by Matthew MacCormack
The Northeastern men’s basketball team just isn’t the same without star redshirt senior point guard Vasa Pusica. Pusica missed six games with a left wrist injury, and the favorites to win the Colonial Athletic Association treaded water without him, scrapping their way to a 3-3 record.
Pusica returned in a big way Friday afternoon, notching a team-high 16 points to go along with seven assists, sparking the Huskies (6-6) to a 64-59 victory over St. Bonaventure (4-8) at Matthews Arena. Senior center Anthony Green chipped in 11 points (5-5 FG), five rebounds and two blocks, and the Huskies shot over 70% in the second half to end their non-conference schedule on a high note.
“It was great to have [Vasa] back,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said after the game.
“I thought he did a great job for being out as long as he’s been… getting us into the offense and hitting shots.
Senior forward Courtney Stockard led the Bonnies with 17 points and six rebounds, but made just six of his 18 shots from the floor.
Pusica had to shake off a little rust — he did surrender a game-high seven turnovers — but his presence alone made the entire Husky offense hum, especially in the second frame.
“I think everyone just kind of settled down and shots started falling,” Pusica said.
“For myself, I felt much better after feeling it out and coming back.”
The Bonnies shot just 27% in the first half, but trailed by just two, 27-25, at the break.
The turning point came when the Huskies strung together a 17-3 run midway through the second half, turning a 35-30 deficit into a 47-33 lead. St. Bonaventure freshman guard Kyle Lofton (11 points) tied the game at 55-55 with a triple with 3:33 to go in the game, but Pusica was fouled on a three-point attempt on the next possession, sinking all three free throws.
Green threw down a slam on the next trip down, and the Huskies never looked back.
“I think he is a huge piece to this team,” Pusica said of Green.
“On offense he gives us the ability to throw the ball up and he’s going to catch it. He’s a really good roller. On defense he’s blocking a lot of shots.”
While Pusica returned to action, junior guard Shawn Occeus — the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year — was not with the team. Coen said Occeus is back home in Florida attending to a personal matter, and is expected back after Christmas.
The Huskies open conference play at home against Drexel on Friday, Dec. 28. Matt MacCormack and Matt Neiser will be on the call from Matthews Arena