By Matt Neiser
WILMINGTON, North Carolina — Fresh off a 15-point comeback win over CAA heavyweight Charleston, the Northeastern men’s basketball team was riding high as it made its way to Wilmington for a Saturday night matchup against the winless-in-conference UNCW Seahawks. The Seahawks pulled the Huskies back down to earth in Trask Coliseum, however, rallying from a 16-point deficit to take down the defending conference champs in overtime, 76–74.
Saturday’s game capped off an eventful week for UNCW (6–15, 1–7 CAA), which started with the Seahawks relieving head coach C.B. McGrath of his duties on Monday. The team went on to lose by just two to heavyweight Hofstra on Thursday, and finished with the victory against Northeastern (10–9, 4–3 CAA), their first in almost two months.
The two sides battled throughout the first half, with neither team pulling away by a substantial margin. The Seahawks took a 20–18 lead at the 6:16 mark, but a 17–8 run gave the Huskies a 35-28 advantage heading into the locker room.
UNCW held the Huskies within range coming out of the break, but a 13-point unanswered run by the visitors partway through the second half brought the deficit to a game-high 16 points with 10 minutes remaining.
The Northeastern lead seemed insurmountable for the Seahawks, but slowly and surely they forced their way back into the game. Ten points from Brian Tolefree and a six-point burst from Ty Gadsden helped drag UNCW back from the depths as they took a two-point lead. Back-to-back jumpers from Jordan Roland with a Seahawk turnover sandwiched in between re-established the Husky lead, but a Mike Okauru dunk with 2.5 seconds left evened the game. Jordan Roland’s half-court effort came close but clanged off the rim, sending the game to overtime.
The Huskies jumped out to a quick four-point lead to start the extra frame, but missed free throws from Myles Franklin and Tyson Walker left the door open. UNCW burst through that door, scoring eight unanswered as Northeastern went on a three-and-a-half-minute drought. The Huskies were forced to play the foul game, and a pair of missed free throws from Jaylen Sims a few possessions later gave Northeastern a chance to respond, down two points, with 11 seconds remaining.
Roland stepped on the sideline with less than three ticks on the clock, but Franklin forced the ball off of Marten Linssen’s leg with .6 seconds left. The ensuing inbounds play found Roland in the corner with a chance to win, but he couldn’t get the shot off in time as the Seahawks came away with the victory.
“I thought UNCW played harder than we did tonight and they earned the victory,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen. “The team that plays harder usually wins. There isn’t that much talent separation in this league where if you come in and you’re playing at a six or a seven and the other team is playing at a nine or a ten that you can feel comfortable.”
Interim head coach Rob Burke took over head coaching duties from McGrath, injecting some much-needed energy into his squad. Burke was animated throughout the game, imploring the crowd to get loud and slamming his hand repeatedly on the floor as his team fought their way back. The Trask crowd responded in kind, giving the Seahawks the extra oomph needed to pull off the victory.
“It’s always a very supportive fan base,” Coen said. “They’re worth five points with the energy they bring to the building.”
Four players recorded double-digit scoring for the Seahawks, led by Tolefree’s 17 and Okauru’s 16. The latter recorded a double-double and even came close to a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and six assists.
Roland did everything he could to keep his team in the game, logging 38 points (the most in the 43-year history of Trask Coliseum) and a career-high seven rebounds.
Walker chipped in 17, and Max Boursiquot and Greg Eboigbodin pulled down nine and seven rebounds, respectively.
Northeastern will look to rebound on Thursday at home against Drexel. Mike Petillo and Adam Doucette will have coverage of that one starting at 6:45 PM EST.