BOSTON — At the close of CAA action on Saturday, the Northeastern Huskies’ average margin of victory in conference play rested at 7.7 points, nearly three points better than the next-best team. And yet they sat tied for fifth, owners of a 5–4 conference record, an anomaly possible only because each one of their losses has been by two points.
Four losses. Three of them in front of their home crowd. Two of them on last-second game-winners. Eight combined points.
The Huskies appeared to be in the driver’s seat for most of Saturday’s tilt against the Delaware Blue Hens. They took a 13-point lead into halftime, buoyed by Jordan Roland’s 14 points. Max Boursiquot and Myles Franklin each contributed eight points without missing a shot.
Northeastern picked up where it left off Thursday night against Drexel. Players moved constantly and the ball didn’t sit in one person’s hands for too long. Boursiquot, Bolden Brace, and Greg Eboigbodin sprung ballhandlers loose on screens; if the screens didn’t force switches or create separation, they would spread out and re-screen the ball. Roland earned a number of open perimeter looks by dashing around staggered pindown screens. The offense was efficient, precise, and energetic.
On defense, Boursiquot once again held fast against larger matchups, in this case 6’10” Villanova transfer Dylan Painter and 6’7” standout Justyn Mutts. The Huskies fought through and around screens, rotated swiftly, and swiped errant or lazy passes. Transfer guard Nate Darling, who nearly kept pace with Jordan Roland’s scoring in non-conference play, registered just six points on eight shots.
The first half mirrored Thursday’s game against Drexel; the second mirrored last week’s game at UNCW. Once again, a 16-point second-half lead steadily evaporated. Once again, Northeastern allowed the opponents’ guards easy access to the lane. Once again, the game ended in a 76–74 Husky loss.
“We just couldn’t get a stop in the second half,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked. “We just came out really, really flat . . . They made a couple shots, got their energy up, and decided to play attack basketball.”
On one level it was a team problem. Northeastern’s rotations weren’t as crisp in the second half as they’d been in the first, and sometimes close contests didn’t happen even when the rotations did. Perimeter defenders had a harder time keeping their assignments in front of them. The Blue Hens tried 12 second-half two-pointers and nailed 11 of them.
But the biggest post-halftime change was Darling, who poured in 28 points and missed just three shots all half. He established his perimeter shooting and his assertive driving simultaneously, leaving the Huskies wondering which way to force him. He finished with a game-high 34 points — his best total since November 10 — and catalyzed the Blue Hens’ 47-point second half.
Just like the UNCW game, the meltdown didn’t happen all at once. In the absence of speedy transition basketball (the squads combined for just 13 fastbreak points) or numerous turnovers, the lead shifted gradually.
The Huskies also suffered from factors outside their control. Junior forward Shaq Walters was not present at Matthews Arena, which Coen attributed to a “violent stomach bug.”
“Just really, really bad timing for Shaq . . . it was a day that we could really use him,” Coen noted. “With his perimeter defense he would have been the perfect guy in this role.”
It was a significant loss for a Northeastern frontcourt already missing junior forward Tomas Murphy, who has been sidelined for more than two months with an ankle injury.
“Tomas hasn’t returned to practice yet,” Coen confirmed. “I’m not really sure where it’s gonna go but he hasn’t been healthy enough to get back and practice . . . The deeper it gets into the season I’m less hopeful.”
All the challenges aside, the Huskies had a chance to pull out a victory. Down two points with the shot clock turned off, they planned to feed Roland for their last shot, with an inside option for Boursiquot as well. But with 10 seconds left, Tyson Walker found himself with the ball out top, guarded by the larger, slower Jacob Cushing. Walker started his drive, but lost his balance on a crossover, fell, and couldn’t bet Cushing’s dive for the ball.
Roland finished with 27 points and is averaging 30 points per game across the team’s last five contests. Boursiquot chipped in a career-high 18 points, adding six rebounds and immeasurable defensive presence in the first half. Besides Darling, the only Blue Hen with a great stat line was junior guard Kevin Anderson, who notched an efficient 12 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
The Huskies have shown brilliance at times in non-conference play, but the brilliance has been dulled by poor execution down the stretches of close games. They will try to get back on track Thursday night at William & Mary, the team that dealt them the first of their four two-point losses. Milton Posner and Adam Doucette will call the game, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.