Huskies End Season With Semifinal Loss to Drexel

Story by Justin Diament and Milton Posner

Photos by Jordan Baron

HARRISONBURG, VA — “Whenever it ends, it ends.”

“It’s like you’re on a treadmill, you’re running about ten miles an hour, and somebody hits the stop button. And everything stops. Your mind, the players’ rhythm, ‘what time is practice tomorrow’, ‘what are we doing’, ‘what do we have to get better at’ — you’re just in that kind of cycle.”

Bill Coen had good reason to feel that way. One night after setting the Northeastern record for career wins, one night after his team notched a resounding playoff win without two players who had started every game to that point, they were done. A conference season that began with a seven-game winning streak and yielded a share of the regular season title ended with a 74–67 loss to Drexel in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament.

“The thing that doesn’t change at the end of the year is the emotion in the locker room,” Coen said, clearly dealing with plenty of it himself. “When you see guys get visibly emotional, although it’s tough, I think that’s a good sign. It shows how much they care, it shows how important it is to them, and it shows how much pride and character they have.”

Without the services of Shaquille Walters for the second day in a row, and without Jason Strong for most of the night, the Huskies couldn’t overcome Drexel’s potent, balanced attack or the one-dimensional nature of their own shorthanded offense.

“Ten days ago, a lot of us were in beds not even knowing if we were going to play,” forward Jahmyl Telfort said. “We practiced probably three times before the tournament.”

“We had guys who played in the game who weren’t even close to 100 percent,” Coen noted. “We had guys who were basically coming to the tournament without having practiced. So we were just trying to cobble it together with different guys and different lineups.”

Early on, Northeastern started relying on just two players to carry the scoring load, as All-CAA First Teamer Tyson Walker and Sixth Man of the Year Telfort notched 25 of the Huskies’ 29 first-half points. Telfort, who has typically had frigid first halves and white-hot second halves, turned in a performance to remember, ending the first frame with a game-high 13.

Walker was close behind with 12, and while both shooters posted efficient lines, Walker’s four missed threes — including an airball on his first attempt — were a harbinger of things to come.

Northeastern searched constantly for a third hot hand in Walters’s stead. The ailing Strong subbed in, committed several errors including an unforced inbound violation, and was done for the night. Vito Cubrilo played 23 minutes and contributed mightily with effort and aggression, but didn’t spark the offense much. Chris Doherty chipped in three points and five valuable rebounds, but was exceeded by his counterpart James Butler, who notched 12 points and 12 boards. Doherty did impact the game with the sort of defense that box scores elide, but the Dragons’ 38–26 rebounding advantage stung.

The Huskies’ defense kept them afloat. Northeastern made things difficult for Drexel ballhandlers — filling passing lanes, snatching steals, co-opting the shot clock as a sixth defender, and forcing Drexel to settle for poor shots.

“They’re really aggressive with their hands,” Drexel head coach Zach Spiker explained. “Coach Coen has built a culture of playing and defending without fouling.”

Unlike their wire-to-wire masterpiece from Sunday night, however, this iron defense would not last. As the first half progressed, the Dragons poked holes in the Husky fortifications, finding open looks under the hoop, in the midrange, and beyond the arc. They got diverse first-half contributions, with Xavier Bell, Zach Walton, and Camren Wynter notching seven points and TJ Bickerstaff adding six. Northeastern finished the half down just five, but Drexel held significant momentum and the Husky offense was still searching for answers.

Early in the second frame, Coen reached into his bag of tricks again and found an unexpected answer in reserve forward Alexander Nwagha. Nwagha, who had played just 41 minutes in the Huskies 18 previous games, restarted the defense with his length, leaping, and activity. Cubrilo also returned to the floor and made unexpected defensive contributions, grabbing two key steals and forcing an additional turnover as the Huskies clawed their way back.

Drexel kept Northeastern at arm’s length for the first half of the final period, but Northeastern finally made their move with eight minutes remaining. Telfort put in a nifty layup, followed by a fastbreak finish from Walker, a free throw from Doherty, and an emphatic stepback three from Telfort to bring the Huskies within one.

“We put a little game pressure on them,” Coen said. “Until that point, we hadn’t put any game pressure on them. We just needed one more stop.”

They didn’t get it. Drexel’s offense lit up and regrew the lead. The Dragons’ shooting barrage included the first of two threes from Butler, who had made just two treys all season.

“I knew it was going in,” Wynter said. “JB’s a good shooter and in practice he shoots guard numbers.”

“He’s shot a whole lot in his career, they just haven’t been in games yet,” Spiker added. “James Butler took advantage of the pandemic. James Butler evolved his game.”

Wynter, Walton, and Bell each turned in a double-digit performance on 50 perfect shooting or better, while Bickerstaff nearly matched Butler in rebounds. Defeating these performances would have required brilliance from Northeastern’s stars. They did get an 30-point masterpiece from Telfort, who also defended Wynter for long stretches.

“You could score 60 points or you could score zero,” a dejected Telfort said. “A loss is a loss.”

Walker finished with 23 points, four boards, and five assists, though his one-for-eight mark from downtown damaged his efficiency.

“I thought we did a great job on him, making everything tough, putting multiple bodies on him,” Wynter said. “We were just trying to tire him out and make him take a lot of contested shots, and we did just that.”

But the rest of the Huskies combined for just 14 points on 29 percent shooting, not enough to overcome Drexel’s four double-digit scorers. And thus ended a season that exceeded expectations in so many respects.

“Even though it was a young group, it was able to accomplish a lot of great things,” Coen said. “We earned a share of the CAA regular season title. I think we had the most road wins in the conference.

“It’s the beginning, not the end.”

Coen Breaks Program Wins Record, Huskies Advance to CAA Semis

Story by Justin Diament and Milton Posner

Photos by Jordan Baron

HARRISONBURG, VA — If you were paying attention, you could see the answers coming an hour in advance.

After each of his team’s last three wins, plus a CAA press conference a month ago, Northeastern head coach Bill Coen fielded a question about his march toward the program’s all-time wins record of 250, set by Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun from 1972 to 1986.

He offered nearly identical answers each time — rejecting comparisons to Calhoun’s vaunted résumé and deferring credit for the wins to his players, assistant coaches, the university, and medical, training, and support staff. It’s who he is, and it’s why he’s so respected around the conference. He’s naturally humble and gracious. He doesn’t strut. And the last thing he wants, especially after his team wins, is to make himself the story.

“Coaches get way too much credit,” he remarked after Sunday night’s game. “I haven’t scored a basket or grabbed a rebound in a long time. These guys do all the work.”

But after a 63–47 win over William & Mary made him the winningest coach in the history of a century-old program, he didn’t have any say in that. He was the story.

Or at least he was part of it. The win vaulted the second-seeded Huskies into the semifinals of the CAA Tournament, where they will battle the Drexel Dragons. Milton Posner, Jordan Baron, and Justin Diament will call that game for WRBB, with coverage beginning around 9:20 PM Eastern. 

“It meant more to me that we’re moving on and playing in the best month of the year — if you’re a college basketball fan,” Coen said. “It meant more to me that these guys were willing to play and show that type of heart and resilience given what we’ve been through.”

The road to this landmark win was not as easy as the final score suggests. Without key starters Shaquille Walters (out for the tournament) and Jason Strong (day-to-day), the Huskies looked lost offensively in the first half. Without Strong, a key perimeter shooter, and Walters, an important ballhandler, the Huskies spent their first 15 minutes searching for answers, and scored just 25 points by the intermission. 

“We hadn’t played in three weeks,” star point guard Tyson Walker said. “We were all in quarantine and stuff. We didn’t have that much time to practice. So coming back was rough . . . We all spoke a lot over quarantine. So we were mentally together; it was all about the physical.”

“I think we’ve played three games in about 40 days,” Coen added. “We really didn’t get much practice time before we got down here. Guys were getting out of quarantine at different times.”

Numerous strange lineup configurations found their way to the hardwood. One was a starting lineup featuring defensive-minded guard Quirin Emanga and back-from-injury big man Chris Doherty. Another featured starting point guard Tyson Walker and reserve guard Vito Cubrilo, who usually only enters the game to spell Walker.

Northeastern often meandered late into the shot clock, lacking direction and settling for contested looks. Strong pressure from the Tribe, who feature two CAA All-Defensive selections, piled on the pain for the disoriented Huskies, who racked up 10 first-half turnovers. Northeastern also went without an assist for nearly 15 minutes.

“The ball was sticking a little bit,” Coen explained. “A great metric for us is when you see assisted baskets; that means the ball is moving, it’s not sticking, we’re not overdribbling, we’re cutting better, attacking the paint. In the first half, we didn’t do enough of that.”

The culmination of these attempts to fill the shoes of Strong and Walters was the debut of freshman forward Connor Braun, who had missed the entire season with an ankle injury. Braun played just four minutes, but his presence in such a pivotal game indicated the Huskies far-reaching search for lineup answers. 

But they had a saving grace.

“All year long, our defense kept us in games,” Coen said. “That was consistent tonight. We did a really good job on the defensive end and gave ourselves a chance.”

They harassed William & Mary’s drives, collecting five first-half blocks from five different Huskies. Northeastern held William & Mary to just 38 percent shooting from the floor, which kept the game tight despite a massive turnover advantage for the Tribe. Confoundingly, despite the aggressive nature of the defense from both teams, neither side attempted a free throw in the first half. 

One first-half highlight for the Huskies was the return of Doherty, who hadn’t played major minutes since January 23. He grabbed seven first-half boards and created key second chances for the Huskies. His contributions on both ends were essential to mitigating the losses of Walters and Strong. 

With 5:58 remaining in the first half, the Huskies’ offensive woes had them in a 21–12 hole. However, back-to-back threes from Coleman Stucke and Walker served as harbingers of things to come, while another pair of downtown buckets from Emanga and Walker evened the score at 23. William & Mary finished the first half strong and took a three-point lead into the locker room, but the table was set for the turnaround.

Northeastern returned to the floor with a vengeance. Newly minted Sixth Man of the Year Jahmyl Telfort logged seven points in the opening three minutes, including a three-pointer that gave the Huskies a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Huskies quickly found another hot hand in Stucke, who splashed two deep threes to raise the Northeastern lead to double digits. Midway through the second half, Stucke led all scorers with 13, while adding five boards and two assists.

The Huskies settled into an offensive groove with contributions from numerous players, including buckets from Telfort and two nifty layups from Cubrilo. However, the biggest key to the sustained Husky dominance was Tyson Walker, who came alive after scoring only seven first-half points. He finished with 19 — including eight in a two-minute stretch — and contributed five rebounds and four assists. 

While Northeastern’s offense received a much-needed second half boost, their already-stout defense reached new heights. It was William & Mary’s turn to look lost offensively, as they managed just five second-half field goals and couldn’t keep pace with the invigorated Husky attack. Defenders harassed the Tribe’s ballhandlers and forced eight turnovers, many of which lead to transition opportunities.

Doherty continued to swallow the Tribe’s plentiful missed shots, and finished with an astounding 18 boards in his return. Additionally, both teams rediscovered the free-throw line, combining for 24 free throws in the second half after attempting none in the first. The Huskies outpaced the Tribe in this area as well, connecting on more foul shots despite fewer attempts. 

“We talked about him coming into the game,” Tribe head coach Dane Fischer said. “We talked about having a body on him every time the ball goes up, if not two . . . Eight offensive rebounds is way too many for anybody to have.”

“We lost two games in conference this year, and the only two games we lost we didn’t have Chris,” Coen noted. “You can see what kind of a difference he makes — controlling the paint, getting on the glass. Having that type of rebounding effort was special.”

“He’s a dog,” Walker said bluntly. “He works hard. He gets all of his stuff on his own.”

William & Mary was led by star senior Luke Loewe, who contributed 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in the Tribe’s lone bright performance. The only other Tribe player in double figures was Quinn Blair, who suffered a shoulder injury early on but pushed through the pain to record 11 points on inefficient four-of-11 shooting.

How Northeastern Men’s Basketball Became CAA Title Favorites

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

The Northeastern Huskies have had some pretty crazy CAA win streaks. In 2012–13 they began conference play with eight wins and finished 14–4. In 2018, they marched to the CAA Championship game on the back of a nine-game streak. The next year, a string of seven victories lifted them into March Madness.

And now, in a pandemic-riddled season, they’ve added another — a seven-game run to open the conference season. Though it ended on Sunday with a loss to James Madison, it positioned the Huskies as the overwhelming favorite to win the conference’s regular-season crown. That it happened at all is a testament to a young team figuring things out absurdly quickly.

Non-conference

Northeastern head coach Bill Coen likes to use the non-conference slate to expose his teams to different strategies and schemes, and tough opponents — including Power Five squads — are always a part of that. But by the time the Huskies had cobbled together a mid-pandemic schedule, theirs was — according to ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index — the 17th toughest in the nation.

A cursory glance at their 1–5 record in those games — the worst of any CAA team in the non-conference — wouldn’t reveal much to be excited about. They threw away so many passes in their opener against UMass’s full-court press that the Minutemen hung 94 points on them. They almost ceded a double-digit lead down the stretch of the only game they won. They faltered late against Syracuse, missed their first 13 shots against Old Dominion, allowed Georgia to rattle off 21 unanswered points, and were outclassed in the paint by West Virginia.

But a closer look revealed the CAA’s youngest team making major strides. In their second game against UMass, the Huskies got their turnovers under control by harnessing the speed of Tyson Walker, the ball-handling of Shaq Walters, and the steadying presence of Jason Strong to routinely break the Minutemen press.

Against Syracuse’s famous 2-3 zone, the Huskies’ hot three-point shooting kept them in control throughout the first half and turned a predicted trouncing into a six-point squeaker. It showed just how many Huskies were viable and willing perimeter shooters, as well as the team’s strong defensive resilience to hold Syracuse to 62 points.

While the Georgia game will be most remembered for the Huskies’ worst offensive half in more than a decade, we’d be remiss to overlook the first half, which was arguably their best of the season. They knocked down 69 percent of their threes, which they fired off in large volume. Jahmyl Telfort logged 15 points without missing a shot. And the Huskies led a Power Five team by double digits at halftime.

But perhaps most important was the tightening of the bond between the young teammates. By fighting through such a tough slate of games, they proved to themselves that they could compete against uber-talented teams outside of the CAA.

It only made them more confident going into conference play, and that confidence reigned supreme across an unbelievable seven-game stretch — starting with two victories against Elon, carrying into an unbelievable road overtime win and a subsequent home victory over Hofstra, accompanying them south for a sweep of Charleston, and back up home with a win against  James Madison. 

Let’s break down what powered the run.

The Doherty Effect

The effect wasn’t immediate, as Doherty missed the first two conference games with an injury. Nor is it guaranteed to continue, as Doherty missed the Huskies’ last game with an ankle sprain. But when he’s healthy, the sophomore forward has been one of the Huskies’ most impactful players.

Much of this stems from his relentless energy and positional awareness, which fuel his prodigious offensive rebounding and effective pick-and-roll scoring. He leads the team in offensive rating, per-minute rebounding, and per-minute win shares, and is third in per-minute scoring. He even notched a dramatic game-winner against Charleston in typical Doherty fashion: securing a rebounding and laying in the putback.

His energy has kickstarted the Huskies’ offense on numerous occasions, and if he remains healthy he will be an indispensable part of the rotation.

Emanga’s Emergence

When Max Boursiquot left the Huskies after a spectacular junior season, he left a pair of versatile shoes to fill. The gift of a muscular, crafty, capable, 6’5” guard/forward who can defend essentially anyone anywhere on the floor is not the sort of thing you just find every season.

Unless you’re Bill Coen, in which case you can turn to a guy who averaged five minutes per game last season and unveil him as your new defensive stopper.

The guy in question in Quirin Emanga, and his coming-out party as an elite defensive force came January 9 against Hofstra. Facing a 19-point deficit and the task of guarding bulldozing Pride forward Isaac Kante, Coen turned to Emanga when Strong went to the bench with four fouls. Kante, the all-CAA-caliber big man who had looked unstoppable to that point, was held to a couple of buckets the rest of the way as the Huskies mounted a dramatic comeback and won the game in overtime. Kante didn’t fare much better against Emanga two days later either.

Ever since, Emanga has been a defensive factor. Though he hasn’t quite matched Boursiquot’s rim protection and all-around brilliance yet, he has been stellar defending big men on the block and wings on the perimeter. In five games as a starter, he’s committed just seven fouls in 164 minutes despite being asked to guard major scoring threats. He has also pitched in, albeit in moderate volume, on the offensive end — he has the highest three-point percentage on the squad and the second-highest effective field goal percentage behind Doherty.

Shaq Attack

Shaq Walters showed his rebounding prowess last season, and began to display some playmaking chops in the last half-dozen contests. And given his height, length, and athletic ability, it wasn’t necessarily a shock to see him become Coen’s go-to man to defend the other team’s top perimeter threat this year.

But the shooting was a surprise. After connecting on a meager 29 percent of his three-point tries last year, Walters doubled his shooting volume and upped his percentage to a remarkable 41 percent this season. Suddenly his rainbow shots are finding gold routinely, as he’s hit multiple threes in half of Northeastern’s conference tilts. And he’s hitting some tough ones too.

But none resonated more than the one he hit against Hofstra on January 9, the one that clinched the Huskies’ overtime win after a frantic second-half comeback.

He’s still finding the time and energy to lead the Huskies in rebounding, but make no mistake — Walters’ newfound marksmanship is the single most important individual skill jump the team has seen this year.

Holding Down the Tel-Fort

When Bill Coen says you’re one of the best two-way freshmen to pass through his program in years, it means you’re doing a ton of stuff right. Despite starting only two of the Huskies’ 14 games, Jahmyl Telfort has established himself as the team’s second-leading scorer, a versatile wing with athleticism, awareness, and good defensive instincts.

His finest hour thus far came on Saturday against James Madison. After a scoreless first half, Telfort exploded for 23 points in the second to put the game out of the Dukes’ reach. And he did it with a variety of weapons, from transition layups to midrangers to catch-and-shoot threes.

As the only player to win CAA Rookie of the Week at least three times this season, he’s the clear frontrunner for the end-of-season award. And he’s become a major engine for a contending team.

Downtown District

It must be nice to be Bill Coen, knowing that almost every player out on the court wearing a Northeastern jersey can reliably shoot the three and make it. Of the six players who have logged 200 minutes or more, five have made at least a third of their tries from deep.

The Huskies’ perimeter ball movement — not just on their win streak, but for the entire season — has been excellent, as they seem to always find the open man beyond the arc. Walker and Walters have honed into the drive-and-kick play, with Strong, Telfort, and Emanga as the biggest beneficiaries of their penetration, gravity, and playmaking.

The Huskies have attempted 205 three-point shots in eight conference games. To put that number into perspective, last year’s squad attempted just 383 long balls across the entire 18-game conference schedule. This year’s Huskies are on pace to shatter that mark, and with a large portion of their team capable of reliably sinking that shot, there’s no reason for them to stop.

Dicin’ Tyson

We can’t analyze the circumstances that led to this win streak without talking about the leadership, overall skill, and athleticism that sophomore guard Tyson Walker brings. 

In conference play, Walker has accumulated the most points (141), assists (43), steals (22), free throws made (23), and free throws attempted (32) of any Husky. Sure, he’s struggled with turnovers at times, but for a guy who almost always controls the ball and is constantly making plays for younger, less experienced players, turnovers will happen. 

Walker has showcased an unbelievable ability to pick up lost momentum for his team, and it’s led to the Huskies winning games they were seemingly out of. Against Hofstra on January 9, the Pride were busy devouring the Huskies until Walker decided he’d had enough. He drained five threes to slingshot the Huskies back into the lead. Even when the streak ended on Sunday, he still poured in a season-high 30 points to key the attack.

Looking Forward

On Thursday afternoon, the CAA announced that Northeastern’s games against Drexel (January 30 and 31) and Delaware (February 6 and 7) were being postponed due to a positive COVID-19 case within the Huskies’ program, with a rescheduling decision to be made later.

But in a season rendered completely insane by the pandemic, it might not hurt the Huskies’ position as much as you might think. To understand why, let’s examine the CAA’s seeding mechanisms.

Seeding is based on conference winning percentage. Teams must play at least eight CAA games to be eligible for their seed; if they don’t, “virtual losses” are added until the record is eligible (e.g. a 3–3 team becomes 3–5). If the average number of conference games played by all teams is below eight, teams must play no less than two fewer games than that average number (say, five games to be eligible if the average team has played seven). Teams must also play 13 games overall — or receive an NCAA waiver — to be CAA tournament eligible.

Here are the standings as of January 29:

TeamCAA recordCAA pct.Games missed as of 1/29
Northeastern7–1.8750
James Madison3–1.7504
Hofstra5–3.6250
Charleston3–3.5002
Delaware3–4.4291
Drexel2–3.4003
William & Mary2–4.3332
Towson2–4.3332
UNCW1–3.2504
Elon0–2.0006

Seven of the nine other teams have already lost three or four games, and thus cannot catch Northeastern’s current winning percentage of .875 even if they win out.

Elon theoretically could exceed that mark, but only if they play the typical 18 CAA games and win their next 16 in a row. For a team that hasn’t played since January 3, that volume of games is nearly impossible.

James Madison has the best shot at reaching .875, as the Dukes have lost just one CAA game. But at the rate they’ve played games, they would likely have to win out to do so.

All of this would be moot if Northeastern plays — and loses — another game. But that’s the thing; the Huskies have played eight conference games, so they’ll be eligible for their tournament seed no matter what. Purely from a standings standpoint, they’re better off not playing again until the CAA Tournament. They’d almost certainly earn the top seed.

Of course, head coach Bill Coen and his team wouldn’t choose this path. They’re a basketball team, and basketball teams are meant to play, well, basketball games. They want to be in gear for the CAA Tournament, not trying to overcome a month’s worth of rust. And the only way games get cancelled is if people get sick, which no one wants.

This isn’t to recommend that Northeastern sit out games or to imply that they could choose to. It’s just to point out that, after a seven-game winning streak to start conference play, they are in the driver’s seat. They control their own destiny. And especially if their games are lost to the pandemic — instead of being rescheduled — it might only take another two or three wins to seal the top seed.

But regardless of which seed they wind up with, these Huskies have proven so much this month, and are well positioned to make the CAA championship game for the fourth straight year.

Seven in a Row! Huskies Defeat Dukes Behind Telfort Torrent

Story by Peyton Doyle and Milton Posner

Photos by Jordan Baron

BOSTON — Northeastern men’s basketball’s 72–63 win over James Madison on Saturday afternoon wasn’t exactly surprising. The Huskies were on an absolute roll coming in, and while the Dukes boasted a seemingly solid record, they hadn’t played much in the way of sturdy competition.

But when the buzzer sounded, it was hard not to marvel at the totality of what the Huskies had achieved. It was their seventh straight win, matching the streak from two seasons ago that took them to the NCAA Tournament. It was their best start to a conference slate since an eight-game run eight seasons before. It moved head coach Bill Coen to within one game of Jim Calhoun’s career program record of 250. And it showed just how many weapons this young Huskies team can wield.

It began with Tyson Walker, who scored eight quick points to keep pace with the Dukes’ Matt Lewis. Lewis entered the game as the reigning USBWA National Player of the Week after nailing nine of 12 three-pointers against Towson on Saturday. But both players tailed off after a quick start, posting passable scoring totals on iffy efficiency.

The rest of the half belonged to Chris Doherty, as the red-haired Goliath hounded the Dukes to a tune of 10 points and seven rebounds — four of which came on the offensive glass — in the first half. Doherty was often the lone Husky in the paint, valiantly battling for boards among legions of Dukes.

“It goes beyond the first half,” Coen said. “You look at the Charleston series, in game one he did a monster job on the boards, a lot of grit and toughness. And then he had the tip-in for a victory [in game two].”

But Doherty’s momentum would come to a screeching stop with about eight minutes left in the second half. After James Madison’s Vado Morse (14 points) attacked him in the pick and roll, Doherty leaped to contest the layup. He landed awkwardly on his right ankle and immediately grabbed it as he lay under the basket. Though he managed to lift himself and hobble downcourt, he made a beeline for the Northeastern bench and soon sank to the court in pain.

Though Doherty seemed to be moving with a less pronounced limp later on, he did not return to the court, and Coen said the “tweaked” ankle meant Doherty’s status for tomorrow’s rematch is uncertain. It’s a gut punch for the Husky big man, who had just returned to the swing of things after missing four games earlier in the season with another injury.

But by that point, the Huskies had all but blown the game open.

The first half was close; JMU led for much of it before Northeastern seized the momentum to build a 37–31 halftime lead. The second half was not, and Jahmyl Telfort was the reason why.

After a scoreless first half, the freshman exploded for 23 points in the second. The only Northeastern players to have bested his total in a half are a who’s who of program mainstays and stars: Bolden Brace, TJ Williams, David Walker, JJ Barea, and Jordan Roland.

“He scored in a variety of ways,” Coen said. “Transition threes to drives to the basket to offensive rebound putbacks to mid-range shots. He got on a roll.”

For most of the half, Telfort kept pace with the entire James Madison team, ultimately nailing nine of his 12 shots and punctuating the affair was a fastbreak alley-oop slam.

Shaq Walters also chipped in 15 points of his own in a team-high 37 minutes, including 10 in the second half. He and Telfort combined for all but two of the Huskies 35 second-half points. Walters nailed three momentum-grabbing triples — he’s shooting above 42 percent on the season — and added eleven rebounds and four assists.

On defense, the Huskies did an excellent job slowing down Lewis and the quick-hitting Dukes, holding the senior to just five second half points on seven shots. Northeastern also had a much improved perimeter defense coming out of halftime; JMU connected on just 27 percent of their triples in the second half after hitting 57 percent in the first.

When asked about his game plan to slow Lewis, Coen simply replied, “Shaq Walters.”

He waited a good few seconds before adding, “That was our game plan. In case you guys haven’t noticed, Shaq Walters is a pretty good defender. Every day he draws the best assignment. He takes pride in his defense, he’s got size and strength, he’s committed to that end of the floor, and he gives 110 percent effort.”

None of this is to say the Huskies ran away with the game entirely. After going up 20 points with two-and-a-half minutes to go, the Huskies watched the lead quickly contract as the Dukes’ reserves mounted a furious run.

“They extended really, really, high; they almost had four guys above the free-throw line,” Coen said. “A trapping, attacking zone, kind of a 1-1-3 zone. We got lucky . . . but we settled for too many quick threes against it. That’s what it’s designed to do — bait you into falling in love with the three. I’m sure we’re going to see it again tomorrow, so we’ve got to execute better against it.”

But the lead was too much to overcome, as the Huskies held on for a nine-point victory to extend their unbeaten streak in conference play. Coen can tie the all-time program record for wins tomorrow, and although he’s consistently downplayed any comparisons to Jim Calhoun — and deferred credit to the players, assistant coaches, trainers, support staff, and university — it would mark a momentous achievement in the career of the CAA’s longest-tenured coach.

WRBB will call that potentially historic game, with coverage beginning a few minutes before the 12 PM Eastern tipoff. Mike Puzzanghera, Jordan Baron, and Justin Diament will be on the call.

Doherty’s the Hero as Huskies Win Sixth in a Row

By Milton Posner

If it wasn’t obvious by now, there’s some kind of magic in the air for Northeastern men’s basketball.

In a season thrown into chaos by the unpredictability of a pandemic, with the youngest roster in the CAA, amid injuries that sidelined three big men simultaneously, and after being pummeled by high-major teams throughout the non-conference slate, the Huskies are still undefeated in conference play.

They won their sixth straight game on Sunday afternoon after a Chris Doherty putback with 15 seconds to play. 68–66 Northeastern. Ballgame.

From the start, and for the entire first half, it didn’t appear that a finishing blow would be necessary. The Huskies leapt out to an 11–2 lead in the first six-and-a-half minutes behind a flurry of quick, assertive drives into the paint. Tyson Walker led the attack, earning a number of short floaters and jumpers in transition and in the halfcourt. He and Coleman Stucke would lead the Huskies with eight points apiece by halftime.

Meanwhile, the Cougars had about as much luck finding the basket as a blind pirate does finding buried treasure. The Huskies rotated well, shutting off easy lanes to the paint and forcing the Cougars into contested looks. When the Cougars improved the quality of their looks, they still struggled to find a rhythm, with Brendan Tucker being the sole bright spot. Minnesota transfer Payton Willis was scoreless, as was Saint Joseph’s transfer Lorenzo Edwards. Zep Jasper cashed in on just one of seven attempts.

“Our defense has traveled with us,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen. “[By the metrics] we’re the best defensive team in the league, and usually you need veteran players to do that. The freshman players get caught on the trick plays, or they haven’t seen certain actions enough. They don’t have enough in their reads in their database to be so consistent defensively.

“Our young guys [can] really absorb a scouting report. As a coach you’re always a little bit nervous in giving them too much, because you don’t want them thinking — you want them playing . . . But this group has been remarkable in terms of what they’ve been able to process and execute in the game.”

The first-half numbers reflect the Huskies overwhelming defense. Charleston shot 28 percent from the floor against the Huskies’ 50 percent, made one of nine threes against the Huskies’ four of nine, and lost the rebounding battle by eight. Most importantly, the Huskies led 34–20.

Six minutes later, the lead had evaporated.

The Cougars had already equaled their first-half total. Willis and Jasper had discovered their mojo. The Huskies inherited the Cougars’ first-half inability to penetrate the paint, then tacked on a few turnovers that jumpstarted the Cougars’ transition game.

By the midway point of the second half, Charleston had built a seven-point lead. Northeastern had mustered just ten points and still didn’t have a double-digit scorer. The tug-of-war that ensued over the next handful of possessions left the lead hanging at six with five minutes to play, easily the most serious threat to the Huskies since Hofstra had them in blowout territory in the second half on January 7.

But Northeastern woke up just in time. A couple of buckets apiece from Jahmyl Telfort and Shaq Walters did the trick, with a Walters stepback jumper tying things at 66 with a minute to play.

And then a catlike Telfort block on Tucker set the stage for an unlikely finish.

Walker ran a pick-and-roll with Doherty, then drove along the left side of the lane. Jasper pursued him and Osinachi Smart peeled off of Doherty to meet Walker at the rim. The contest worked, but Doherty was left uncovered in the middle of the lane.

The Huskies clogged the middle to pressure Jasper into a missed layup, then smothered Smart on the putback attempt. Game over.

“This group has come together quicker and without expectation, because you really don’t expect a team without a senior on the roster to play at this high level,” Coen noted. “We’re getting leadership from up and down the lineup. Guys really enjoy each other, they enjoy playing for each other. They don’t want to let their teammate down.”

As has become typical in conference play, the Huskies got balanced contributions up and down their roster. Telfort notched 16 points to lead the way. Walker chipped in 10 points and six dimes. Walters complimented his 15 points with eight rebounds, and played a large role in shutting down Charleston’s guards in the first half.

“He doesn’t get enough credit for where we are at,” Coen said of Walters. “He’s made big, big shots, he always guards the opponent’s best player, and his intensity and competitiveness is igniting the younger guys.” Coen also remarked that Telfort is “one of the best two-way freshmen I’ve seen come through this program.”

Tucker had another excellent game for the Cougars, posting 20 points. Jasper and Willis chipped in 10 points apiece for a Cougar squad that fell to 5–8 overall and 3–3 in conference.

The Huskies (7–5, 6–0 CAA) will return to Boston for Saturday and Sunday games against James Madison, both at noon Eastern. WRBB will call those games, with coverage beginning about ten minutes before tip-off. With all the uncertainty over how many games will be played this season, every win only makes it more likely that the Huskies run away with the CAA regular season crown.

“How can you not enjoy coaching this group?” Coen said. “Toughness and grit all the way around . . . This group has shown time and time again the type of resiliency that you love to see as a coach. They just never give up, they never stop believing in themselves and their teammates.”

Huskies Put Cougars to Bed

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

Since their introduction to the Colonial Athletic Association in May of 2005, the Northeastern Huskies had started conference play 5–0 in only three seasons.

Make that four.

Behind quality performances from Jason Strong, Tyson Walker, Shaq Walters, and Chris Doherty, the Huskies did just that, securing their fifth straight win by knocking off the Charleston Cougars, 67–62.

The win gives Northeastern a two-game lead over second-place Charleston in the CAA standings. After the graduation of many talented seniors across the league, in a season defined by uneven, rapidly changing schedules, the Huskies have upended the predicted pecking order. They are now the team to beat.

“This team is competitive well beyond its years,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen. “They want to win, they want to do the right thing, they like each other and they’re playing hard for each other.”

The Huskies came steaming out of the gate Saturday afternoon, sinking four three-pointers in the first five minutes. Two of those threes came from Strong, who notched 13 first-half points and missed just one shot. But the Cougars kept pace from downtown, and both teams notched 16 points within the first seven minutes.

Both teams limited turnovers, with the Huskies coughing up the ball five times in the opening 20 minutes and Charleston doing so just twice. Neither squad fouled much either. The Huskies entered the locker room up 37–33. 

But something must’ve happened to Strong during the break, as he came out from the locker room ice cold. He didn’t score the rest of the way.

“In the second half he had some clean looks that just didn’t go,” Coen said. “He didn’t have the same rhythm. But other guys stepped up and we scored in different ways. That’s the hallmark of a good team — not relying on one player or one action.”

Doherty, who played just four minutes in the first half, became a second-half mainstay by controlling the paint. He grabbed multiple offensive rebounds and was fouled again and again, shooting 12 free throws in the second half alone. 

“I thought Chris Doherty was the difference-maker, especially on the offensive glass,” Coen said. “While he struggled a bit from the free-throw line, he got us into the bonus really quickly through his effort and activity on the glass.”

Walker added to his eight-point first half by tallying 12 in the second, going five-for-six from the charity stripe and one-for-three from deep. 

Thanks to a transition and-one from Walters and a straight-on three from Walker, the Huskies found themselves up five with just under a minute to go. Cougars guard Brenden Tucker brought himself to the line on a brilliant drive to the hoop and sank both his foul shots to bring Charleston within one possession. Tucker was a key engine for the Cougars, and was a target for the Huskies’ defense after his 35-point performance last weekend versus Drexel.

“When a player gets going early, the basket seems really big. We just had to make him earn stuff early and I’m not sure we did a really good job of that,” Coen said. “His three-point shot is getting better. Last year he was more of a driver, but this year he’s been able to stretch the floor, which makes him a harder guard since he’s so strong going to the basket. He’s on the uptick. We just try to make him work for everything he gets.”

After a missed three-pointer from Walker, Charleston called a timeout and gave themselves an opportunity to tie the game with 14 seconds remaining. After a missed three and an offensive board, the inbound came to freshman forward Keegan Harvey, who stepped well over the sideline as he caught the pass. Two Shaq Walters free throws and another Charleston turnover later, the Huskies had the W.

Walker finished with 20 points, while Strong and Quirin Emanga tallied 13 each. Doherty added 11, seven of which came from the free-throw line. The Huskies also did a great job limiting turnovers, losing the ball only nine times.

“Only nine turnovers against a group that’s number one in the league at generating turnovers, so I thought it was really good,” Coen said. “And a few of them were a little unforced, not really ballhandling errors.”

On the Cougars’ side, Tucker led the way with 17, with Zep Jasper’s 14 close behind.

“They have some really terrific shooters, but I think our guys were conscious of it, it was a really big key to our game,” Coen said. “They’re tough because they have a pick-and-pop four, a pick-and-pop five. It’s hard to get it under control when there are numerous guys up and down their lineup who can make a three. It had to be a team effort — guys on the ball, guys helping, our closeouts had to be good.”

The Huskies will take on the Cougars tomorrow to complete the two-game road set. Jordan Baron and Milton Posner will call that game, with coverage beginning at 12:50 PM Eastern.

Men’s Basketball Falls to No. 9 West Virginia

By Milton Posner and Jack Sinclair

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA — After the pandemic necessitated an abbreviated, last-minute non-conference slate, Bill Coen and his staff cobbled together the toughest schedule the team has had since Coen’s first year.

Never was that more apparent than Sunday afternoon, when Northeastern fell to No. 9 West Virginia, 73–51. The Mountaineers were the highest-ranked Husky opponent since No. 1 Michigan State more than five years before.

The Huskies certainly had their bright spots. Their first-half three-point shooting kept the game within reach. Coleman Stucke landed a pair of threes in the game’s opening minutes. Quirin Emanga, who played more minutes in this game than he had in the previous five put together, dropped 13 points — his previous college best was five — and took a number of rough charges down low.

“He was hampered by some ankle injuries earlier in the year, which hampered his development going in,” Coen said. “He played a little bit at the four for us today and that really helped us . . .  He scored some points, but I’m most proud of his defensive effort and his toughness.”

But the Mountaineers’ sheer size overwhelmed the smaller Huskies from wire to wire. Sure, Northeastern was missing 6’7” forward Chris Doherty, who was a late scratch with an unspecified injury. But it’s hard to say that his presence would have made a massive difference around the rim. Mountaineer big men Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe, both of whom outweigh every Husky by at least 15 pounds, had their way underneath.

Early on it was Culver, who earned a number of easy layups by sealing off Greg Eboigbodin when Eboigbodin tried to front him, or by sneaking behind the Husky defense in transition for a runout. He finished with a game-high 18 points (8–11 FG) in just 24 minutes.

Tshiebwe would find his way to 12 points, but his rebounding resonated loudest. His 15 boards more than doubled every other player’s total and keyed a nine-rebound advantage for West Virginia on the offensive glass, one that yielded 22 second-chance points to Northeastern’s nine.

“They’ve got a big front line,” Coen said bluntly. “Those guys aren’t moving around. If they’re located at the weak side block, it’s hard to move them . . . You’re rebounding against one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.”

The Huskies made things even harder on themselves as the game progressed. Turnovers plagued them like COVID, as they amassed 19 by the final buzzer. The Mountaineers committed just eight, and most of them were dead-ball turnovers stemming from offensive fouls. 

“Some of them are execution errors and silly decision-making, others are style of play where [West Virginia] presses and turns you over,” Coen observed. “We’ve gotta get that number under 15 consistently when we enter CAA play. No turnovers mean you’re not taking any chances, you’re not running, you’re not pushing tempo, and that’s not good either. But typically our sweet spot is between 12 and 15 and we haven’t gotten to that spot yet. We’ve got work to do.”

The Mountaineers used their size to plug up the center of the court, notching 50 points in the paint to the Huskies’ 20. They also broke out a full-court press, making it tough for the Huskies to penetrate past the perimeter. And even when Tyson Walker got into the lane, he seemed more intent on dishing for corner threes than he did finishing at the rim, something Coen confirmed was key to the game plan.

“They have tremendous help defense and tremendous rim protection,” Coen said. “Often when you try to drive they have three or four guys attacking the basketball. I thought that was the right play. I thought we had some feet-set threes that, if we’d made them, could have changed the momentum of the game a little bit.”

Besides Emanga and Walker (10 points), no other Husky finished with more than seven. Though the Husky forwards avoided the foul trouble that had crippled them in prior games, the team could not match the Mountaineers in any category save for perimeter shooting.

The Huskies conclude non-conference play with a 1–5 record. How well that actually reflects their play will become clearer over the next few weeks, as the Huskies turn to a conference schedule devoid of high-major schools. They’ll get going against Elon on Saturday; WRBB will call that game live from the Cabot Center in Boston, with coverage beginning at 11:45 AM Eastern.

Men’s Basketball Comes Up Short Against Monarchs

By Catherine Morrison and Milton Posner

NORFOLK, VA — Northeastern came into Sunday’s game looking to even their record after a nail-biting loss to Syracuse on Wednesday. Instead, the Huskies suffered another close loss to a strong team, falling 66–62 to Old Dominion. 

The Monarchs (3–2) started strong, bolstering a moderate scoring pace with elite defense. The Huskies (1–3) hoisted 13 shots in the first seven-and-a-half minutes — and converted none of them. They seemed doomed to be blown out. 

But the young team got back in the game with a strong performance by Shaq Walters, who logged 10 first-half points on his way to a game-high 17. Old Dominion’s scoring was more evenly spread, with double figures from Joe Reece, Malik Curry, and Kalu Ezikpe, plus at least one field goal from everyone else. This well-roundedness helped the Monarchs to a three-point halftime lead.

The Northeastern freshmen made a huge difference in the second half, backing up Walters and spreading the scoring around. Coleman Stucke overcame a sloggy start, notching seven straight points to key a run and ending the game with a season-high 12.

Six-foot-seven-inch Chris Doherty chipped in eight points and nine rebounds, establishing himself as a badly needed interior presence against a strong, athletic Old Dominion squad.

“We were flat after the first media timeout,” Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen said. “I thought Chris came in and really gave us a lift and competed on the backboard. In the second half I thought he did a really nice job carving out space down low, rebounding, and defending the ball.”

The game looked markedly different from Northeastern’s first three contests. Apart from the low number of fouls — the first one on either team came twelve-and-a-half minutes in — the Huskies turned the ball over just nine times, five fewer than their previous best.

“Some of it is style of play,” Coen observed. “UMass pressed for two games, full-court pressure. Syracuse got a lot of steals up top; they lull you to sleep and jump the passing lanes. This is a totally different team. They drew you in, made you come into the paint, and had six blocks. When we got into the paint, we struggled to finish over their size and length . . . They don’t extend the floor as much.”

The Huskies couldn’t capture the three-point magic that jump-started their offense in Syracuse. They shot just 29 percent from beyond the arc, with Walters and Tyson Walker combining to go two-for-11.

Walker also had a pair of injury scares, one toward the end of each half. Though neither forced his exit from the game, Coen acknowledged that he would be examined before Tuesday’s game against Georgia.

“It’s just the nature of how he plays,” Coen remarked. “He gets into the lane, he attacks the basket, he’s going to take some bumps and bruises.”

Coen also confirmed that freshman forward Jahmyl Telfort, who won CAA Rookie of the Week after averaging 13 points through the team’s first three contests, missed today’s game due to a sprained ankle sustained in practice. He is considered day-to-day.

The team is also looking to schedule a sixth non-conference game for the last week of the year. For now, Tuesday’s game in Athens, Georgia is their last one before they open conference play January 2 at home against Elon. They will try to break through after two close losses and give themselves some momentum heading into the conference slate.

Northeastern Men’s Basketball Falls to UMass in Season Opener

By Justin Diament and Milton Posner

After several cancellations, reschedulings, and a storm of “will they, won’t they” questions, the Huskies returned to action on Friday afternoon. Despite a scintillating display from sophomore guard Tyson Walker, they buckled under the Minutemen’s robust offense and stifling full court press.

The 94–79 final score reflected a game driven by offensive intensity, as well as the sort of rust and sloppiness you’d expect from two teams that hadn’t played in nine months and had their practice and conditioning interrupted by the pandemic last month. Though both teams fouled constantly throughout, it was Northeastern’s 15 first-half turnovers that fueled UMass’s offense and put the Huskies on the defensive.

“Our spacing was really, really bad. We overhandled and mishandled the ball,” Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen said bluntly. “When you’re up against a pressing team you have to keep your composure. We had moments where we did that and moments that led to 6–0, 8–0 runs that stretched the game out. It has to be a coordinated, five-man effort with proper spacing and proper passing. In the first half we didn’t get that.”

Walker’s first-half play was the more refined aspect of the Huskies’ game. Though he attempted just four shots, he earned numerous trips to the free-throw line and knocked down nine of 10. “Early on, we’re going to expect Tyson to be an all-star guy for us,” Coen said, and all-star Walker was. He stayed just as effective after halftime, finishing with 29 points on seven-of-nine shooting from the floor and 13 of 14 from the line.

“Tyson’s going to have the freedom that [Jordan] Roland had because that’s how good Tyson is,” UMass Head Coach Matt McCall said. “We’ve got find ways to get the call out of his hands. We can’t let him split traps in the halfcourt.”


Despite Walker’s best efforts, the Huskies turnover and foul woes helped UMass to an 11-point halftime lead. Though Northeastern took better care of the ball after the break — just three giveaways — UMass’s outside shooters rained a barrage of three pointers that snuffed out Husky rallies in the early minutes of the second half.

UMass freshman Javohn Garcia had a college debut to remember, logging 23 points on just 13 shots. McCall said that he did not plan to play Garcia for 33 minutes, but “when something’s working you’ve got to stick with it.”

Garcia’s offensive contributions may have been the difference, but UMass got no shortage of buckets from their main star, sophomore center Tre Mitchell. Mitchell dominated against every defender Northeastern threw at him, particularly starting big man Greg Eboigbodin.

“I knew that I kinda had a step on him,” Mitchell said. “so I wanted to bring him out to the perimeter a bit more.”

Coen praised Mitchell effusively, remarking that “He’s a terrific low-post players with terrific footwork. He can pass out of the double team. He can catch the ball at 18, 20 feet, put the ball down, and get to the rim. And he can make threes. When you put him in ball screen coverage, it makes it a little tougher because he can drive closeouts and create some space.

“UMass did a great job screening for him and getting him the ball in spots where he could be effective. And it’s always great when you play around a guy who commands extra attention. He’s a willing passer, he’s got great vision out of the post.”

McCall was more concise and lofty in his praise, saying simply, “He’s the best frontcourt player in the country and he needs to be recognized as that.”

All of this is not to say that the Huskies didn’t have bright spots as well. Transfer forward Chris Doherty shone in spots, using clever, well-timed cuts to notch eight points; he also grabbed a handful of high-leverage rebounds. Jahmyl Telfort played 28 minutes, the most of any of the newcomers, and logged 12 points while making both of his three-point tries.

The Huskies were missing freshman forward Alex Nwagha, who is dealing with an injury sustained in practice. Coen said that Nwagha could have played in an emergency today, but that they “want to give him the best chance to do what he does when he is healthy.”

Coen observed that it was a tough first college experience for his five new players given UMass’s skill and pressing capability, and that the team didn’t respond well. They’ll have a chance to make amends Sunday at noon, when the Minuteman pay a visit to Matthews Arena for the back end of the home-and-home. Milton Posner, Justin Diament, and Jordan Baron will have the call, with coverage beginning at 11:45 AM Eastern.

2020–21 CAA Preview: Northeastern Huskies

Last season: 17–16 (9–9, sixth place CAA); lost to Hofstra in CAA Final

Head coach: Bill Coen (15th season)

Preseason Poll Projected Finish: Seventh

Departures — ppg/rpg/apg (fg% / 3fg% / ft%)

  • G Jordan Roland — 22/3/2 (48/39/88)
  • G/F Bolden Brace — 11/7/2 (45/39/82)
  • G/F Max Boursiquot — 9/5/1 (57/36/67)
  • F Tomas Murphy — 9/3 (71/X/X) played only four games

Additions

  • G J’Vonne Hadley
  • G Jahmyl Telfort
  • F Alexander Nwagha
  • F Coleman Stucke
  • F Chris Doherty (sophomore)

By Milton Posner

Last season was a profoundly strange one for the Northeastern Huskies.

After the graduation of All-CAA First Team point guard Vasa Pusica, there were serious questions about where the scoring and offensive leadership would come from. Within two games, Jordan Roland had broken a single-game Northeastern scoring record held by J.J. Barea and Reggie Lewis. That game was a precursor for first-in-the-conference, seventh-in-the-nation scoring season, one powered by volume three-point shooting, stealthy drives, and an arsenal of fearsome floaters deployed with either hand.

For most of conference play, the Huskies’ point differential stood among the best. But because their first five losses came by a combined nine points — and included three game-winning layups —  the Huskies hovered around the middle of the conference. They squeaked into the sixth seed to earn a first-round bye in the CAA Tournament.

And then they beat third-seeded Towson just a week after losing to them in the last regular-season game. And toppled an Elon team that was peaking after upsetting a juggernaut William & Mary squad. And made a dramatic — albeit unsuccessful — run at top-seeded Hofstra in the title game despite Roland’s struggles.

It was hard to know what to expect from the Huskies on any given night, but they were competitive throughout the year and found their groove in time for the conference tournament. Besides the superb, fluid scoring of Roland, they boasted the all-around contributions of Bolden Brace, the electric offense of Tyson Walker, and the suffocating defense of Max Boursiquot.

This season poses even more questions than last season. The loss of leading scorers Roland and Brace to graduation was inevitable. But the transfers hurt. Big man Tomas Murphy, who played just four games last season before injuring his ankle, elected to spend his two remaining years of eligibility at Vermont. Boursiquot entered the transfer portal, but no news has surfaced of him choosing another school, signing a pro contract, or doing anything else. Rising senior Myles Franklin, possibly frustrated at a lack of minutes, bolted for the Division II team at Point Loma Nazarene University.

These departures drain the Huskies’ scoring, and the loss of Boursiquot robs them of a stud who can protect the rim, hold firm on the block, and guard all five positions.

Northeastern is the only CAA squad without a senior or grad student. Every other team has at least two such players, and six teams have four. For the first time in a few years, the Huskies likely won’t have an All-CAA First Team guard running the show.

But if their pieces develop nicely, the Huskies can hang with any CAA team. Head Coach Bill Coen — who is the longest-tenured coach in the conference and sits 10 wins away from the program record — is tasked with making something out of this unproven yet promising team.

It begins with his returners. Sophomore guard Tyson Walker was named to the preseason second team after nearly winning Rookie of the Year last season. He’s an electric dribbler, driver, and finisher, and displayed flashes of elite perimeter shooting last season. But without Jordan Roland to key the offense, Walker’s playmaking will be put to the test.

Shaq Walters showed playmaking promise last year after Walker hurt his shoulder. He protected the rock, made quality reads, and drove the offense in key stretches, albeit in a limited sample size. If he can continue that play, he and Walker can be dual playmaking threats and give the Husky offense a dangerous dimension. But for that to happen, he’ll have to improve his own scoring threat beyond his basic slashing and driving.

Look for Jason Strong to take the next step as well. He’s largely been limited to a spot-up role in his first two years with the team, but has shown flashes of all-around promise and strung together an assortment of quality performances.

Coen has emphasized the positional versatility and length of his newcomers, which include four freshmen and one transfer. All weigh more than 200 pounds and come in between 6’6” and 6’8”. Perhaps the most promising is freshman J’Vonne Hadley, an excellent leaper with a strong first step, handle, and finishing ability in the halfcourt and transition. He’s the sort of athletic wing the Huskies haven’t had since Shawn Occeus went pro.

Alexander Nwagha looks promising as well. At a long-limbed 6’8” and with a quick first-step to the ball, he boasts a sizable catch and influence radius that could make him a viable rim protector. He is a solid leaper for his size, can run in transition, and is mobile enough to function well on the block.

Rounding out the newcomers are Jahmyl Telfort, an aggressive driver with a comfortable-looking pull-up jumper; Coleman Stucke, a knockdown spot-up shooter; and Chris Doherty, a Notre Dame transfer who adds some bulk down low.

Bottom Line: The Huskies have less proven talent than they’ve had the last few seasons, a bad sign in a league often powered by star juniors and seniors. But they also have enough positional versatility, length, and well-roundedness to challenge anyone. If the freshmen can’t contribute, their seventh-place preseason poll finish just might come true. But if they can, the Huskies could find themselves knocking on the door of the CAA’s top tier.