BOSTON — Northeastern men’s basketball entered Sunday afternoon’s rematch with Elon after demolishing the Phoenix the day before. A game that stayed close through halftime was decided by a furious 11–0 run to begin the second half.
Sunday’s game was precisely the opposite. After opening a double-digit lead four minutes in, Northeastern (3–5, 2–0 CAA) held off a furious second-half comeback from Elon (3–3, 0–2 CAA) to win 66–58. The weekend sweep marks a stark turnaround for a Husky team that spent its non-conference slate being bludgeoned by high-major teams.
The Huskies began the afternoon on a torrid stretch, sinking their first eight shots. Freshman Coleman Stucke led the way, connecting on his first two triples. By the time Northeastern missed a shot, they led 19–7.
The Huskies’ run was driven in good part by their first starting lineup tweak of the season. With usual starting center Greg Eboigbodin suffering from spasms before the game, Jason Strong slid down to the five and Jahmyl Telfort joined the group.
“It changes my mindset,” Strong said. “Being the five, I have to be the best rebounder out there. I have to be the anchor of the defense and that changes my style.”
Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen noted that while the move gave Strong a jump-shot and pick-and-pop mismatch against traditional post players, his most important rationale for the move was Strong’s familiarity with Elon’s Princeton offense.
“It was more about brains over brawn in that situation,” Coen explained. “He had done it before last year, he had played a little five against them . . . He was the most experienced guy at that spot and I thought he did a tremendous job.”
Elon answered Northeastern’s opening run with one of their own, working the ball inside to make it a 21–15 game with 12 minutes to play in the first half. Part of this was Federico Poser, Elon’s big man off the bench, contributing multiple buckets after not playing the previous day. Coen brought in Alexander Nwagha, who immediately made his presence felt down low with a spectacular block on Poser.
The Huskies turned right around and put together a 12–0 run, capped by a Jahmyl Telfort slam.
In the closing minutes of the half, Elon’s Hunter McIntosh reminded people why he is the reigning CAA Rookie of the Year, scoring six points to close the deficit to ten entering the break.
Neither team had found the bottom of the net from downtown since the 15-minute mark of the first half. They each connected on a pair of triples in the first two and a half minutes after the break, although both finished with subpar efforts from distance.
“In the second half of a back-to-back series your legs go a little bit and you lose some of your three point range,” Coen said. “We had to rely a little more on getting to the basket.”
With 14 minutes to play, Strong ended a brief scoring drought for the Huskies with his second triple of the game. The junior finished with a strong 17 points and seven boards.
As Elon fought back down the stretch, even shrinking the Northeastern lead to three with four-and-a-half minutes remaining, Shaquille Walters and Tyson Walker stole the show for the Huskies.
“He’s our go-to guy, he knows it, our team knows it and our staff knows it,” Coen said of Walker. “At that juncture in the game, he [can] feel the game and make the appropriate play . . . A lot of guys have the ability but don’t have the mindset or the personality for it. He’s got the confidence to do that, and we’re going to rely on him heavily.”
Walker and Walters combined for 13 points in the last seven minutes of the game, with Walker scoring or assisting on 13 of the Huskies’ final 15 points.
The Huskies’ next games come against the Hofstra Pride, who ended the Huskies’ season last year in the CAA Championship Game. Because the teams are travel partners, it will be the one traditional home-and-home for the Huskies in conference play. Game one begins Thursday night at 7 PM Eastern from Hempstead, NY.