Quirin’s the Main Guy as Huskies WALK ovER Pride

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

BOSTON — It’s not the greatest idea to wake a sleeping dragon. 

But during the second half Saturday afternoon, the Hofstra Pride did just that. Northeastern’s Tyson Walker had been a consistent if unremarkable presence all game, dropping eight points in a first half where the Huskies dominated on both sides of the court. But after the Pride rattled off 17 unanswered points coming out of the locker room, Walker decided he’d had enough.

Along with Jahmyl Telfort and Shaq Walters, Walker keyed a second-half onslaught that launched the Northeastern to a 67–56 win over Hofstra.

The Huskies, who lost five of six non-conference games on a heavy diet of high-major programs, now sit at 5–5. They just swept a team they lost to three times last year. Their 4–0 start to conference play is their best since 2016–17. And they have established themselves as frontrunners in a conference where they were projected to finish seventh.

“The game we played against Syracuse helped us this weekend, because you’re playing against the zone, you’re working out some kinks, guys are getting a little bit of feel,” Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen said. “We played against pressing teams, we played against really physical inside teams in West Virginia and athletic teams in Georgia, so it’s given our guys a tutorial of what it takes to win at a competitive level.”

That flexible matchup zone, a calling card of the Pride, nudged the Huskies toward a perimeter-oriented style. They hoisted 37 three-pointers, more than they had in any game since the conference championship in March. They also tried just three free-throws, their fewest since February 21, 2016. Both of those games were against Hofstra.

“That’s what they give you,” Coen observed. “Year in and year out they’re one of the best teams in the country at not fouling. So you’re not getting any free points there . . . We got some really quality twos, but you’re going to need to make some threes against them.”

In the first half, Quirin Emanga set the tone for the Huskies. Although forwards Greg Eboigbodin, Chris Doherty, and Connor Braun were all available, Coen said that none had practiced live since being injured and he didn’t want to risk their health. Doherty played a few minutes to relieve Emanga, but Emanga was expected to carry a heavy load in his first college start.

He was brilliant from the opening tip, scoring seven of Northeastern’s first 13 points on two drives and a three-pointer. He finished with 14, but his defense shone brightest. For the second straight game, he locked up Hofstra’s star big man Isaac Kante, who tried just seven shots all game. Emanga kept Kante away from favorable spots, took charges, and kept the Husky defense from scrambling.

“We’re way faster,” Walker said about Emanga’s impact. “I feel like Q just brings a lot of fight on the court, so everybody feeds off of that.”

Jason Strong was red-hot from deep to start the game, eventually finishing with 11 points. His two blocks were a key element of the Huskies’ stifling first-half defense, which held the Pride to 21 points on 33 percent shooting. The Huskies also dominated the turnover battle; after coughing up the ball 11 times in a rough first half on Thursday, Northeastern had just nine giveaways all game on Saturday.

But the first seven minutes of the second half were all Hofstra. By the time a Walker three stopped the bleeding with 12:44 remaining, the Pride had exploded for 17 straight points. Everything they wanted on offense, they got. The Huskies offense went dark, at first due to stringent Hofstra pressure and then due to missed open looks.

And then Tyson Walker happened.

His barrage of threes, including a couple of unconscionably long heat checks, stopped the Pride in their tracks. Walker would finish with 23 points; of his 17 tries from the field, 13 were threes. Seven went in.

“It wasn’t anything really different, it was just me being aware that I was more open,” Walker said. “I took a step back, I was more open, the farther I stepped back I was more open.”

“He earned the heat check,” Coen said. “All of the sudden the energy picked up on the bench. His teammates now are playing with that same confidence, they borrowed his confidence. He’s a confident kid, he’s an accomplished player, he’s our most accomplished player, and I was really really happy for him that he stepped up and led us to victory.”

Telfort and Walters, both of whom logged scoreless first halves, found their rhythms too, burying back-to-back threes late in the half to open up an insurmountable 10-point lead. Telfort made his mark under the basket as well, picking up an athletic offensive rebound off of a Strong miss and securing the putback to quell a desperate Hofstra run.

Walker put a bow on the contest with a beautiful press-breaking pass to a wide-open Walters, who slammed down the overhead dunk.

“I was really proud of our guys being able to recalibrate in the heat of the moment, find a way,” Coen said of the second half. “Felt like there was a lid on the basket for the first eight minutes, and then all of a sudden Tyson just willed us back into the game. And everybody else joined the party and settled down.

Tareq Coburn led the way for Hofstra with 15 points, joined by Jalen Ray (14), and Caleb Burgess (10). Though many of Hofstra’s top players logged solid games on the whole, none scored in overwhelming volume or with notable efficiency. Kante and Kvonn Cramer pulled down a combined 26 rebounds, but aside from the opening seven minutes of the half, they never entirely clicked on offense.

“We didn’t match their physicality and toughness in the first half,” Hofstra Acting Head Coach Mike Farrelly said. “A lot of the time you think about toughness as ‘get in a defensive stance, get a rebound,’ all that stuff. But you have to be tough with the ball against Northeastern. We weren’t good with that in the first half.”

The Huskies will get a week off before heading down to South Carolina to take on the College of Charleston in a two-game weekend set.

Men’s Basketball Outlasts Elon to Earn Weekend Sweep

By Peyton Doyle and Milton Posner

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.

Huskies Douse Phoenix in Conference Opener

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

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.

Bulldogs Bull Rush Huskies for Comeback Win

By Andrew Lee and Milton Posner

When Shaq Walters splashed home a long, difficult three-pointer with 17:53 left in the game, Northeastern men’s basketball fans had every reason to be jubilant. The team had tried 15 triples to that point, converting 10. And they led the undefeated Georgia Bulldogs by 14 points on the road.

Ten minutes later, they trailed by seven. Twenty-one unanswered Georgia points turned a dominant Husky first half into a footnote in a 76–58 Bulldog blowout.

“I thought it was physicality, to be honest,” Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen said of the second-half struggles. “Every cut there was a body on, every dribble there was a body on. They were climbing the glass and they’ve got some terrific athletes . . . We had a couple plays where I thought we could’ve settled down and got back into flow, but that didn’t happen.”

The Huskies mustered just 13 points after the intermission, their lowest total in a half since they logged 11 first-half points against South Florida on November 29, 2008. They made just five of 30 tries from the field, turned the ball over 13 times, and attempted no free throws. Georgia forced their way inside to earn quality looks, contested Husky shots, and coaxed Tyson Walker into foul trouble that limited his second-half minutes.

“Our secondary ballhandlers have to get better,” Coen said bluntly. “Tyson had his way in the first half and was able to split ball screens and everything else. They had a strategy to go at him and try to foul him out of the game and make somebody else handle it. So our other guys have to grow, learn in that role, and do a better job of taking care of the basketball.”

Had the Huskies not collapsed in the second half, the first half would have been the story. In arguably the best 20 minutes of basketball the team has played this season, they dialed in from downtown to the tune of 69 percent. Jahmyl Telfort led the way, splashing home all four triples he attempted and logging a game-high 15 points in the period.

Tyson Walker catalyzed the offense, torching the Bulldogs with lightning-quick drives and smooth-stroked jumpers on his way to 14 points and six assists before halftime. Even when Georgia started taking better care of the ball and limiting Northeastern with a zone defense, the Huskies kept knocking down shots, and led 45–32 at halftime.

“We had really good spacing,” Coen said. “When we got into the paint, we knew they were gonna take charges, so we emphasized getting two feet down and making passes, rather than trying to score over them or around them.”

But they couldn’t recreate that formula in the second.

“I thought the second half we got sped up and guys got into the lane and didn’t look to spray it,” Coen observed. “The first half we got in and we made really good plays; whenever we get assisted baskets we’re playing our type of game. Second half was more one on one, more dribbling, less passing, and that’s never a good sign.”

Walker and Telfort finished with 19 and 15 points, respectively, to lead the Huskies, though they both fell off in the second half and no other Huskies were major contributors on offense. Andrew Garcia, Toumani Camara, P.J. Horne, and Sahvir Wheeler keyed the Bulldogs’ attack, each posting double figures in points.

The win made Georgia one of only eight teams in the country to stay undefeated through seven games. The Huskies dropped to 1–4 in their last scheduled non-conference game, though Coen confirmed that the team is seeking another contest — hopefully a home game — early next week.

Northeastern Men’s Basketball Gives Syracuse a Run for Their Money

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

On Wednesday afternoon, the Northeastern Huskies were a young, undersized team entering the jaws of a basketball shark. They drove west to Syracuse to battle a team coached by a man who’s won more games than many of us have watched, the same team that most recently polished off Boston College by 38 points.

But in an expected turn, the Huskies led for much of the game and never trailed by more than seven. Though they ultimately fell to the Orange, 62–56, they walked away with plenty to be happy about.

Amid stringent Husky defense, the Orange struggled to hit shots, converting just 32 percent of their shots and a measly 11 percent of their threes. Although the Huskies didn’t block many shots, they had quite a few tips and touches that kept the Orange offense guessing.

“We tried to make life difficult for them,” said Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen. “We’ve got some pretty good size on the wing, guys who can present some challenges and get up in shot pockets and make guys uncomfortable. For a young group, they really absorbed the scouting report.”

Early on, Husky freshman Coleman Stucke and Jahmyl Telfort splashed home three triples apiece to key the offense. Stucke sagged off eventually, but Telfort finished with 16 points to lead the team.

“He’s got a couple of mornings free where he doesn’t have classes — he’s in the gym all the time,” Coen said of Telfort. “When you’re blessed with the kind of talent that he has and you marry that with an incredible work ethic, you can see him evolving. He can go off the dribble, he can make a three, he rebounds the ball well, he’s a good two-way player, he’s a good defender.”

But the Orange countered with sophomore guard Joseph Girard III, who would finish with a team-high 21 points and six steals. Although his shooting was not exactly efficient, he was the only Syracuse player to hit a shot from beyond the arc, and he also hit all nine of his free throws.

The Huskies shot well from three-point range in the first half — knocking down 39 percent — and matched the much taller Orange on the glass. But they struggled with turnovers, committing nine in the period. Four were credited to Walker, who kept trying to find Telfort with tough-angle passes that sailed out of bounds. 

The second half began with disaster for the Huskies, as Walker dove for a loose ball and smashed his head against the shin of an Orange defender. He laid face-down on the floor before rolling onto his back, receiving assistance from trainers and coaches, and slowly walking off the floor under his own power. He did not re-enter the game, and Coen confirmed that he will be examined in Boston to determine whether he can play on Sunday.

Vito Cubrilo subbed in, looking to take Walker’s place as playmaker. He did his best, slotting five points off a three-pointer and some free throws, but the offensive rhythm was thrown off, as was the Huskies’ ability to break the occasional full-court press Syracuse threw at them. 

“We were without Tyson in the second half and he’s our number one creator, a guy that gives other guys some confidence,” Coen said. “So we had to shift roles a little bit.”

Still, the Huskies remained strong on defense, and thanks in part to the Orange missing some open looks, stayed in the game. Entering the final five minutes, they found themselves losing by just three points. Greg Eboigbodin and Shaquille Walters traded off playing time to stop them both from fouling out. Northeastern fell behind by five with four minutes to play, but Jason Strong, who had been quiet offensively all game, sank a three to bring the Huskies back within two. 

This is where things slipped away. Some careless Husky fouls and turnovers gave the Orange the opportunity to pounce, and they did, building a two-possession lead they wouldn’t relinquish. 

The Huskies’ three-point shooting fell off in the second half, neutering their most valuable weapon against a Syracuse 2-3 zone that ceded outside shots to protect the paint. Northeastern also committed 12 turnovers in the second half, compared to just five from Syracuse. The Huskies’ defense continued to shine, however, as they kept pace on the boards and forced another low-scoring half from an offense that hung 101 points on ACC foe Boston College in their last game.

“I was really proud of their effort,” Coen said. “I thought our defensive help was really strong. We just mishandled the ball a little bit too much. Little execution errors on the offensive end.”

Other than Girard, Syracuse’s top contributor was sophomore forward Quincy Gurrier, who scored 18 points and snatched 16 rebounds.

“The difference in the game was Quincy Guerrier,” Coen said. “Sometimes you just can’t do anything if he’s got a physical advantage, there’s not enough strategy that can get you out of that. He’s a world-class athlete and he’s strong and explosive.”

But despite the loss, the game will certainly prove instructive for the Huskies. Coen likes to use non-conference contests to show his team different styles and sets. The home-and-home with UMass forced them to reckon with a full-court press, and today’s matchup may prepare the Huskies well for the zone-playing Hofstra Pride.

“We’ve got some tape so we can get better on our zone execution, we’ve got tape so we can learn in terms of our press break,” Coen said, “and that experience will pay dividends once we get into CAA play.”

The Huskies will travel south to Virginia to face Old Dominion this Sunday. Milton Posner and Catherine Morrison will broadcast that game live from Chartway Arena in Norfolk, VA, with coverage kicking off at 1:45 PM Eastern.

Men’s Basketball Avenges Friday Loss with First Win of Season

By Jordan Baron, Justin Diament, and Milton Posner

BOSTON — In a fiery game that came down the wire, the Northeastern Huskies held off a frantic last-minute run from UMass to notch a 78–75 win, their first of the season. 

In Friday’s game, the crushing UMass press forced the Huskies into 15 first-half turnovers and wrecked any prospect of offensive rhythm. On Sunday, the composed ballhandling and passing of Tyson Walker, Jason Strong, and Shaquille Walters overcame the press, allowing the Husky offense to lay a harsh hand to the Minutemen.

“They press, and that’s what they’re known for, so we just had to keep our composure with that,” Strong said. “Just slow down, take our time, and just get back to getting to our open spots.”

Northeastern paced the Minutemen throughout the first half, with the score staying tight until the halftime break. The Huskies minimized turnovers, repeatedly solving the UMass press with outlet passes to the wing. This gave Northeastern more time to run their offense, and they spread the scoring around early. Shaquille Walters stood out as an offensive leader, quickly eclipsing his four-point total from Friday’s game and eventually logging 12 points and nine rebounds in a team-high 37 minutes.

“We need him on the floor, he’s an excellent defender, he’s a really good secondary ball handler, he’s an experienced guy who’s got confidence and ability, but he’s a tremendous rebounder at his position,” Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen said of Walters. “That makes us a little bit more dynamic. Having him available today and having him play at a high level helped us earn the victory.”

Walters led the offense as Tyson Walker spent long stretches of the first half on the bench, pacing around the grid of socially distant seats.

“He picked up a couple of fouls, and then he went to the deck early,” Coen said of Walker. “He had been on the floor quite a bit down in UMass, and then early on there was a play at half court and he landed on his hip again awkwardly. And so we took him out, but Vito came in and the game was going pretty good. We felt like we could steal a couple of minutes.”

Coleman Stucke, who went a dismal zero-for-eight on Friday, added his first buckets as a Husky during Walker’s absence, providing a bit of an early boost. But it was Jason Strong that Northeastern repeatedly returned to for an offensive spark throughout the game. The junior collected 16 points, including three energizing three-pointers, to go with five rebounds. 

UMass also turned to some unexpected scorers in the first half, as Friday’s stars were largely silent. Tre Mitchell didn’t score his first points until the final five minutes of the half, while Javohn Garcia scored an early four, but didn’t put in another bucket for the remainder of the period. Noah Fernandes, who spent a large portion of Friday’s game on the bench due to a foul discrepancy, scored seven first-half points. Ronnie DeGray III, who contributed the least out of the Minutemen starters on Friday, added six points of his own. 

The Huskies went into the halftime break with a one-point lead after answering many of the questions raised by the Friday loss. Then they hit another gear.

The second half started off with a turnover on Walters, but that was quickly squashed by a huge three from Strong. Walker followed it with a brilliant pass from the top of the key that landed right in the hands of a soaring Greg Eboigbodin for an alley-oop dunk, sending the Husky bench into cheers.

“The energy was great,” Strong said. “There was a time I was sitting on the bench and someone made a great play, and everyone just started standing up and cheering, and it was just great energy on the bench throughout the whole game.”

But just as the offensive exploits of Walker and Walters built an 11-point Husky lead, the team ran into a roadblock. Eboigbodin racked up his fourth foul of the game, and was subbed out. The loss risked the Huskies’ containment of Mitchell, which had been superb.

But the Huskies continued to pressure Mitchell, and although he was drawing fouls and sinking free throws, most of his field-goal attempts were merely attempts, as his signature jump hook kept dripping off the rim.

Northeastern maintained their lead until the final three minutes, when a series of quick steals and buckets slashed the lead from 12 to three. Shaq Walters missed a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left to leave the door open, but UMass captain Carl Pierre inexplicably went for a layup with five seconds remaining, and the Huskies shut off the lane to escape with a three-point win.

Walker led the Huskies with 20 points, with Strong, Walters, and Jahmyl Telfort contributing 16, 12, and 11 respectively.

Despite being the slightly smaller team, the Huskies equaled the Minutemen’s rebounding total. In addition, they committed just 14 turnovers compared to 18 in Friday’s game.

“Extremely proud of our group today,” Coen said. “In a short turnaround, they were able to absorb adjustments in the scouting report, they came with great energy and focus, and we got back to Northeastern basketball.”

Though neither team has announced a start time, the Huskies will face off against Syracuse on Wednesday in what will undoubtedly prove their toughest non-conference test. WRBB will call that game live, with coverage beginning 15 minutes before tip-off.

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.