By: Matthew MacCormack
Hempstead, NY- There’s no such thing as a good loss, but there were some encouraging signs from Northeastern’s 65-60 defeat at Hofstra Sunday afternoon.
Despite missing starting guard T.J. Williams for the second straight game for academic reasons, the Huskies (15-14, 7-9 CAA) clawed back from a 13-point second-half deficit to bring the game within two points in the final minute. After an anemic offensive performance in the first half, seniors David Walker and Quincy Ford combined for 22 second-half points, and the Husky defense held Hofstra’s dynamic offense to its second lowest scoring mark in conference play.
“I thought we had multiple chances to win the game,” said head coach Bill Coen. “We just had to take care of the ball a little bit better and just come up with one more play.”
Hofstra forward Denton Koon poured in a game-high 19 points on three of six shooting from deep. The 6’8 senior also added seven boards.
Sophomore center Rokas Gustys (17 points, 16 rebounds) sunk two free throws to put the Pride up, 62-54, with less than a minute to play. But the Huskies stormed back in improbable fashion.
Senior guard Caleb Donnelly (12 points) buried one of his four triples on the ensuing Husky possession, cutting the lead to 5. The Pride turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds, and a pull up triple from Walker (15 points) trimmed it to 62-60 with 33 seconds remaining.
Freshman guard Donnell Gresham took advantage of a panicky Hofstra inbound, grabbing a steal near half court. But Quincy Ford lost control of the rock a moment later, and the ball went back into the hands of Hofstra. The Pride buried three of four free throws down the stretch, and Gresham missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have brought the Huskies within two points.
“Guys weren’t 100% but what was 100% was their effort. Guys really, really played hard,” Coen said post-game. “I was proud of the effort but obviously disappointed in the result.”
The Husky offense was brutal in the opening frame. Two Donnelly threes helped Northeastern jump out to an 11-5 lead at the 16:21 mark, but the production fell off.
NU turned the ball over nine times and shot just 31% in the first 20 minutes. Walker and Ford combined to go two of 13 from the field, and the Huskies went into halftime facing a 33-22 deficit.
The Pride pieced together an 11-0 run midway thru the first frame, punctuated by a driving layup from senior guard Juan’ya Green to make it 20-13 with 6:08 left in the half. The preseason CAA Player of the Year flirted with a triple double and consistently made plays all afternoon, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
The 6’9 Gustys canned a jumper on the Pride’s first possession of the second half, giving them their biggest advantage of the game (13 points).
Ford (15 points, 14 rebounds) took over midway through the second half to keep NU in the game. The redshirt senior forward scored six straight points, bringing the score to 40-37 with a layup with 12:47 to play.
Ford utilized the empty space in Hofstra’s 2-3 zone defense.
“We made a little bit of an adjustment in how we were attacking their zone,” Coen said. “We put Quincy in the middle of it because he could make some shots from there and make plays. It kind of ignited us a bit. We started getting some easy buckets.”
Koon hit a jumper to bring the lead back to eight with 10:04 to go, and buried a dagger three seconds after Donnelly connected from deep to bring the lead to 57-54 with 1:12 remaining.
The Huskies next game is a bout with the College of Charleston at Matthews at 7 p.m on Thursday. A win would go a long way in helping the Huskies leapfrog the Cougars (16-11, 8-8 CAA) and earn a bye in the opening round of the CAA Tournament. Justin Littman and Kyle Williams will be on the call.