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.
BOSTON — It was hard to know what to expect heading into Saturday afternoon’s contest.
The Elon Phoenix, courtesy of multiple cancellations, had missed scheduled games against perennial powerhouses Duke and North Carolina, and had parlayed the CAA’s weakest non-conference schedule into the best non-conference record. They were also missing key contributors Zac Ervin and Jerald Gillens-Butler, both of whom are coping with season-ending injuries.
In their scramble to fill their schedule, Northeastern took the opposite route, winning just one of six non-conference games against a steady diet of Power 5 squads. According to KenPom, they had the 17th toughest schedule in Division I.
So, as has so often been the case in a pandemic season, it was tricky to gauge where the teams stood relative to each other. After an explosive 46-point second half handed the Huskies a 75–52 victory, perhaps we have our answer.
Both teams struggled in the first half, creating — and clanking — plenty of open shots. After the Phoenix (3–2, 0–1 CAA) dropped seven unanswered points, the Huskies (2–5, 1–0 CAA) found a rhythm, as Jahmyl Telfort and Coleman Stucke spotted up from deep to get Northeastern back into the game.
The Huskies were aggressive in the paint all game — pushing through traffic, driving to the rim, and landing themselves at the charity stripe. Elon generated very few first-half free throws as Northeastern — finally defending a team without huge height, weight, and strength advantages — committed just four fouls before the intermission.
As the teams entered the locker rooms, the Huskies held a 29–26 lead. There must’ve been some magic in the locker room, however, as the Huskies came out ready to rumble.
Their suddenly unstoppable defense keyed the run, as multiple Husky forwards flew through the air to stifle Elon shots.
“We just settled down and shared the ball a little better on the offensive end, penetrated with a purpose, got better spacing and better ball handling,” Coen noted. “Our defense allowed us to get some rebounds and get out in transition and get easier baskets before their defense was set.”
Elon gradually sliced the 13-point lead to five with 12 minutes to play, but a red-hot Tyson Walker keyed another Husky run. Seven minutes later, the lead was 19 and the game was well in hand.
“Whenever Tyson gets his going and gives guys a couple threes,” Telfort said, “and other guys are aggressive driving to the rim, that changes the game for us.”
“We altered a couple things, what we were trying to do on ball-screen coverage,” Coen explained. “They had him bottled up a little bit, played him a little bit physically, and I thought he was just anxious. Instead of letting the game come to him he was trying to take over the game in the early portion. As soon as he relaxed and let the game come to him, his offense started flowing.”
And it was in garbage time that the game’s greatest surprise came to pass. With three minutes remaining, Stucke received a pass at the top of the key. With five seconds remaining on the shot clock after a wild, unproductive possession, and with Stucke focusing mostly on spot-up shooting this season, the hope of gaining anything from the possession was fleeting.
But Stucke sidestepped the defender, charged left, took flight, and slammed down a monstrous dunk in traffic. He hung from the rim for a few seconds before dropping to the floor with the Husky bench erupting beside him.
The dunk proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Elon, as the Huskies grew their lead to 23 before the final buzzer sounded.
Telfort led the way for the Huskies with a career-high 20 points on seven-for-13 shooting. After standing out with elite spot-up shooting in the non-conference games, he showed a much deeper offensive package Saturday, replete with drives to the cup and consistent off-ball movement.
“I pride myself on doing everything on the court,” Telfort said. “I feel like I’m not just a shooter, I can handle the ball, drive it well, I can rebound, I can defend. So I just pride myself on showing that.”
Walker, who struggled with his shot early before finding his groove and range in the second half, posted 18 points, five boards, and six dimes. Stucke logged 15 points on five-of-six shooting.
The Huskies will take on the Phoenix again at home tomorrow. Jordan Baron and Milton Posner will call that game, with coverage beginning at 11:45 AM Eastern.
Last year Elon improved under first year head coach Mike Schrage. Although they ended up finishing seventh in the CAA and started off conference play with a 1–7 stretch, the Phoenix made impressive strides as the season went on and upset William & Mary in the CAA quarterfinal before being eliminated by Northeastern in the next round.
Last season their scoring came from their backcourt, with grad transfer Marcus Sheffield II setting a program record for most points in a Division I season. The dynamic freshman Hunters (Woods and McIntosh) combined for 22 points and five assists per game. McIntosh was also named to the Kyle Macy Freshman All American team last season. Sweet-shooting sophomore Zac Ervin showed scoring potential last season, but will sit out this year after undergoing knee surgery to fix a torn ACL.
Elon’s biggest addition is four-star recruit JaDun Michael. Michael earned All-State honors his last two years in high school and should fit well with the duo of McIntosh and Woods to solidify a strong perimeter attack for Elon. But he is recovering from a late May shoulder surgery that may dampen his minutes and production for a bit.
Shrage will also hope for significant production from incoming freshmen Michael Graham and Brandon Harris, who were ranked 41st and 51st at their positions nationally. Graham provides a 6’10” presence in the paint, Harris versatility on the wing.
Another notable addition is grad transfer Ikenna Ndugba, who notched 14 points and five assists per game in 2017–18 with Bryant University. The following year, however, Ndugba suffered a season-ending injury and did not have quite the same production in 2019–20, so it will be interesting to see how Schrage uses him.
Similar to last year, Elon will get most of its production from small, versatile lineups. The only true “big” they have is newcomer Graham.
Bottom Line: It will be difficult for the Phoenix to make up for Sheffield’s scoring, but there is hope for this young squad. Woods and McIntosh already showed their talents in their freshmen seasons, and if they can get help from newcomers JaDun Michael, Michael Graham, and Brandon Harris, the Phoenix could be an explosive offensive squad with a tournament run in its future.
faces Hofstra in the CAA Championship tonight at 7 PM. Michael Petillo, Matt
Neiser, and Milton Posner will have the call from Washington D.C., with
covering beginning around 15 minutes before tipoff.
WASHINGTON — No. 6 seed vs. No. 7
seed in a ten-team tournament. It sounds like an early-round matchup that no
one cares about because neither team will threaten for the title. Right?
Wrong. It’s actually a semifinal,
and both teams beat top-three seeds to get there.
Confused? You must be new around
here. Welcome to the CAA.
Northeastern and Elon, two teams
most onlookers probably did not expect to make deep postseason runs, found
themselves face-to-face in the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship semifinals on
Monday night after beating No. 3 Towson and No. 2 William & Mary,
respectively, the night before.
Despite similar postseason
expectations, the teams’ seedings arose for different reasons. For
Northeastern, it was mostly a lack of consistency and inability to close out
tight games. For Elon, it was more a lack of depth and talent.
Things finally began to make a
little more sense in the semifinal, as the deeper, higher-seeded team came out
on top for once. Using an early-game run to thrust themselves in front, the
Huskies never looked back as they put together a convincing, wire-to-wire 68–60
victory to advance to the championship game for the third year in a row.
Defense has been the Huskies’
calling card all season. They called on it once again on Monday, stifling the
Phoenix offense throughout the night. Bill Coen’s squad was locked in, flying
all over the court with the boundless ferocity of their canine namesake. It
took nearly six minutes for the Phoenix to put a number on the board, by which
time Northeastern had tallied nine points.
“Our defensive energy to start the
game really set the tone for us, allowing us to get into transition a little
bit, and get our confidence going,” remarked Coen.
Elon head coach Mike Schrage had plenty of praise for Coen’s defensive game plan.
“Give them credit. They had a lot of juice and a good game
plan, a unique game plan in how they guard our offense [after] not even a
one-day prep,” Schrage remarked. “Defensively, he’s a great coach. He did some
really good things to exploit our defense.”
The biggest driver of
Northeastern’s blistering two-way start? If you’ve followed this team at all
the past few weeks, you probably guessed already: Max Boursiquot. By the time
Elon scored their first basket, the redshirt junior had already accumulated
four points, two rebounds, and two steals. His energy was infectious; his
teammates followed suit as they stayed attached to bodies, contested shots, and
secured rebounds to limit the Phoenix’s offensive opportunities.
While Boursiquot buoyed the Husky defense, Bolden Brace carried the offensive torch. Brace, who’s no stranger to big games against Elon — he dropped a career-high 40 points against the Phoenix his freshman year — splashed home three triples in a four-minute span partway through the first half to extend the Northeastern lead to 13. The senior added a layup to finish the first 20 minutes with a game-leading 11 points and push the Husky advantage to its peak: 35–15.
Junior Shaquille Walters, who Coen
identified as one of the team’s most improved players this season, left his
mark on the opening half as well. The London native drilled a shot-clock-beating
three from all the way across the pond, then followed it up with a pair of free
throws, a steal and gorgeous one-handed feed ahead to Brace for his
aforementioned layup, and an assist on a Jordan Roland three-pointer. All told,
Walters dished out a team-high four assists in the half.
It’s fortunate for the Huskies
that many different players made a significant impact in the first half; Roland,
who had a relatively quiet game against Towson the night before, struggled again
to start the semifinal. Though he chipped in eight first-half points, it was on
an inefficient 3–10 shooting.
Roland did find other ways to
impact the game; he finished the half with two rebounds, three assists, a
block, and zero turnovers. However, he was nowhere near his usual lofty
That’s been the biggest question for Northeastern this season: can they stay competitive when Roland isn’t on his game? In this tournament, the answer’s been yes. Boursiquot, Brace, Walters, and Co. have all stepped up, and that’s why the Huskies are playing in the championship game.
Despite chugging along for much of
the half, the Huskies’ offense sputtered as they neared halftime. The Phoenix
took advantage, mounting a quick 6–0 run that forced a timeout from Coen with
33 seconds remaining. Roland hit a baseline jumper right out of the huddle to
bring the Northeastern lead back to 16 points, throwing a splash of water on
The Phoenix kept striking that
flint in the second stanza, but the Huskies were right there every time to
stamp out the nascent flames. After the two sides traded a few baskets to begin
the frame, freshman Hunter McIntosh knocked down a triple. Roland responded
with a trey of his own, but the Phoenix came right back with an 8–0 run
courtesy of a short-range McIntosh jumper and three straight interior makes
from Federico Poser to cut the Husky lead to 11.
All-CAA Second Team swingman
Marcus Sheffield finally joined the party after that, pouring in 13 points in a
six-minute span as Elon whittled the Northeastern lead to seven with just under
three minutes remaining.
“He’s one of the hardest matchups in the league. Luckily we have a guy with Shaquille’s size and length who can kind of match it,” Coen remarked. “He’s quick enough to keep him off the dribble and long enough to get a hand in his shot pocket. That being said, I’m not sure anyone can guard him when he gets going.”
The Huskies were on their heels,
but a familiar face burst back onto the scene to save the day.
“I just kind of felt like the game
was getting close,” Roland explained. “I just wanted to do my part to help
close out the game. I wanted to get a little more aggressive toward the end of
the game even though I wasn’t shooting that well.”
Pull-up, triple, good.
Elon got two looks at a
three-pointer on the other end, but McIntosh and Sheffield couldn’t connect.
Crossover, three-ball, money.
There’s the Jordan Roland Husky
fans are accustomed to — the one who takes over games.
Elon was relegated to the foul
game after that, and the Huskies knocked down enough shots at the charity
stripe to close the game out.
Northeastern becomes just the
fifth team in CAA history to reach three straight championship games, setting
up a rematch of last year’s battle with the Hofstra Pride. The title-game
rematch will be just the third since the league’s inception.
Coen started both Sunday and
Monday’s press conferences by reiterating how grateful he is to still be
playing this late into March, adding, “With everything that’s on the line, an
NCAA bid and everything, there’s nothing else like it.”
Brace, a senior, is reveling in
the pressure of his final season, remarking, “I’ve finally realized that every game could be my last and
it’s made this tournament super awesome and I’m having a lot of fun with it.
Hopefully we can get another one tomorrow.”
have a tough task ahead of them, as No. 1 seeded Hofstra comes into the game
blazing hot. Joe Mihalich’s squad won their previous two tournament games by an
average of 16 points, including a 14-point drubbing of an impressive Delaware
team in the other semifinal.
Said Coen of the impending
matchup, “I think they’ve played with a chip. I think they’ve had great senior
leadership. It’s going to be a difficult game for us, but that’s what you want
if you’re a competitor. You want to go against the best, you want to try
yourself against the best, and that’s what this time is all about.”
plays Elon in the semifinal of the CAA Tournament today at 8:30 PM EDT. Michael
Petillo, Milton Posner, and Matt Neiser will call the game, with coverage
beginning about 15 minutes before tipoff.
WASHINGTON — An atypical day for the CAA is, well, typical.
Sunday’s schedule saw four quarterfinal games, all of them
bemusing to one degree or another.
Hofstra 61, Drexel 43
This contest was decided, more than anything else, by starkly
contrasting star performances.
On one end, Hofstra senior guard Eli Pemberton rebounded
from a decent but unremarkable first half to eviscerate the Dragons in the second.
He began the half with a three-pointer, a driving layup, and a putback after
snatching an offensive rebound in traffic. A three-point halftime lead had
swelled to ten, Drexel called timeout to regroup, and Pemberton let out a
primal scream as his teammates surrounded him.
Pemberton maintained the energy even as Hofstra built an
insurmountable lead, diving for a loose rebound with seven minutes left and his
team up 20. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Pride.
Pemberton’s exact opposite was fellow All-CAA Second Team
guard Camren Wynter of Drexel, who had his worst college game at the worst
possible time. Hofstra’s matchup zone defense made things difficult for the
Drexel guards, who were left to pass aimlessly on the perimeter and toss up an
array of tightly contested layups that trickled off the rim. Wynter took just
eight shots, failed to score, and turned the ball over five times. Zach Walton
(17 points and 10 rebounds) and James Butler (14 points and 14 rebounds) were
left to shoulder almost all of the burden for a sputtering Drexel offense.
Drexel will be back. Barring transfers, they will return
their three top scorers next year. But it is Hofstra that moves on to the next
Delaware 79, Charleston 67
It’s a testament to how insane the CAA has been this year
that these teams were the fourth and fifth seeds in a ten-team tournament.
You’d be forgiven for thinking each was a top-three team. In Grant Riller and
Nate Darling, each team had one of the league’s most dynamic, talented scorers.
Each boasted a strong, versatile, athletic frontcourt that makes life difficult
for their opponents on both sides of the ball.
But ultimately it was Delaware — a team flush with high-powered
transfers and homegrown juniors maturing at the perfect time — that looked the
The Blue Hens built a slim first-half lead largely thanks to
two strong points. The first was Darling, who rained down consistent fire on
the Cougars from all over the floor, including a couple of difficult one-on-one
shots the Cougars couldn’t do much about. The other was a strong defensive game
plan similar to the one Northeastern used against Charleston last month: keep
Grant Riller out of the paint.
This is a tall order, but the Blue Hens largely succeeded in
the first half. Riller tried a number of tough shots around the basket and grew
frustrated when his attempts to draw fouls didn’t succeed. After the game,
Darling pinned the defensive success on the decision to have Justyn Mutts guard
Sam Miller, allowing Delaware’s guards to switch on screens without worrying
about the sweet-shooting Miller pick and popping to the three-point line. Riller
got hot in the second half, but by then the Blue Hens were in the driver’s seat.
Delaware scored 47 second-half points to advance to the next round, where they
will face No. 1 Hofstra.
It also marked the last college game for one of the best
players the CAA has ever seen. Riller overcame a season-ending injury during
his freshman year to make three All-CAA First Teams and score 2,474 points, trailing
only David Robinson and Charles Jenkins on the conference’s all-time list.
Elon 68, William & Mary
At first it seemed improbable, then mildly unlikely, then
reasonable, then likely, then certain.
This year, William & Mary had their best regular season
in seven decades. They were stacked and versatile, best exemplified by senior
forward Nathan Knight, who was crowned CAA Player of the Year and Defensive
Player of the Year two days earlier. By any measure, Knight is one of the best
players the conference has ever seen.
And now he’s done.
The Phoenix sledgehammered the Tribe from the opening tip. By
the time Tribe head coach Dane Fischer called for time with three-and-a-half
minutes gone, Marcus Sheffield II had led Elon to a 13–2 lead.
Though Sheffield would soon drop off and wind up with a
merely solid if inefficient stat line, Elon forwards Hunter Woods and Federico
Poser picked up the slack. Poser posted his second straight good game, nailing
a number of short shots. Woods dropped 20 points and 15 rebounds, playing the
entire game and expending so much effort that his sweat-laden jersey was distinguishable
in color from his teammates’. He nailed five of seven tries from beyond the arc.
The Tribe eventually fought their way back, buoyed by
thousands of fans who traveled the relatively short distance from Williamsburg
to Washington D.C. Those fans, easily the loudest of any crowd in the
tournament thus far, boosted the Tribe during their steady second-half run.
The energy in the last 10 minutes was on an entirely
different level, peaking when Van Vliet’s titanic rejection of a layup led to a
momentum-building three by Quinn Blair down the other end. Blair, soon joined
by the William & Mary bench, motioned repeatedly to the crowd to get loud,
which they happily did.
When Bryce Barnes’ three-pointer cut the lead to two, the
crowd was so loud that it drowned out the Elon marching band.
But Elon’s starters took turns hitting shots at opportune
moments, and the Tribe would never quite catch them. A No. 7 team that few gave
much of a chance is now in the semifinals, where they will play No. 6
men’s basketball takes on Towson in the quarterfinal of the CAA Tournament
Sunday at 8:30 PM EST. Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner will
have the call from Washington D.C., with coverage beginning fifteen minutes
WASHINGTON — The CAA Tournament kicked off Saturday with two
games featuring the CAA’s bottom four seeds, those that didn’t earn first-round
byes. No. 8 Drexel squared off with No. 9 UNCW, then No. 7 Elon battled No. 10
Drexel 66, UNCW 55
Despite a steady second-half advance from UNCW, Drexel held
on to win the tournament’s first game. Drexel will kick off the four-game
Sunday slate against the No. 1 Hofstra Pride.
As you might expect of two well-rested teams playing a
win-or-go-home game, the energy was sky-high from the opening tip. UNCW began
by applying full-court pressure, but the main defensive objective was to funnel
Drexel’s ballhandlers into the space between the midcourt line and the
three-point arc, force them to the sideline, and trap them with double teams.
The scheme required movement and energy, two qualities best exemplified by UNCW
interim head coach Rob Burke, whose emphatic, demonstrative, dramatic sideline
behavior was on full display.
The traps worked for a few possessions, but eventually the
Dragons got more comfortable. They made the Seahawks pay with accurate passes
for easy layups, enough to make the Seahawks relax the pressure a bit and
finally ramp down the game’s initial chaos.
After a war of inside shots and parallel scoring droughts
yielded a stalemate, Drexel’s Coltrane Washington and UNCW’s Ty Gadsden decided
a little back-and-forth was needed. Washington kicked things off with a deep
three from the left wing, Drexel’s first points in five minutes. Gadsden
responded with a three. Washington nailed another three from the same spot
after a pump fake and a slick sidestep. Gadsden nailed a tricky leaning midrange
jumper. By this point, UNCW’s defensive pressure, again with mixed results, had
refocused to swarming every time Drexel put the ball in the paint, so the
jumpers were available.
After a close first half, Drexel emerged from the locker
room and shot down the Seahawks. All-CAA Second Team guard Camren Wynter got
things going by hunting out a layup to open the half. He hit a three, as did
Mate Okros. After a pair of buckets from James Butler, the Dragons had built an
11-point lead. Though the Seahawks would steadily eat into the lead, even cutting
it to three multiple times, the Dragons would never give it up.
Led by Butler, who finished with 14 boards, the Dragons
snatched up most of the high-leverage rebounds and translated them into a
momentum advantage. Only Gadsden (13 points) and Martin Linssen (18) got much
going for the Seahawks, with Brian Tolefree, Jaylen Sims, and Mike Okauru making
just one shot apiece. Three-pointers from Wynter and Zach Walton down the stretch
put the game out of reach and ended the Seahawks’ season.
Elon 63, James Madison 61
If, someday, a movie is made of this game, there will be
only one logical name for it: The Sheffield Redemption.
For the first 39 minutes of the game, Marcus Sheffield II,
Elon’s top scorer, All-CAA Second Teamer, the focal point of their offense and
the man who breathed life into a program reeling from the graduation of every
volume scorer from last season, couldn’t score a basket to save his life. Long
shots or short, contested shots or not, moving shots or stationary ones, it
didn’t matter. Sheffield had tried 14 and made just two. He was sucking the
life out of Elon’s offense.
But with one shot, a twisting, fading, stepback midrange
jumper, Sheffield broke through. Elon’s first lead of the game was the only one
The Phoenix will face the No. 2 William & Mary Tribe
Sunday at 6 PM EST.
It was a fitting end to a game marked by profound weirdness.
That weirdness began when James Madison’s Deshon Parker, a 26 percent
three-point shooter this season, kicked off the scoring with a long-range swish.
It continued when JMU, unquestionably the worst team in conference play this
season, built on that shot until a 14–0 lead forced Elon to call timeout
three-and-a-half minutes after the opening tip.
But Elon quickly flipped the script, taking better care of
the ball and posting nine unanswered points of their own to make the game
The game featured poor outside shooting from both squads,
partly due to poor shot selection and partly due to missed open looks. JMU want
on a second-half run not because their offense clicked, but because Elon missed
11 consecutive shots. The only consistent offensive bright spot for Elon was sophomore
big man Federico Poser, who scored more points (14) than he ever had against a
Division I team.
If you had approached Elon head coach Mike Schrage before
the game and told him that his squad would allow 14 unanswered points to start
the game, that his best scorer would miss three-quarters of his shots, that his
team would shoot just 28 percent from downtown, and that they would go seven
minutes without scoring a bucket, he would have assumed disaster.
But that’s the kind of league the CAA has been this season.
The line between disaster and triumph is so narrow that you often can’t see it
until after the final buzzer sounds.
With one week remaining in the CAA’s men’s basketball
regular season, just four games separate third and eight place, and just two
games separate third and sixth.
The Northeastern Huskies sit in sixth place with an 8–8 record. There are four games on Thursday, four on Saturday, and one on Sunday (moved to accommodate the CBS Sports Network). Nine games to determine playoff seeding. All 10 teams make the CAA Tournament, but only the bottom four seeds play in the first round on Saturday, March 7. The top six teams receive a first-round bye. Because of the league’s higher-than-usual parity — and because the top six teams will play, at most, three games in three days instead of four games in four days — securing the bye is critical.
William & Mary Tribe
Delaware Blue Hens
James Madison Dukes
The top and bottom of the standings have more or less hardened.
James Madison can move from tenth to ninth if they win both of their games and
UNCW loses both of theirs, but James Madison’s recent play and the quality of
their opponents this week makes that highly unlikely. Same goes for UNCW, which
will remain in ninth barring two UNCW wins and two Drexel losses.
At the top of the standings, Hofstra has clinched a share of
the regular season title and can claim sole possession with a split or sweep
this week, highly likely given that they play last-place James Madison. William
& Mary owns the tiebreaker over Delaware, and therefore cannot fall lower
But the other six teams are in flux. Dissecting every possible
outcome and ripple effect would take hours, so ahead of Northeastern’s games
against James Madison and Towson this week, here are the Huskies’ possible
outcomes from worst to best.
If Northeastern loses both
games . . .
They will drop to 8–10. An Elon win over William & Mary would bring Northeastern and Elon into a tie. Because the pair have split their season series, it would trigger the next tiebreaker, record against the top team in the CAA. Both teams have lost twice to Hofstra, so Elon’s season split against William & Mary would give them the sixth seed and a first-round bye.
This is the only way the Huskies could possibly fall out of
the top six. It would require them to lose to a solid team in Towson and the
CAA’s worst team in James Madison, and it would also require a middling Elon team
to beat William & Mary. This outcome is possible, but highly unlikely.
If Northeastern wins one game
. . .
They will finish at 9–9 and guarantee a first-round bye
regardless of which game they win. If Charleston loses both its games — unlikely
but not impossible given their current four-game losing streak — the Huskies
will vault over them for fifth place due to their season sweep of the Cougars.
If Charleston win one or both of their games, the Huskies will finish sixth.
If Northeastern wins both
games . . .
They will finish at 10–8 and guarantee a first-round bye. They
finish fifth unless Charleston wins both of its games. If Towson loses to
Hofstra on Thursday, Northeastern and Towson will finish with the same record,
and Northeastern holds the season series tiebreaker.
Thus, a 2–0 record this week could put Northeastern anywhere
between fourth and sixth. Rising from fifth to fourth helps with optics and
bragging rights but is strategically and competitively useless because the
fourth and fifth seeds play each other in the quarterfinal anyway.
Assuming the Huskies avoid the worst-case scenario and finish
in the top six, they will face either Delaware, Charleston, or Towson. If this
season’s games are any indication of how a CAA Tournament matchup will go, Northeastern
would prefer Charleston, who they swept, over Delaware, who swept them. Northeastern
is 1–0 against Towson, who they play on Sunday.
Two wins this week would also provide a massive momentum
boost for the Huskies, who haven’t strung three wins together since the
beginning of conference play.
The Huskies’ game against James Madison begins at 8 PM EST;
WRBB’s live coverage from Matthews Arena begins about 15 minutes before
ELON, North Carolina
— The last name the Northeastern Huskies visited the Elon Phoenix, dominant
overtime play gave the Huskies an 11-point win and moved them to 2–2 in CAA
That was January 10, 2019. It was also the last time the
Huskies would possess a losing conference record. Until Saturday.
The Huskies entered the Schar Center having lost their last
two and three of their last four. In a game that, at least for standings and
momentum purposes, was a must-win, the Huskies faltered down the stretch and
let Elon slip past, 74–69. Northeastern is now 11–12 and 5–6 in conference play.
They are alone in seventh place.
Elon entered the game shooting more threes than any other
CAA team, but averaging only 33 percent on those attempts. They shot plenty of
threes on Saturday, but unfortunately for Northeastern they made 53 percent of
them, including six makes on eight attempts in the first half. Unlike Thursday
against William & Mary, the Huskies struggled to close out the three-point
line, giving Elon a number of great looks. Freshman guard Hunter McIntosh’s 12 first-half
points led his team to a 36–30 halftime lead. (McIntosh finished with 24 points
and missed just one shot all game.)
Elon also came up big on defense. From the beginning,
Northeastern guard Jordan Roland struggled to find his rhythm and didn’t score
until the three-minute mark of the first half. He finished with 19 points but
made just four of his 16 shots. Elon head coach Mike Schrage credited the 6’6”
McIntosh whose “positional length” allowed him to tightly contest Roland’s
“The job we did on Jordan Roland and Tyson Walker — big
difference in the game,” Schrage noted. “Our guards were better today.”
Northeastern coach Bill Coen seemed to agree, saying of
Roland, “He’s got to be aggressive, he’s got to be our leader, no one’s denying
that. But I think everybody in the gym knows that at the end of the game he’s
going to get it. So he’s got to use that to his advantage and maybe create easy
baskets for his teammates . . . He’s a little bit frustrated right now because he
can’t get quality looks.”
Elon also stifled the Northeastern offense by neutralizing
its screening actions. When the teams met last month, Northeastern did an
excellent job making contact on its screens, getting Elon into the habit of
switching them. Elon refused to switch this time, double teaming the
ballhandler — often Roland — to deny a shot or pass.
“If you’re coming off the screen with the sole intent to score, you’re gonna miss the window when that guy’s open,” Coen said. He also agreed that the Huskies need “better spacing on offense and better play and player movement.”
“The ball’s sticking right now,” he noted. “We’re dribbling
the ball too much and not passing and cutting enough. When you hold the ball .
. . the defense loads up on all the good players and you end up not getting as
good a shot as you would like.”
One of the bright spots for Northeastern was Shaquille
Walters, who kicked off Northeastern’s scoring with an and-one layup and stayed
aggressive throughout the first half. He notched nine points on five shots to
lead the team at halftime.
Though a massive Marcus Sheffield block on Tyson Walker —
and Sheffield’s subsequent three-pointer — made it seem as though Elon
would control the second half too, Northeastern reversed the tides. The Huskies
pushed the ball inside, sometimes earning layups but more often earning free
throws. After missing seven of their 11 tries from the line against William
& Mary last night — a clip Coen cited as the largest reason for the loss —
the Huskies made all 19 free throws tonight.
“We came into practice yesterday and made sure got our
rhythm from the line,” Coen said. “Free throws are about routine and confidence.
We’re a good free-throw-shooting team.”
The Huskies’ impeccable foul shooting somewhat mitigated a
subpar effort from the field, which saw them shoot 39 percent from the floor
and 29 percent from beyond the arc. Northeastern also displayed active hands
the entire game, forcing a season-high 14 steals and generating 26 points off
“We were trying to fit really close passes,” Schrage
explained. “They ramped up their pressure even more . . . Pick six turnovers
are the worst and we gave up too many of those. That’s where the lead swung in
their direction really quickly.”
With 4:26 to go in the game, Northeastern had outscored Elon
by 14 points in the second half, led by eight, and appeared to have the game in
hand. But Sheffield, Elon’s top scorer this year, scored 14 points to power an
18–5 run. He hit big shot after big shot, none more important than the huge
three pointer he nailed with 1:25 left to go that gave Elon a two-point lead. Sheffield
ended the night with 28 points on 10–15 shooting including three-for-six from three-point
land. Elon made five of its last six shots; Northeastern made one of its last
“He can get his shot any time,” Schrage said of Sheffield. “You
could always use or two guys like that.”
“It felt like their either scored a bucket or got fouled,” Coen
said. “We didn’t get stops in the last three minutes . . . Our defense let us
When the Huskies first started dropping conference games by
close margins, the problem wasn’t exclusively their execution down the stretch.
Against William & Mary it could be Roland’s seven points, against Hofstra
it could be the Huskies’ innumerable first-half turnovers, and against UNCW it
could be the sudden surge of energy interim head coach Rob Burke brought to his
But after another second-half lead fizzled out, this time against
an eighth-place team that had won just two games since Christmas, it has become
clear that crunch time failings are this team’s most glaring weakness.
The Huskies will have a week off before their matchup with
the tied-for-first Hofstra Pride. Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser will call
that game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 PM EST on February 8.
If you took a shot every time a CAA coach, player, or
commentator said the word “parity,” you’d probably wake up the next morning
with a raging hangover, an empty wallet, a lower-back butterfly tattoo, and no
clue how you wound up two cities over.
It’s entirely justified. The Hofstra Pride, last year’s
regular season champion, finished just one game ahead of the second-place
Northeastern Huskies. The last-place UNCW Seahawks finished just one game below
James Madison and Towson. The year before, Charleston and Northeastern tied for
first, with four teams — Elon, Drexel, Delaware, and James Madison — tied for
This is the definition of parity: few outliers. In any given
year, a handful of the CAA’s ten teams have a legitimate chance at the conference
championship and the automatic March Madness berth that comes with it.
The conclusion of Saturday’s games marked the halfway point
of the conference season. Each team has played every other team once, with the
distribution of home and away games as even as possible. A cursory glance shows
the parity we’ve come to expect; three teams boast 6–3 records and three more
boast 5–4 records.
But a deeper dive reveals something completely different.
This is not just parity; this is insanity.
Whether by pure chance or the interference of a few rogue
basketball gods looking for a laugh, the Colonial Athletic Association’s men’s
basketball teams have spent the last month setting, then destroying, the
expectations of fans and analysts. By way of a midseason roundup, I’ll try to
make sense of the ongoing tornado, beginning with . . .
Let’s define “game-winner” as a field goal made within the
last 10 seconds that gives a team a lead they don’t relinquish. The six
game-winners in CAA play have produced two storylines.
The first, and the less interesting of the two, is how often
Hofstra is involved. Four of their nine games have been decided by game-winners,
with the Pride winning twice and losing twice.
The second, more interesting storyline is the convergence of
Northeastern and Delaware.
The Huskies began conference play with wins over Towson, James Madison, and Elon by a combined margin of 41 points. Delaware stalled, losing four of their first six CAA contests in a surprising turnaround for a team that won the most non-conference games of any CAA squad. But game-winners would quickly swing each team’s fortunes.
For Northeastern, last-second shots proved fatal. The first
one, a forced layup from William & Mary star Nathan Knight on January 4, handed
the Huskies their first conference loss.
Five days later, Hofstra star Eli Pemberton decided that one
Husky loss on a last-second lefty layup wasn’t enough, and did it to them again.
This time a national television audience got to see it.
The following week, Delaware, by this point trending toward
the conference cellar, found themselves in a dogfight with bottom-tier Elon.
Ryan Allen drove, drew three defenders, and found infrequent three-point
shooter Jacob Cushing atop the arc for the decider.
One game later, Kevin Anderson launched himself to the top
of SportsCenter’s nightly top 10 when he fielded an inbounds pass, swerved
around reigning Defensive Player of the Year Desure Buie, and drove the length
of the court for the layup that gave his team a win. Tyus Edney was probably smiling
So when the two teams met on Saturday,
and when Delaware steadily closed the lead in the second half, you’d be
forgiven for assuming a dramatic ending was in store. Would Delaware’s third
consecutive game-winner hand Northeastern their third last-second loss in as
many weeks? Would Northeastern flip the script on the Blue Hens (and the rest
of the CAA) with their own season-defining moment?
Neither. Delaware finally tied the game
at 67 with 3:55 remaining. Of the 16 points scored between then and the final
buzzer, 10 came from the free-throw line. The last field goal splashed through
with 1:53 still left on the clock. When Tyson Walker tried to drive for a
game-tying basket with five seconds left, he stumbled and coughed up the ball. The
final score — 76–74 in Delaware’s favor — was the product of a sluggish march toward
an uncertain conclusion. A game ripe for fireworks fizzled instead.
It’s unreasonable to expect juicy,
coherent, fulfilling storylines after just nine conference games. But these
squads had polar opposite game-winner storylines. The way the first 35 minutes
of Saturday’s game played out inspired hope that a dramatic finish was in
order. When such a finish failed to materialize, it was easy to wonder whether
the storyline was over. Or, just maybe, the narrative letdown was in itself a
But those who require a different sort
of absurdity are in luck because . . .
The CAA’s Blowouts Make No Sense
A blowout is defined here as a game
decided by a margin of 20 or more points. There were five blowouts in the first
half of CAA play.
As with the game-winners, there are two
we will ignore because they are of incidental concern. This is primarily
because both games — a 27-point Hofstra win on January 4 and a 22-point Drexel
win on January 16 — came against the Elon Phoenix, who sit in ninth place and
haven’t finished a season higher than seventh place in three years. Especially
given that they graduated most of their key players last year, it is
understandable that stronger teams can run up the score on them. It is the
other three blowouts that make no sense.
On January 2, William & Mary
stormed into Hofstra’s house and knocked off the reigning regular-season
champions 88–61. Eight Tribe players scored at least six points, and their five
starters nailed 25 of their 31 shots. The Tribe held the guard-heavy Pride to a
meager four-for-25 from beyond the arc.
The smashing of Hofstra looked to be the
crowning jewel in what became a six-game winning streak. But this is the CAA,
where all observations are eventually proven wrong.
On January 18, the undefeated Tribe
were flattened by the Drexel Dragons 84–57. Zach Walton, Camren Wynter, and
James Butler combined for 60 efficient points. Drexel shot the ball well inside
and out and limited Tribe center Andy Van Vliet on both ends. It was Drexel’s
third straight win, pushing them to 5–2 in conference play and putting everyone
And . . . yeah you see where this is going. Five days later Northeastern steamrolled Drexel off the floor 85–52, the largest margin of victory in CAA play this year. Even more remarkable was that Northeastern built a 32-point lead by halftime, responding to Drexel’s first bucket with 18 unanswered points and flooring the gas pedal for the rest of the half. Jordan Roland and Bolden Brace turned in stellar performances on both sides of the ball, and seven other Huskies scored at least five points.
Then Northeastern turned around and
lost their next game.
In a league with remarkable parity, you
wouldn’t expect consistent, overwhelming dominance from one or two teams. But
what do you make of swings this large? What do you make of it when the
literally cartoonish stereotype of one fish eating another fish, then being
eaten by a third larger fish comes to pass on the hardwood?
Even if the blowout train stops here, the
abject craziness of the conference slate still begs the question . . .
Who is Actually the Title Favorite?
The meaning of life and the existence of
god might be easier questions to answer than this one, so I’ll present the best
case I can for each team, starting from last place and working my way up.
Madison: The Dukes are 1–8 in non-conference
play and have the worst average margin of victory (–8.3) of any CAA team. That
said, they had the third-best non-conference record and are extremely young,
with their top six scorers comprising three juniors, a sophomore, and two
freshman who are still developing. Their precipitous plunge in the last month
is one of the biggest surprises of the year, and it isn’t unreasonable to think
they can rediscover their form in time for the CAA Tournament.
My mom always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say
anything at all.
Two weeks ago, the Seahawks’ entry would be the same as Elon’s.
They had just lost to Elon by 17 — Elon’s first conference win marked UNCW’s 11th
straight loss — and remained the last winless squad in the CAA.
Two days later, UNCW fired head coach
C.B. McGrath, who managed just 26 wins in two-and-a-half years at the helm. The
promotion of assistant coach Rob Burke to interim head coach didn’t cause much
buzz around the league. Why should it? It was mid-January and the Seahawks hadn’t
won since before Thanksgiving. Grad transfer Carter Skaggs and point guard of
the future Kai Toews had left the program, and junior guard Jay Estimé was done
for the year after knee surgery.
But Burke and the Seahawks were about
to put everyone on notice. After battling Hofstra to a two-point loss, they
faced off against Northeastern on January 18. Burke’s sideline demeanor was
just as captivating as the action on the court. His energy was limitless; he jumped
around and clapped and encouraged his players. He turned to the crowd,
encouraging them to get loud. At one point he started doing jumping jacks. When
Shykeim Philips nailed a shot to end the first half, Burke slammed his hand on
the scorer’s table.
His energy somehow increased during his
team’s second-half comeback. Sometimes he displayed a defensive stance, sometimes
he got down on one knee and pounded the floor with his open hand. Trask
Coliseum was electric, with fans and players alike feeding off Burke’s energy.
By game’s end, he was sweating as much as any of his players.
are still just 2–7 in conference play, and their seven straight losses might
keep them from a top seeding even if they run the table. But in three games
since Burke took over — against the preseason poll’s top three teams, mind you
— they’ve had a two-point loss and two two-point wins. They can’t be ignored
Northeastern: Spots two through seven on this
list are all within one game of each other, so that the CAA’s tiebreakers put
Northeastern seventh is hardly a matter of concern. But what’s curious about
the Huskies’ 5–4 record is that their average margin of victory (7.7) easily
outstrips every other CAA team.
of Northeastern’s five wins came by 16 or more points; when they win, they win
convincingly. But all four of their losses have come by two points. It’s disingenuous
to say that the Huskies are therefore eight points away from a 9–0 record, but
their loss margins indicate that their win–loss record could be just as
forward Tomas Murphy misses the rest of the season — something head coach Bill
Coen seems increasingly concerned about — the Huskies still have enough dynamic
scoring to contend for the CAA title. There isn’t a player in the CAA who can
match the shot-making of an on-fire Jordan Roland, and freshman point guard
Tyson Walker has shown flashes of stardom and established himself as the
favorite for CAA Rookie of the Year. Throw in Max Boursiquot’s versatile
defense, and the defending conference champions are in decent position to do
Drexel: The Dragons arguably have the
worst chances of any team outside the bottom tier, but their 27-point win
against William & Mary and the emergence of Camren Wynter as a bona fide
star mean that they can’t be completely written off. The continued development
of James Butler and Zach Walton gives Wynter some backup, though all three need
to click for the Dragons to have a shot at beating top teams.
Delaware: It’s tough to say where the
Blue Hens stand now. They began the season with nine straight wins, lost seven
of their next ten, and have now won three straight games by a combined four
said, they’re scary. None of their top five scorers are seniors and two are
transfers, so their development and chemistry progression throughout the rest
of conference play could make a difference come tournament time. Nate Darling
is a flamethrower, dropping 28 second-half points on Saturday against a
Northeastern team that had no answer for him. Kevin Anderson is shooting threes
at an elite level in addition to his usual all-around contributions, and
versatile forward Justyn Mutts’ play has bolstered the Blue Hens’ attack. Don’t
be shocked if things pick up for them soon, especially as Villanova transfer
Dylan Painter gets more comfortable in the rotation.
Towson: After losing their first three conference
games, the Tigers reeled off six straight victories, all of them by seven or
more points. The emergence of sophomore guard Allen Betrand as a backcourt
force alongside Brian Fobbs has upped the Tigers’ attack, and, as is typical
for a Pat Skerry team, they lead the league in scoring defense, field goal
defense, and rebounding margin. If their offense can take another step forward
in the next month, no team will feel comfortable against them.
Charleston: The Cougars won their first five,
and though they have lost three out of four, only the William & Mary loss
was by more than three points. That Grant Riller’s scoring volume hasn’t
increased from its non-conference level masks the fact that his three-point
shooting, long his biggest offensive weakness, has jumped from 26 percent in
non-conference play to 44 percent in conference play. Throw in slightly
increased offensive contributions from Brevin Galloway and Sam Miller, and the
Cougars are as threatening as they’ve been all season.
Hofstra: Desure Buie has established
himself as arguably the conference’s best two-way guard, and his shooting
efficiency is on par with Jordan Roland’s. Isaac Kante’s numbers are inflated —
unsurprising for a big man on a guard-heavy team — but his inside play has
helped cover up the team’s size weakness. Tareq Coburn’s 45 percent mark from
downtown in conference play has bolstered the Pride’s attack.
Pride haven’t always looked great this year, but they’re still a threat. If second-leading
scorer Eli Pemberton ever finds his shooting efficiency, watch out.
William & Mary: Though the Tribe have lost two
of their last three, their white-hot start laves them as the only CAA squad
with seven wins. Though some teams boast solid stretch fours, there are only
two genuine centers in the CAA who can protect the rim and score from anywhere
at an elite level. William & Mary has both of them.
is playing his usual elite basketball, Andy Van Vliet is just as scary when he
gets going, and Luke Loewe went from afterthought backup to elite perimeter
marksman. Throw in Thornton Scott and Bryce Barnes and you have a balanced team
on both sides of the ball. When they’re clicking, it’s hard to imagine another
CAA team keeping pace. So . . .
Does This Leave Us?
left to do when parity becomes absurdity? How do we predict? How do we analyze?
How do we set our expectations?
going to sit back, not take anyone’s predictions too seriously, and enjoy the
ride. The biggest gift of all this madness is the gift of the unknown — just
about any team can realistically beat any other team, in any place, by any margin.
I want to see whether Rob Burke’s energy makes UNCW into a contender despite a
talent deficiency. I want to see whether anyone can stifle William & Mary’s
twin towers. I want to see whether Northeastern’s performance rises and falls with
Roland — and Charleston’s with Riller — or whether their supporting casts will
back up the stars.
is no king in this conference. The throne is wide open. Let the crazy continue.
BOSTON — On December 31, 13 hours before the clock hit midnight and the year reset, Tyson Walker was named CAA Rookie of the Week for the third time this season; no other player has won it more than once. The main reason the league cited was his scoring; Walker notched a combined 32 points in the Huskies’ double-digit wins over Towson and James Madison on Saturday and Monday.
But apparently three awards weren’t enough. Tyson Walker
wants a fourth.
Think 32 points in two games isn’t impressive? How about 32
in one game? Walker’s performance — remarkable for anyone but astonishing for a
freshman — buoyed Northeastern throughout a 77–68 victory over the Phoenix. It
was the fourth straight win for Northeastern (9–6) and their third straight to
begin conference play.
“He’s got the ability to score the ball. He’s got the
ability to distribute the ball,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “He’s
got great feel, he’s got great confidence, and he’s got great presence.
“The hardest position in college basketball to transition
into is the point guard position. You’re growing into your own game, trying to
get a feel for how the coaches would like you to play, get a feel for how your
teammates play. But Tyson has been unbelievable. It’s been a seamless
transition to the position.”
Much of the offensive success that Walker and the Huskies
found could be attributed to Elon’s strategy of — or, at the very least, resignation
to — switching on Northeastern’s ball screens.
“When they kept switching,” Walker remarked, “and it was a
mismatch where the big man’s guarding me, I recognize that I’m pretty fast and
it’s hard to guard me.”
“It gets teams to slow down their pace,” Coen added. “Tyson’s
a hard guy to switch on. A lot of teams have tried it, but he’s able — with his
quickness — to get to the rim and use his shooting ability to create shots from
In case his driving layups weren’t sufficient, Walker also
splashed home four of his seven three-point attempts, raising his season three-point
mark to a blazing 46 percent.
Walker was aided by Northeastern’s constant offensive activity.
Players moved well without the ball, cutting to the basket and popping into
open perimeter space. When a player completed an action, be it a dribble, pass,
or screen, he immediately looked for the next one. Particularly essential was 6’5”
Max Boursiquot, who started his fifth consecutive game as an undersized center.
His effort has boosted the Huskies’ inside presence and floor balance in the
absence of injured forward Tomas Murphy, who Coen confirmed has not been
cleared to return to practice.
“When we gang-rebound it really helps our transition game,”
Coen explained. “Max can really run the floor; he can rebound and run and push
the ball. So it makes us a little bit more deadly in transition. Obviously we
give away a little bit of size and girth down underneath, but Max is a tough,
physical competitor and he’s battled through that.”
Elon jumped out to a 10–2 lead before Northeastern’s
shooters found their rhythm. The teams traded buckets — yielding eight lead
changes and four ties — until Walker got hot, with Elon’s last lead of the
evening coming with 7:21 to play in the first half.
Walker had 14 points at halftime, then dropped another eight
in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the second half. When Walker went to the
bench and the Phoenix made a run, Jordan Roland was there to slow them down
with a series of midrange jumpers. Roland finished with 17 points and four
But when Elon closed the gap down the stretch, even trimming
the lead to two points three separate times in the game’s waning minutes, it
was Walker who held them at bay.
The Phoenix (4–11, 0–2 CAA), who have struggled all year
after graduating or losing last year’s top five scorers, were led by freshman
guard Hunter McIntosh and grad transfer guard Marcus Sheffield II. Both scored
17 points, though McIntosh was markedly more efficient, making six of his 11
shots and four of his six triples. Freshman guard Hunter Woods contributed 12
points and eight assists.
The Huskies were extremely disciplined, committing a season-low
five turnovers and scoring 15 points off 11 Elon giveaways; nine of the 11 came
off Northeastern steals. Though Walker’s superhuman scoring allowed the Huskies
to weather it, they did lose the rebounding battle, 37–24, to a team that
entered the game with the conference’s worst rebounding margin. The Phoenix pulled
down nine offensive rebounds to the Huskies’ two and scored 14 second-chance
points to the Huskies’ three. Things worked out against Elon, but such a
deficit could prove more costly against a great rebounding team like William
Northeastern closed the 2019 calendar year with a win on
Monday at James Madison, then opened 2020 with a win at home. After a sporadic
start to the season leading to a 6–6 record in non-conference play, the Huskies
appear to have hit their stride.
“We’ve gained valuable experience,” Coen observed. “Tyson’s
not the same player he was [in the season opener] at BU. He’s grown. Shaq had a
whole year off; now he’s 15 games into it and getting a little bit of rhythm.
Max was out with an injury for a year; he’s getting a rhythm. Greg was out for
a whole year. It takes time to blend in those new pieces.”
The Huskies will remain in Boston awaiting the William &
Mary Tribe, who will visit Matthews Arena on Saturday afternoon. WRBB will call
the game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 EST. It will be the Huskies’ first
major test in conference play, but the Huskies are up to the challenge,
especially if Walker can carry Thursday night’s momentum into Saturday’s
“We’ve had a lot of really good point guards here,” Coen
said. “I think Tyson, when everything’s said and done, will be one of the best
ones we’ve had.”