Huskies End Season With Semifinal Loss to Drexel

Story by Justin Diament and Milton Posner

Photos by Jordan Baron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s the beginning, not the end.”

Coen Breaks Program Wins Record, Huskies Advance to CAA Semis

Story by Justin Diament and Milton Posner

Photos by Jordan Baron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they had a saving grace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferocious Felines Fell Huskies

By Peyton Doyle and Milton Posner

TOWSON, MD — The coronation of Bill Coen as the winningest coach in Northeastern basketball history seemed almost inevitable entering Sunday.

His team was 8–1 in conference play, with their only loss coming to second-place James Madison. Their opponent, the eighth-place Towson Tigers, had only two conference wins, both against a team below them in the standings. And sophomore point guard Tyson Walker was coming off two straight 30-point games, including a career-high 36 in a win over Towson the day before.

That inevitability seemingly solidified before the game, when it became clear that Towson leading scorer Zane Martin, sitting on the bench with a walking boot on, would not join the day’s festivities. Nor would bench piece Cam Allen, usually good for 15 or 20 minutes of action.

And, as if it needed to get worse, third-leading scorer Jason Gibson drove to the rim six minutes in, took a foul from Jason Strong — replays showed that Strong stayed vertical — lost his balance midair, and crashed down hard on his back. The injury is not projected to be serious, but he did not return.

But despite these disadvantages, the Tigers’ trademark physicality and aggressiveness carried them to a 68–57 victory Sunday afternoon at SECU Arena. Coen’s coronation would have to wait.

The loss dropped Northeastern (9–7, 8–2 CAA) to second place in the conference standings, compounded by a James Madison (13–5, 8–1 CAA) win over Hofstra an hour later. With the next closest team to Northeastern sitting two games behind with two weeks to go, the Huskies and Dukes are in prime position to win the top two seeds.

“I thought we showed our youth and inexperience this afternoon,” Coen said. “I thought Towson came out with a lot of emotional energy. We did not match that to start the game; we dug ourselves a hole.”

The Huskies’ 57 points — their lowest in CAA play this year — pointed to two key issues. The first, which was apparent from the opening tip, was the large volume of missed open shots. One day after shooting a conference-play-best 56 percent, Northeastern shot a season-low 36 percent. Though they entered with a 37 percent mark from downtown (second-best in the CAA), they made just six of their 24 triples.

“Usually close to 50 percent of our shots are threes; that’s how our system is built and that’s how we recruit,” Coen said. “I am not sure you can effectively change your DNA at halftime . . . In the first half we had some very makeable catch-and-shoot threes that just didn’t go. Similar to how Towson has to rebound in order for them to be effective, we have to make shots and share the basketball in order to be effective. They did a better job playing to their identity than we did playing to ours.”

The second issue was the dialed-in Towson defense, replete with clogged driving lanes and rapid rotations. The Tigers held Walker to just four first-half points after he put up 18 in yesterday’s opening period. Northeastern’s other Saturday weapon, Greg Eboigbodin, was silenced as well, registering just four points all game and getting considerably less run time after halftime than before it.

“Chris [Doherty] wasn’t available for the game today,” Coen clarified. “With Greg they were doing some different things on the ball-screen coverage, forcing us to play through the high post and that’s not where he’s best at. We have a couple other guys who are more effective from there but that didn’t seem to work either.”

The Tigers did a terrific job adjusting from yesterday. They doubled Walker effectively off of screens while also blocking passes to his lob lover Eboigbodin. Though a second-half knee hit boosted his energy — after he was slow to get up — he finished with a relatively modest 16 points on six-of-16 shooting, including one-of-six from deep. Save for some late offensive bursts from Shaquille Walters and Jason Strong, Walker didn’t have much help.

On the defensive side, the Huskies had trouble with a couple of Boston-area natives. Reigning CAA Sixth Man of the Year Nicolas Timberlake exploited one-on-one chances and gaps in Northeastern’s pick-and-roll coverage to score a career-high 22 points. With the Tigers’ first- and third-leading scorers out, he played the entire game. Jakigh Dottin added 13 points of his own, and guided the Towson attack with sturdy, reliable ball handling.

“[Timberlake] played with a lot of emotion,” Coen said. “He’s a Boston kid and I think there is always an extra bit of emotion when he and Jakigh Dottin — who played in Cambridge — play against Northeastern. They are very familiar with a lot of our guys.”

Dottin also showed that intensity after the whistle a couple of times. On one series, Walker collided hard with a Tiger, then was incensed by a foul call. When the referee hit Walker with a technical foul, Dottin got in Walker’s face and hissed at him, prompting Coen to engage Dottin in a back-and-forth.

“[Walker] had a terrific game yesterday and one way to combat that is to get more physical with him,” Coen explained. “They did that from the start and as a player you have to be able to play through that physicality. As a team we have to play through that physicality and still execute. I thought that they did a good job initiating contact and being the aggressor, and we didn’t absorb and process that well. It took us out of rhythm on offense. We only had six assists today; that right there tells you that we had more one-on-one play than we wanted.”

The Huskies closed the Tiger lead to four midway through the second half, then promptly let the lead balloon to 18. Though they knocked down three straight triples to draw closer, they never got within striking distance again.

“There is a tendency, once you lose a basketball game, to step in and fight,” Coen noted. “They were down Zane Martin and a couple other guys. In the short term there is a huge emotional lift that goes to them.”

Northeastern’s next scheduled games are a road doubleheader against William & Mary on February 27 and 28.

Tyson Torches Towson for Career-High 36, Coen Ties Program Wins Record

By Peyton Doyle and Milton Posner

TOWSON, MD — It’s hard to overstate how fun Tyson Walker is to watch.

When he’s given command of an offense, and when he’s dialed in, he moves about the court with a palpable ease and confidence. The game’s pace and his own internal clock become inexorably linked, and the defense has increasingly little say in whether his shots go in.

Never was Walker as dialed in as he was Saturday afternoon in SECU Arena, when he poured in a career-high 36 points — his second-straight 30-point game — to power Northeastern to a 76–67 win over the Towson Tigers. It was the best individual scoring effort the Huskies had seen since January 18 of last year, when Jordan Roland dropped 38 on UNCW.

It also marked head coach Bill Coen’s 250th Northeastern win, tying him with Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun for the program record.

The Huskies, playing their first game after a 20-day COVID hiatus, moved to 9–6 (8–1 CAA) and preserved their pole position in the conference standings. James Madison, with whom the Huskies split a pair last month, defeated Hofstra on Saturday to remain the only team in Northeastern’s neighborhood as the season hits the home stretch.

Coen told WRBB before the game that he knew he was wading into uncharted territory. Never before had a team of his taken such a lengthy midseason break.

“For the early portion of the pause, we weren’t allowed to do anything,” he said after Saturday’s game. “We didn’t play live until Tuesday. At the same time, if guys had been away for two weeks, we weren’t confident to have a full practice. So we had shorter, more intense practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and then did more of a mental preparation coming into this weekend.”

“I was a little nervous because of rest vs. rust,” he continued, “But all in all, I thought it was a good effort. It took our guys a few minutes to get back into the swing of the competition, but once they did I thought they did much better.”

Walker wasn’t the only Husky hammering the Tigers. Jason Strong logged 12 points on highly efficient perimeter shooting. And Greg Eboigbodin tallied his own career-high with 13 points, 10 of which came in the first half.

“He has been hampered with some minor injuries,” Coen explained. “Greg finally got healthy over the pause . . . We needed him against a really tough front line of Towson and their ability to rebound the ball. He gave us an anchor on the backboards and in the low post.”

Eboigbodin erupted early, showing that he wouldn’t let the down time halt his performance. He brought his bouncy shoes too, helping Walker carve up the Towson defense in the game’s opening minutes and throwing an alley-oop from the point guard. 

The pick-and-roll duo combined for 28 first-half points, but the Huskies’ inability to hush Towson’s offensive roar meant that their offensive brilliance netted only a 39–38 halftime lead.

“Defensively we weren’t aggressive enough, we weren’t helping outside the lane on penetration,” Coen said. “We really weren’t attacking dribblers and we were letting them get too comfortable . . . We talked about that at halftime and said, ‘If we come out and defend we’ll put ourselves in a great spot.’ We were already scoring enough points.”

In the second half, Northeastern tamed the Tigers. Leading scorer Zane Martin had just three points on one-for-six shooting (giving him an inefficient 14 points on the afternoon). As a team, Towson shot 32 percent from the field, and while they earned 20 free-throw attempts after the intermission, they bricked nine of them.

As Towson’s shooting slid, Walker kept stoking his iridescent inferno. The soft-handed sophomore dug deep into his bag of tricks to send defenders skidding all over the court. Bamboozling brakes and demoralizing dekes created space for himself and his teammates. Walker matched his first-half total of 18 points which, along with a game-high five assists, blew the game open.

“[Towson] tried a couple different things on him,” Coen explained. “They tried to be very aggressive on ball-screen plays early in the game. They tried to press on most makes, trying to limit his ability and make him give it up to someone else. They also tried switching late in the game and trapping him.”

“It is just a function of having a really good day,” Coen continued. “He has seen those types of coverages before and he has a great sense of when he has to score and when he has to get others involved. He’s going to see that and more tomorrow when we face Towson again. They are certainly going to gameplan to try and limit his effectiveness.”

The only Tiger who improved after halftime was Demetrius Mims, who finished with 11 points on a team-best four-for-five from the field. Jason Gibson contributed 14 points but dealt with foul trouble late in the game.

Coen also confirmed that sparkplug forward Chris Doherty, who played just six minutes and did not attempt a shot, is still working his way back from the injury that kept him out of Northeastern’s last game 20 days ago. Doherty will be available tomorrow, but Coen admitted that “he’s not quite where he needs to be.”

Tomorrow’s game could also be huge for Coen, who can pass Calhoun’s record with a win. Milton Posner and Peyton Doyle will call that contest for WRBB, with coverage commencing at 12:45 PM Eastern.

How Northeastern Men’s Basketball Became CAA Title Favorites

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

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

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

Non-conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s break down what powered the run.

The Doherty Effect

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

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

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

Emanga’s Emergence

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

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

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

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

Shaq Attack

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

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

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

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

Holding Down the Tel-Fort

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

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

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

Downtown District

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

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

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

Dicin’ Tyson

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

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

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

Here are the standings as of January 29:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huskies Put Cougars to Bed

By Jordan Baron and Milton Posner

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

Make that four.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

It’s a Shaq Attack!

By Milton Posner and Mike Puzzanghera

HEMPSTEAD, NY — When Bill Coen led his team into the locker room at halftime Thursday evening, he was less than pleased with the state of affairs.

The Huskies trailed the preseason favorite Hofstra Pride by 17. The four most prolific scorers in the game were all wearing blue, while Northeastern’s best had tallied just six. The Huskies seemingly had no answer for Isaac Kante, who looked like he’d not just eaten his own Wheaties, but everyone else’s too. And the Huskies’ perimeter-oriented ball movement wasn’t exactly smashing holes in Hofstra’s zone defense. By all accounts, the lead seemed insurmountable.

Fast forward about an hour and fifteen minutes — Shaquille Walters pump fakes from the triple-threat, fakes a drive, calmly pulls up, and strokes home his third three-pointer of the overtime period to push the Northeastern lead to five with 15.8 seconds to play.

Wait . . . what?

A persistent second-half surge from Northeastern (4–5, 3–0 CAA), as well as key contributions up and down the roster, erased a 17-point halftime deficit en route to an 81–78 overtime win over Hofstra (6–4, 2–1 CAA).

Walters poured in 20 points — nine of which came in overtime — along with seven rebounds and six assists. He knocked down seven of his 10 shots, including four of five from beyond the arc. Jason Strong scored 18 while playing most of the second half (and overtime) with four fouls; he also added six boards.

But arguably the most important contribution came from Quirin Emanga, as the 6’5”, 220-pound sophomore was tasked with guarding the 6’7”, 240-pound Kante after Strong headed to the bench with four fouls early in the second half.

Kante had made all seven field goals he’d tried to that point. He wouldn’t make another.

“He’s not afraid to give up his body, he’s not afraid to get on the floor,” Coen said of Emanga. “He puts a body on somebody to box out. He just gave us that backbone we needed to help our team to get a little bit more confident.”

In arguably the best game of his college career, Emanga finished with nine points, eight rebounds, and the sort of game-changing defense box scores can’t capture. The Huskies were +19 with Emanga on the floor.

The Huskies had many issues in the opening 20 minutes. Besides the omnipotent bruising of Kante — who said afterward that he knew he could abuse Strong underneath — Northeastern had 11 turnovers to their name and shot a horrid two-for-12 from deep. Their defense had no answers and their offense wasn’t penetrating Hofstra’s matchup zone. Hofstra’s perimeter shooting was clicking, they were hunting down rebounds, and their ball movement ran circles around the Huskies. The upshot was a 24–6 Pride run to close the half.

“We probably played our best half of the year in the first 20 minutes,” Hofstra Acting Head Coach Mike Farrelly said, “certainly followed up by our worst 20 minutes of the year.”

Tyson Walker’s passes, a bit off at the start, started hitting his teammates in stride. The shots that didn’t fall in the first half were now finding the bottom of the bucket. And, just as importantly, it was the opposite script for Kante and the Pride. Six Hofstra players recorded multiple makes from the field in the first half; in the second, just two did.

“Strange that a team could play so well, then lose their identity and come out that way in the second half,” Farrelly remarked. “Not a great effort in the second half. Didn’t love our spirit in the second half.”

After two big buckets from freshman J’Vonne Hadley, a personal 7–0 run from Strong gave Northeastern a five-point edge — their largest of the night — with just over five minutes to play in the second half.

But Northeastern couldn’t hold on, as they managed just a single Jahmyl Telfort free throw the rest of the way. Hofstra got two inside shots from Caleb Burgess (15 points, eight assists) down the stretch to even the score at 68, then turned the ball over with ten seconds to play.

“I really don’t usually take timeouts in those situations,” Coen said. “I usually have a strong trust with our point guards, but it was about five seconds [on the clock] and it didn’t look like we were getting anything.”

The first play Coen drew up didn’t work, as quick Hofstra hands knocked a Walker pass out of bounds with 1.8 seconds to go. Coen’s second play didn’t work either, as the only open player was Telfort — 35 feet from the basket — who fired long.

“We were trying to get a backside flare with Tyson and a skip over the top, but it didn’t materialize,” Coen said. “I didn’t help our guys at the end of regulation, that’s for sure. Luckily, they bailed me out.”

In the overtime, a quick 7–2 run gave Northeastern a five-point cushion. But Hofstra nailed their free throws down the stretch, and cut the lead to one with a minute and a half to play.

But Walters waltzed up and calmly hit a three. 

Burgess retorted with a layup. Then Walters did the exact same thing again. The sharpshooting struck Farrelly as abnormal, especially given Walters’ 32 percent clip from deep on the year, and his 29 percent mark last season.

“He’s a very good player. He’s not a great shooter,” Farrelly said. “He’s a really good playmaker, drives against the zone, drives and kicks, excellent passer at that size. But certainly him going four-for-five from three is an anomaly.”

After two free throws, Hofstra still had a final chance to tie with two seconds to play. But a contested desperation heave from Jalen Ray came up short. Ray, Hofstra’s leading scorer on the year, shot just five-for-19 from the field for 15 points. Fellow senior Tareq Coburn fared better, posting 13 points on more efficient shooting.

As a rematch of the last two CAA title games, the game’s importance, even this early in the season, was noted. And the fierceness of the competition was not lost on the players.

“A little trash talking here and there, a lot of chippiness,” Kante said. “This is a rivalry; let’s call it what it is. They took something from us two years ago, we took something from them last year.”

After a difficult non-conference slate chock full of high-major opponents, Northeastern is up to 3–0 in the CAA for the second straight season, and shows no signs of slowing down.

The Huskies and Pride will rematch Saturday in Boston. Milton Posner and Mike Puzzanghera will call that game, with coverage beginning at 11:50 AM Eastern.

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.

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.