, as the center struggled with the more experienced Tribe big men.
T.J Williams (11 pts) continued his resurgence, and remained the only Husky capable of creating his own shot in the lane. Williams tallied nine points and two assists in the final eight minutes in an ultimately futile effort to keep the Huskies in the game.
The freshman duo of Kamga and Ford contributed a combined eight rebounds in fill-in duty.
“The silver lining is our younger guys are getting experience. We’re getting a little bit deeper and we’re learning a little bit about ourselves,” Coen said. “We’re learning how hard it is to get a victory.”