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.

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.

Northeastern Men’s Basketball Places Seventh in Preseason Poll

By Milton Posner

Almost eight months to the day after Northeastern and Hofstra battled it out in the CAA Championship game, the conference released the results of its preseason poll.

For the second straight year, the Pride took the top spot. The Huskies, who underperformed their third-place projection last year before hitting their stride in the conference tournament, placed seventh. The point totals are shown below, with first-place votes in parentheses.

Hofstra will look to defend its regular season and CAA Tournament crowns in a league where several perennial contenders have lost multiple all-conference caliber players. The Pride lost First Teamer Desure Buie and Second Teamer Eli Pemberton to graduation, and will rely on seniors Isaac Kante, Jalen Ray, and Tareq Coburn to key their run.

Northeastern finished sixth last year, due largely to a stretch of one- and two-point losses in January. The Huskies are looking to Tyson Walker and Shaquille Walters to overcome the graduation of CAA leading scorer Jordan Roland and versatile glue guy Bolden Brace.

James Madison senior guard Matt Lewis was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Northeastern’s Tyson Walker joined defending Rookie of the Year Hunter McIntosh as sophomore Second Team selections.

A few other observations:

  • Four teams — Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel, and Towson — got at least four first-place votes. Even in a league noted for parity, this is striking.
  • Two transfers made preseason teams: Payton Willis (comes to Charleston from Minnesota) and Zane Martin, who returns to Towson after transferring from there two years ago.
  • Of the 16 players who earned preseason honors, 13 are pure guards. The CAA’s elite is usually guard-heavy, but the loss of elite big men Nathan Knight and Andy Van Vliet exacerbates that imbalance even more.
  • After a seventh-place finish in last year’s poll, William & Mary rode Knight and Van Vliet to a second-place finish. With those two gone, the Tribe dropped to last place in this year’s poll, and it wasn’t particularly close. Head Coach Dane Fischer has some questions to answer.
  • By far the largest point gap in the poll is that between seventh-place Northeastern and eighth-place UNCW, indicating a sentiment that there is a clear bottom tier. The teams in that tier — UNCW, James Madison, and William & Mary — have been ravaged by graduations, transfers, or both. James Madison and UNCW both have freshman coaches, while W&M Dane Fischer is entering his second season after winning Coach of the Year last year.

And finally . . .

Northeastern will kick off its season at the Paradise Jam Tournament in Washington, DC, on Thursday, November 26 at 2 PM Eastern. Milton Posner and Jack Sinclair will have the call for WRBB, with coverage beginning at 15 minutes before tip-off.

Northeastern Basketball Schedules Announced

By Milton Posner

The Colonial Athletic Association announced its 2020–21 schedules for men’s and women’s basketball on Wednesday morning.

Teams will play 18 conference games across January and February, same as usual. But to limit travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, teams will play back-to-back games on Saturdays and Sundays against the same opponent in the same venue. If Northeastern’s men’s team faces a school at home on a given weekend, the women face that same school on the road.

Credit: Northeastern Athletics

The only exceptions are games against a school’s travel partner (closest neighbor), which will take place as a traditional home-and-home on Thursdays and Saturdays. This ensures that teams will play the same number of road games as home games. Northeastern’s travel partner is Hofstra.

The schedule innovations mean that roughly half of games will be played on the second night of a back-to-back, something CAA schools usually do only for tournaments.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge to play two games in 48 hours with travel and everything else,” Northeastern men’s basketball head coach Bill Coen observed. “It’s going to be new for everybody. So it’s not going to be an advantage for one team or another. But we’ll have to be mindful and thoughtful about how we construct our practices and at least once a week have two really intense practices back-to-back to build up some capacity and some understanding of what that’s going to feel like. I think that that’s going to be the single biggest adjustment for us in the preseason.”

Coen’s team has not commenced live practices yet, and has tried to adhere to pandemic protocols for the ones that happen. Coaches and players wear masks and distance from one another, plus there is a limit on the number of people allowed in the gym.

“As we . . . get into some live play, we want to [gradually accelerate] our activity,” Coen explained. “We don’t want to jump all into it because you got guys who didn’t go through our normal summer strength and conditioning program. Some guys had access to gyms, other guys were pretty limited on what they could do . . . We don’t want to go too quickly before we’re ready physically to compete and bang bodies.”

Game times, broadcast schedules, and tie-breaking formats have yet to be announced, and games can be made up if the pandemic forces delays.

According to the NCAA, schools can begin play as early as November 25. Northeastern has not finalized its non-conference slate, although it has  committed to a tournament in Washington, D.C., with George Mason, Howard, and UMBC.

Said Coen of the non-conference slate: “We have a very young team, and we’re searching for some games where we can have some learning opportunities and play differing styles and get some preparation against the press, get some preparation against a zone team, play different levels and different types of coaching styles. I think those are really great teachers, and give us the experience and tape that we need to move forward before we get into CAA play.” He added that where the Huskies play will depend on the rate of new COVID-19 cases in opponents’ states.

NCAA D1 Council Approves Nov. 25 Start Date for Basketball

By Milton Posner

The NCAA’s Division I Council voted Wednesday to kick off the men’s and women’s college basketball seasons the day before Thanksgiving.

According to Associate Athletic Director Scott MacDonald, Northeastern will finalize its schedules after the NCAA Board of Directors approves the council’s proposal on September 22. The Colonial Athletic Association, which houses both Northeastern basketball squads, is continuing to evaluate what its season will look like.

The council seems to be counting on the timing of the start to help ensure safety. By November 25, roughly three-quarters of Division I schools will have either concluded their fall terms or will have moved instruction online. Northeastern concludes fall classes on December 2 and finals week on December 11.

However, if cases spike between now and November, the start date could be pushed back. The council did not offer regulations on COVID-related game-day protocols or testing, although Matt Norlander of CBS cited “speculation from stakeholders” that Division I sports will have access to more affordable testing by the time the season begins. Northeastern, which already has a large testing operation and a low positive test rate in a low-risk state, has a decent shot at remaining healthy.

Because the season is starting 15 days later than originally planned, the NCAA reduced the maximum number of games teams can schedule. Men’s basketball teams can play 24 regular season games and one multi-team event of up to three games, or 25 regular season games and a multi-team even of two games. Women’s basketball teams can play 23 regular-season games and a four-game event, or 25 regular season games and no event. To meet sponsorship requirements and be considered for NCAA championship selection, teams must play 13 games against Division I opponents and should play at least four non-conference games.

There will be a transition period from September 21 to October 13, in which teams can schedule up to 12 combined hours a week of strength and conditioning, sport-related meetings, and skill instruction, though skill instruction cannot take up more than eight of the 12 hours. Players must also have two days off per week.

Teams can begin full practices on October 14, six weeks before the season commences. They can conduct a maximum of 30 practices. Players can work out for up to 20 hours per week, though they cannot work out for more than four hours per day and must have one off day per week. Teams cannot play exhibitions or closed scrimmages before November 25, and though they can request to play games before then, the NCAA oversight committees have indicated they are unlikely to grant waivers.

Although the council did not make a long-term decision on recruiting, the dead period — during which coaches cannot visit recruits in person — has been extended to January 1.

Northeastern’s women’s basketball team went 13–16 (9–9 CAA) last year and secured the fifth seed in the CAA Tournament, which was canceled due to the pandemic. The men’s team went 17–16 (9–9 CAA), secured the sixth seed in the conference tournament, and defeated No. 3 Towson and No. 7 Elon before falling to No. 1 Hofstra in the final.

Boursiquot, Murphy, Franklin to Leave Northeastern

By Milton Posner

Not one week after a surprising, inspiring, rejuvenating run to the CAA Championship game, Northeastern men’s basketball found itself in trouble.

Compounding the losses of CAA leading scorer Jordan Roland and versatile four-year starter Bolden Brace to graduation, three players — Max Boursiquot, Tomas Murphy, and Myles Franklin — announced their intent to transfer from the program.

Franklin logged decent minutes in non-conference play this year, but saw his workload wither as the season progressed. Though he showed flashes of a stabilizing, disciplined presence at the point, many of his better offensive performances came in games where the outcome was no longer in doubt. After sitting on the bench for two years behind All-CAA First Teamer Vasa Pusica, then watching freshman Tyson Walker start over him all season, Franklin probably figured his playing team wouldn’t increase next year. As a grad transfer, he’ll be eligible to play this fall.

Murphy was supposed to see a larger role this season, as the graduation of bruising big man Anthony Green left shoes to fill in the paint. But after playing just four games, Murphy injured his ankle in a mid-November practice. Though the team was initially hopeful he’d return before too long, he’d played his last game in a Husky uniform.

The four-star recruit averaged seven points and three rebounds per game across two full seasons, with excellent shooting efficiency and a burgeoning perimeter shot to boot. Husky fans will never get to see what higher usage would have done to his offensive footprint.

Murphy will head north to the University of Vermont. Because he played only four games this season, it will count as an redshirt year, meaning he has two years of eligibility remaining and can suit up this fall.

But by far the biggest loss of the three was Boursiquot.

As Murphy’s absence stretched from mid-November into conference play, Boursiquot took center stage. His offensive contributions — nine points and five rebounds per game — were solid, and his versatility on that end helped to keep the offense moving.

But his defense was otherworldly. Though he stood just 6’5” and weighed 211 pounds, he started most games at center, routinely frustrating taller, bigger players. He was as strong, pound-for-pound, as any player in the conference, and he used his low center of gravity to dislodge the conference’s skyscrapers and force them into areas where they were less comfortable.

The Husky defense allowed the fewest points of any CAA team, and Boursiquot was the versatile engine. His speed, quickness, and agility allowed him to bottle up guards on the perimeter, then battle big men in the post without missing a beat. In two matchups with eventual CAA Player of the Year and likely NBA draft pick Nathan Knight, Boursiquot held his own for long stretches and earned high praise from Knight. His active hands were a constant presence in passing lanes, forcing live-ball turnovers the Huskies converted into transition buckets.

He was arguably the most valuable defensive player in the conference. That Knight won CAA Defensive Player of the Year is unsurprising; award voters are more likely to evaluate defense through basic stats like rebounds, blocks, and steals, and Boursiquot was somewhat underwhelming on paper. But his effort, strength, intensity, spatial awareness, and basketball intelligence made him a sight to behold, and his exclusion from the All-Defensive Team was a horrific snub.

His finest hour came in the CAA Tournament earlier this month. With Roland struggling to find his shooting touch, Boursiquot picked up the offensive load, averaging 13 points on 58 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds. This in addition to guarding Towson’s formidable frontcourt, red-hot forward Federico Poser of Elon, and human-tank hybrid Isaac Kante of Hofstra.

Because he redshirted last year after a hip injury, Boursiquot will be a grad transfer, eligible to play this fall wherever he goes.

Though the loss of Franklin will likely prove negligible for head coach Bill Coen’s rotation, Boursiquot and Murphy were the two best returning forwards. Notre Dame midseason transfer Chris Doherty will likely provide a boost when he becomes eligible to play, but it will be up to 6’9” junior Greg Eboigbodin to anchor the defense until then.

The versatility of Shaquille Walters, who assumed some point guard duties in the last few weeks of the season, is suddenly paramount. So is the scoring punch of Tyson Walker, whose nine shot attempts per game this season pale in comparison to what he’ll likely post next year.

But the solution can’t be as simple as those two turning into stars. Besides Walker and Walters, no returning Husky averaged more than four points per game. For Northeastern to fill the shoes of their two graduates and three transfers, everyone will need to step up.

Northeastern Loses CAA Championship

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — Before the swarming zone defense, before the frantic scrambles for offensive rebounds, before the drives and the kickouts and the one-on-one brilliance, Tuesday night’s game was about vengeance.

The Northeastern Huskies knew it better than anybody. Two years ago, after locking up a share of the CAA regular-season title, battling their way to the conference championship, and building a 17-point lead in the second half, the Huskies slowly collapsed as the Charleston Cougars clawed their way to an overtime victory.

The Cougars went to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies went home.

That loss stayed with the Huskies. It fueled them. As they embarked on their 2018–19 season, they focused on a singular goal: returning to the championship game and seizing the moment that had slipped through their fingers. After exacting revenge on Charleston in the semifinal, the Huskies did just that, knocking off the Hofstra Pride, 82–74, to win the March Madness berth they’d dreamed of for a year. It was vengeance, and it felt fantastic.

The Huskies went to the NCAA Tournament. The Pride went home.

But on Tuesday night, in a rematch with the Pride, the Huskies found out what the other end of vengeance feels like. In a remarkably close, ludicrously energetic championship game, the Huskies fell to the Pride, 70–61.

The Pride are going to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are going home.

“It’s tough,” a visibly choked-up Max Boursiquot said after the game. “It’s called March Madness for a reason.”

“That feeling of losing and then coming back the next year and having another opportunity is a special feeling,” Bolden Brace added. “You don’t get that unless you lose . . . They played with an edge and played with that desire to win and I think they deserve it.”

Though Hofstra was coming off blowout wins over Drexel and Delaware, it was Northeastern that struck first, running up an early lead thanks to aggressive drives. Sometimes those drives yielded layups, other times they yielded open threes off the catch for Husky guards who filled to the corner when Hofstra shifted to protect the paint. With his team trailing 10–3, Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich called for time.

While the scoring came more evenly after that, the Huskies continued to earn quality looks. Hofstra famously plays a matchup zone, a combination of zone and man-to-man principles that allows for pressuring ballhandlers on the perimeter without the draining effort of man defense. The Huskies, who struggled against zone defenses in their other CAA Tournament games against Towson and Elon, countered by repeatedly entering the ball to small-ball center Max Boursiquot near the foul line, warping the zone and freeing up cutting and kickout opportunities. The Huskies’ threes were finally falling, they hustled to every rebound and loose ball, and held the Pride at bay.

But the squad with the best regular-season record couldn’t be subdued indefinitely, and when Husky point guard Tyson Walker aggravated a left shoulder injury and went to the bench, the Pride seized the momentum and sent their fans into a frenzy. Walker returned but struggled, finishing with just four points.

“When he started the second half he just didn’t look right to me, just didn’t look his normal competitive self,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen noted. “I gotta give him a world of credit just for going out there and trying. His competitiveness, his grit and determination, and his toughness are really admirable . . . that was a physical game and he put himself out there and put himself on the line for the team and the program.”

After a few minutes of hanging around and trading buckets, Hofstra finally drew even. Three Jalen Ray free throws were bookended by two eerily similar sequences in which a Hofstra guard drove into the paint and had a layup blocked, only for his teammates to secure the rebound and nail a three as the shot clock ran down. The upshot of these three mediocre possessions: nine points.

Guilien Smith, not to be outdone, let the Pride have the lead for all of 18 seconds.

By this point the energy in the building was palpable. Each team sensed the audible footsteps of the other and the gradual ticking of the clock, and boosted their energy accordingly. It didn’t matter that their workload — three playoff games in three days — was unprecedented in their schedules this season; they played like their jerseys had been set ablaze.

“The way we summoned that energy was just playing together and using each other and feeding off each other’s energy,” Brace said. “When somebody was down, I think there was always someone there to pick them up, and I think that just goes to show you how good of a team we were this year.”

A turnaround jumper from Shaq Walters afforded the Huskies a two-point halftime edge, far narrower than their double-digit halftime margins in their last two games. But that was the only real constant for much of the game: neither team could free itself from the other. For a 23-minute stretch spanning both halves, neither team built a lead greater than five points.

There was plenty for the Huskies to be happy about at the break. Boursiquot, Walters, and Brace all had at least five points and three rebounds, and all of them were shooting efficiently. On the opposite side of the box score, Eli Pemberton decidedly wasn’t; he’d missed eight of his 11 shots amid excellent pressure from Walters and Smith.

But there were also deficiencies that allowed the Pride to close the gap. Roland, the conference’s leading scorer, had shot the ball just three times. Hofstra pulled down six more offensive rebounds than Northeastern and netted 10 second-chance points to the Huskies’ none. Isaac Kante, the lone man in the middle on a team built around guards, snatched 10 rebounds.

The second half began with promise, as Brace knocked down a catch-and-shoot three from the corner. Brace often played with hesitation this season, opting for ball fakes, halfhearted drives, and slow-moving handoffs instead of relying on his elite perimeter shooting. That version of him completely vanished in the CAA Tournament, as he performed with the conviction, determination, and leadership of a senior who didn’t want to play his last college game.

Desure Buie didn’t want to play his last game either. While his scoring buoyed the Pride all night, it was his passing that turned heads, excited fans, and catalyzed the Hofstra run. He began with a quick first step around Walker, which forced Walters to help off Pemberton. Without looking, Buie wrapped a magnificent bounce pass around his head to a now-wide open Pemberton in the corner, who finished off the play to retake the lead.

Just seconds later, Buie snuck up behind Boursiquot and jabbed the ball loose. On the ensuing two-on-one, Walters planned his chase-down block, timing his approach and jump to meet Buie at the rim. But with the level of grace and smarts Buie has shown this year, he wasn’t about to be on anyone’s highlight reel. Instead he added to his own and forced Coen to call timeout.

The Pride looked poised to pull away and the Huskies needed an energy boost. And did Max Boursiquot ever respond.

Boursiquot has been anything and everything the Huskies needed to turn around a season marked by an unrealistic number of close, disappointing losses. He provides shooting, passing, positional versatility, perimeter and post defense, rebounding, and, most importantly, energy. He treats every rebound and loose ball as if it’s his birthright.

Right out of the timeout, Boursiquot, under duress, threw a picture-perfect cross-court pass to Roland for a triple. When Roland missed a three the next trip down, Boursiquot bodied Kante — who outweighs him by about 30 pounds — to snatch the rebound, received a pass at the top of the arc, and beat Kante with a right-to-left crossover and first step so quick that he seemed to teleport from the perimeter to the block. Even when he stumbled and lost the ball on a drive, Boursiquot grabbed it from Kante and threw a spot-on pass to a teammate — all while sitting on the floor.

When Boursiquot’s offense forced Mihalich to call timeout, his message to Kante in the huddle was simple: we need to defend Max Boursiquot because he’s killing us.

That said, Kante had his way offensively with Boursiquot on a handful of possessions. Kante would establish deep position, earning himself either an easy layup off a feed or an offensive rebound when a perimeter shot clanged off the iron. Though Boursiquot enjoyed slightly greater success when fronting Kante to deny him the ball, the Pride forward still posted a preposterous nine points and 15 rebounds. He had as many offensive rebounds (six) as the entire Northeastern team.

But it was not Kante that governed play down the stretch. It was Buie.

Buie had an admirable campaign a year ago, but was considered the third offensive option behind Pemberton and two-time CAA Player of the Year Justin Wright-Foreman. After Boursiquot and Roland each picked up their fourth foul and headed to the bench with 5:23 to play, and with Hofstra’s other top scorers — Pemberton and Jalen Ray — not shooting efficiently, Buie seized his moment.

He began with a tough, drifting, pullup long two, a difficult shot with low value. He made it anyway. As Northeastern’s offense sputtered amid suffocating on-ball pressure from the Pride, Buie stretched the lead to nine with a quick drive, a pump fake to get Guilien Smith in the air, and a strong finish through contact.

With less than two minutes left and the shot clock ticking down on a stagnant Hofstra possession, Buie sized up a top-notch defender in Guilien Smith, threw him a few crossovers, and fired up a contested three when the dribbles failed to earn him a sliver of separation.

Buie wound up on the floor. The ball wound up in the bucket.

Despite Roland’s impressive drifting three a short while later, Buie’s bucket proved the dagger. The Huskies’ second-half fouling had put the Pride in the double bonus, so the Huskies couldn’t get lucky with the Pride missing the front end of one-and-ones. They could only watch as the Pride made every one of their free throws.

The Pride had their first March Madness berth since 2001. They also had their revenge.

“It is awfully sweet,” Mihalich said after the on-court celebration, his undone blue tie still hanging from his neck. “Not just because we won. It’s something to be really proud of. We beat a bunch of champions. The championship went through them.”

“This feeling is everything,” Ray said. “This has been our mission since day one . . . this time we completed our mission.”

“We came up about 20 minutes short,” Coen said. “I thought we played a really strong first half, very competitive game overall, and these guys played their hearts out. But in the end I thought it was a little bit too much Desure Buie.”

With 19 seconds to play and the outcome no longer in doubt, both coaches opted for a platoon swap. While the Hofstra players enjoyed the applause, cheers, and adulation of a jubilant fan section, the Huskies filed off the court and into the waiting embrace of Bill Coen. The moment was especially poignant for Brace, Roland, and Smith, who ended their college careers on a brutal loss.

“I thanked those guys for their unwavering commitment to Northeastern University, to this program, all their hard work and dedication,” Coen said, his voice breaking a bit. “So much goes unseen — the long days in the weight room, long days of training, hours of practice, hours of individual time, hours of watching tape. It’s a commitment, and that group was a special group.

“Bo has played in three CAA Championship games in his four years; he’s made an incredible mark on this program. Jordan has made an incredible mark on this program. And I think if you asked every player on our team, maybe the favorite teammate in the locker room is Guilien Smith. In a short time he’s made an incredible impact in terms of relationships, and ultimately that’s what this whole experience is all about.

“You’d love to win championships each and every year, but . . . what lasts is the mutual respect that you earn by giving your best. And when you do that, whether you win or lose, nobody can take that from you for the rest of your life. These guys will share a bond because they know they gave it up for each other, and that’s the real championship in my mind.”

Men’s Basketball Downs Elon, Advances to CAA Championship

Reminder: Northeastern faces Hofstra in the CAA Championship tonight at 7 PM. Michael Petillo, Matt Neiser, and Milton Posner will have the call from Washington D.C., with covering beginning around 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Matt Neiser

WASHINGTON — No. 6 seed vs. No. 7 seed in a ten-team tournament. It sounds like an early-round matchup that no one cares about because neither team will threaten for the title. Right?

Wrong. It’s actually a semifinal, and both teams beat top-three seeds to get there.

Confused? You must be new around here. Welcome to the CAA. 

Northeastern and Elon, two teams most onlookers probably did not expect to make deep postseason runs, found themselves face-to-face in the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship semifinals on Monday night after beating No. 3 Towson and No. 2 William & Mary, respectively, the night before. 

Despite similar postseason expectations, the teams’ seedings arose for different reasons. For Northeastern, it was mostly a lack of consistency and inability to close out tight games. For Elon, it was more a lack of depth and talent.

Things finally began to make a little more sense in the semifinal, as the deeper, higher-seeded team came out on top for once. Using an early-game run to thrust themselves in front, the Huskies never looked back as they put together a convincing, wire-to-wire 68–60 victory to advance to the championship game for the third year in a row.

Defense has been the Huskies’ calling card all season. They called on it once again on Monday, stifling the Phoenix offense throughout the night. Bill Coen’s squad was locked in, flying all over the court with the boundless ferocity of their canine namesake. It took nearly six minutes for the Phoenix to put a number on the board, by which time Northeastern had tallied nine points.

“Our defensive energy to start the game really set the tone for us, allowing us to get into transition a little bit, and get our confidence going,” remarked Coen.

Elon head coach Mike Schrage had plenty of praise for Coen’s defensive game plan.

“Give them credit. They had a lot of juice and a good game plan, a unique game plan in how they guard our offense [after] not even a one-day prep,” Schrage remarked. “Defensively, he’s a great coach. He did some really good things to exploit our defense.”

The biggest driver of Northeastern’s blistering two-way start? If you’ve followed this team at all the past few weeks, you probably guessed already: Max Boursiquot. By the time Elon scored their first basket, the redshirt junior had already accumulated four points, two rebounds, and two steals. His energy was infectious; his teammates followed suit as they stayed attached to bodies, contested shots, and secured rebounds to limit the Phoenix’s offensive opportunities.

While Boursiquot buoyed the Husky defense, Bolden Brace carried the offensive torch. Brace, who’s no stranger to big games against Elon — he dropped a career-high 40 points against the Phoenix his freshman year — splashed home three triples in a four-minute span partway through the first half to extend the Northeastern lead to 13. The senior added a layup to finish the first 20 minutes with a game-leading 11 points and push the Husky advantage to its peak: 35–15.

Junior Shaquille Walters, who Coen identified as one of the team’s most improved players this season, left his mark on the opening half as well. The London native drilled a shot-clock-beating three from all the way across the pond, then followed it up with a pair of free throws, a steal and gorgeous one-handed feed ahead to Brace for his aforementioned layup, and an assist on a Jordan Roland three-pointer. All told, Walters dished out a team-high four assists in the half.

It’s fortunate for the Huskies that many different players made a significant impact in the first half; Roland, who had a relatively quiet game against Towson the night before, struggled again to start the semifinal. Though he chipped in eight first-half points, it was on an inefficient 3–10 shooting. 

Roland did find other ways to impact the game; he finished the half with two rebounds, three assists, a block, and zero turnovers. However, he was nowhere near his usual lofty standards.

That’s been the biggest question for Northeastern this season: can they stay competitive when Roland isn’t on his game? In this tournament, the answer’s been yes. Boursiquot, Brace, Walters, and Co. have all stepped up, and that’s why the Huskies are playing in the championship game.

Despite chugging along for much of the half, the Huskies’ offense sputtered as they neared halftime. The Phoenix took advantage, mounting a quick 6–0 run that forced a timeout from Coen with 33 seconds remaining. Roland hit a baseline jumper right out of the huddle to bring the Northeastern lead back to 16 points, throwing a splash of water on Elon’s spark.

The Phoenix kept striking that flint in the second stanza, but the Huskies were right there every time to stamp out the nascent flames. After the two sides traded a few baskets to begin the frame, freshman Hunter McIntosh knocked down a triple. Roland responded with a trey of his own, but the Phoenix came right back with an 8–0 run courtesy of a short-range McIntosh jumper and three straight interior makes from Federico Poser to cut the Husky lead to 11. 

All-CAA Second Team swingman Marcus Sheffield finally joined the party after that, pouring in 13 points in a six-minute span as Elon whittled the Northeastern lead to seven with just under three minutes remaining.

“He’s one of the hardest matchups in the league. Luckily we have a guy with Shaquille’s size and length who can kind of match it,” Coen remarked. “He’s quick enough to keep him off the dribble and long enough to get a hand in his shot pocket. That being said, I’m not sure anyone can guard him when he gets going.”

The Huskies were on their heels, but a familiar face burst back onto the scene to save the day.

“I just kind of felt like the game was getting close,” Roland explained. “I just wanted to do my part to help close out the game. I wanted to get a little more aggressive toward the end of the game even though I wasn’t shooting that well.”

Pull-up, triple, good.

Elon got two looks at a three-pointer on the other end, but McIntosh and Sheffield couldn’t connect. Rebound Northeastern.

Crossover, three-ball, money.

There’s the Jordan Roland Husky fans are accustomed to — the one who takes over games.

Elon was relegated to the foul game after that, and the Huskies knocked down enough shots at the charity stripe to close the game out.

Northeastern becomes just the fifth team in CAA history to reach three straight championship games, setting up a rematch of last year’s battle with the Hofstra Pride. The title-game rematch will be just the third since the league’s inception.

Coen started both Sunday and Monday’s press conferences by reiterating how grateful he is to still be playing this late into March, adding, “With everything that’s on the line, an NCAA bid and everything, there’s nothing else like it.”

Brace, a senior, is reveling in the pressure of his final season, remarking, “I’ve finally realized that every game could be my last and it’s made this tournament super awesome and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Hopefully we can get another one tomorrow.”

The Huskies have a tough task ahead of them, as No. 1 seeded Hofstra comes into the game blazing hot. Joe Mihalich’s squad won their previous two tournament games by an average of 16 points, including a 14-point drubbing of an impressive Delaware team in the other semifinal.

Said Coen of the impending matchup, “I think they’ve played with a chip. I think they’ve had great senior leadership. It’s going to be a difficult game for us, but that’s what you want if you’re a competitor. You want to go against the best, you want to try yourself against the best, and that’s what this time is all about.”

CAA Tournament Day Two

Reminder: Northeastern plays Elon in the semifinal of the CAA Tournament today at 8:30 PM EDT. Michael Petillo, Milton Posner, and Matt Neiser will call the game, with coverage beginning about 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — An atypical day for the CAA is, well, typical.

Sunday’s schedule saw four quarterfinal games, all of them bemusing to one degree or another.

Hofstra 61, Drexel 43

This contest was decided, more than anything else, by starkly contrasting star performances.

On one end, Hofstra senior guard Eli Pemberton rebounded from a decent but unremarkable first half to eviscerate the Dragons in the second. He began the half with a three-pointer, a driving layup, and a putback after snatching an offensive rebound in traffic. A three-point halftime lead had swelled to ten, Drexel called timeout to regroup, and Pemberton let out a primal scream as his teammates surrounded him.

Pemberton maintained the energy even as Hofstra built an insurmountable lead, diving for a loose rebound with seven minutes left and his team up 20. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Pride.

Pemberton’s exact opposite was fellow All-CAA Second Team guard Camren Wynter of Drexel, who had his worst college game at the worst possible time. Hofstra’s matchup zone defense made things difficult for the Drexel guards, who were left to pass aimlessly on the perimeter and toss up an array of tightly contested layups that trickled off the rim. Wynter took just eight shots, failed to score, and turned the ball over five times. Zach Walton (17 points and 10 rebounds) and James Butler (14 points and 14 rebounds) were left to shoulder almost all of the burden for a sputtering Drexel offense.

Drexel will be back. Barring transfers, they will return their three top scorers next year. But it is Hofstra that moves on to the next round.

Delaware 79, Charleston 67

It’s a testament to how insane the CAA has been this year that these teams were the fourth and fifth seeds in a ten-team tournament. You’d be forgiven for thinking each was a top-three team. In Grant Riller and Nate Darling, each team had one of the league’s most dynamic, talented scorers. Each boasted a strong, versatile, athletic frontcourt that makes life difficult for their opponents on both sides of the ball.

But ultimately it was Delaware — a team flush with high-powered transfers and homegrown juniors maturing at the perfect time — that looked the elite team.

The Blue Hens built a slim first-half lead largely thanks to two strong points. The first was Darling, who rained down consistent fire on the Cougars from all over the floor, including a couple of difficult one-on-one shots the Cougars couldn’t do much about. The other was a strong defensive game plan similar to the one Northeastern used against Charleston last month: keep Grant Riller out of the paint.

This is a tall order, but the Blue Hens largely succeeded in the first half. Riller tried a number of tough shots around the basket and grew frustrated when his attempts to draw fouls didn’t succeed. After the game, Darling pinned the defensive success on the decision to have Justyn Mutts guard Sam Miller, allowing Delaware’s guards to switch on screens without worrying about the sweet-shooting Miller pick and popping to the three-point line. Riller got hot in the second half, but by then the Blue Hens were in the driver’s seat. Delaware scored 47 second-half points to advance to the next round, where they will face No. 1 Hofstra.

It also marked the last college game for one of the best players the CAA has ever seen. Riller overcame a season-ending injury during his freshman year to make three All-CAA First Teams and score 2,474 points, trailing only David Robinson and Charles Jenkins on the conference’s all-time list.

Elon 68, William & Mary 63

At first it seemed improbable, then mildly unlikely, then reasonable, then likely, then certain.

This year, William & Mary had their best regular season in seven decades. They were stacked and versatile, best exemplified by senior forward Nathan Knight, who was crowned CAA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year two days earlier. By any measure, Knight is one of the best players the conference has ever seen.

And now he’s done.

The Phoenix sledgehammered the Tribe from the opening tip. By the time Tribe head coach Dane Fischer called for time with three-and-a-half minutes gone, Marcus Sheffield II had led Elon to a 13–2 lead.

Though Sheffield would soon drop off and wind up with a merely solid if inefficient stat line, Elon forwards Hunter Woods and Federico Poser picked up the slack. Poser posted his second straight good game, nailing a number of short shots. Woods dropped 20 points and 15 rebounds, playing the entire game and expending so much effort that his sweat-laden jersey was distinguishable in color from his teammates’. He nailed five of seven tries from beyond the arc.

The Tribe eventually fought their way back, buoyed by thousands of fans who traveled the relatively short distance from Williamsburg to Washington D.C. Those fans, easily the loudest of any crowd in the tournament thus far, boosted the Tribe during their steady second-half run.

The energy in the last 10 minutes was on an entirely different level, peaking when Van Vliet’s titanic rejection of a layup led to a momentum-building three by Quinn Blair down the other end. Blair, soon joined by the William & Mary bench, motioned repeatedly to the crowd to get loud, which they happily did.

When Bryce Barnes’ three-pointer cut the lead to two, the crowd was so loud that it drowned out the Elon marching band.

But Elon’s starters took turns hitting shots at opportune moments, and the Tribe would never quite catch them. A No. 7 team that few gave much of a chance is now in the semifinals, where they will play No. 6 Northeastern.

Northeastern 72, Towson 62

For detailed coverage of this game, click here.

Men’s Basketball Topples Towson in CAA Quarterfinal

Reminder: Northeastern plays Elon at 8:30 PM EDT on Monday in the semifinal of the CAA Tournament. Michael Petillo, Milton Posner, and Matt Neiser will be on the call from Washington D.C., with coverage beginning about 15 minutes before tipoff.

By Milton Posner

WASHINGTON — The calling card of Northeastern’s conference season was an infuriating one: they couldn’t figure out how to win close games. They forfeited second-half leads large and small, going long stretches without a bucket and letting other teams pillage them down low with little defensive resistance.

So when the Huskies went up 16 a few minutes into the second half, and when Towson mounted a furious run to trim the lead to four, Husky fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst.

But not tonight.

With their season on the line and the Tigers bearing down on them, the Huskies found another gear, securing a 72–62 win and advancing to the semifinals of the CAA Tournament. They will face No. 7 Elon on Monday night in the first six–seven semifinal matchup since 1993.

The game began in a rather unexpected fashion. Pat Skerry’s Towson squads are known for size, strength, and defensive intensity, all of which manifest in fierce play around the basket. But the Huskies used a number of lateral cuts and slides to earn strong position in the paint, and their ballhandlers ably found the cutters for layups. Max Boursiquot set the tone for this style of play, scoring Northeastern’s three buckets and finishing with 16 points (7–10 FG). Greg Eboigbodin also notched a pair of buckets off penetration and drop-off passes from the Husky guards.

“We knew Towson was going to blitz on ball screens, so we had a game plan to slip me to the mid-post and try to be aggressive,” Boursiquot noted. “My teammates were doing a great job of finding me and I was doing a good job of getting in and out of screens.”

Eventually the Huskies diversified their attack, with Bolden Brace chipping in some outside shooting. His three triples keyed a 15-point, eight-rebound performance that helped to negate several of Towson’s physical strengths.

In an odd scheduling quirk, Northeastern had played Towson a week before in their last regular-season game. Northeastern head coach Bill Coen attributed the Huskies’ three-point loss in that game primarily to Northeastern’s excessive second-half fouling, which give the Tigers a hefty advantage from the charity stripe and landed several key forwards in foul trouble.

Tonight there would be no repeat mistake. The Huskies played brilliant defense throughout the first half, limiting the Tigers to 23 points and fouling just five times. By holding their defensive positions on the low block and maintaining verticality when contesting shots, the Huskies turned the Tigers’ famous physicality against them, drawing offensive fouls that killed any chance Towson had at offensive momentum. It also placed nearly every Towson starter in foul trouble.

“We left our feet a lot when the ball came [inside],” Skerry said. “We were a little bit all over the place.”

After a slow start, Husky point guard Tyson Walker turned on the jets to boost Northeastern’s lead to 10 by halftime. Walker injured his shoulder two weeks ago against Drexel, and until he emerged from the tunnel before the game it was unclear if he would play. But he said the shoulder felt “perfectly fine” and undoubtedly played like it, netting 14 points.

The true oddity for the Huskies was Roland, who went scoreless in the first half amid foul trouble. When he finally stole a pass and slammed home a breakaway dunk with 18:24 to go in the second half, he immediately picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench.

Coen deployed him in short bursts for the rest of the game, playing him for just 10 minutes in the second half when Roland would normally play all or almost all of it. He finished with just eight points after missing most of his shots and committing two turnovers. (The Huskies as a team were extraordinarily disciplined, turning the ball over just seven times to Towson’s 15.)

Northeastern wasn’t missing Roland, though, and after a pair of bailout threes from Walker and Shaq Walters — plus a layup form Guilien Smith — the Husky lead stood at a game-high 16 points.

But Towson finally tightened the screws, switching to a 3-2 zone.

“They were findings guys for a lot of layups . . . we couldn’t handle them off the dribble,” Skerry explained. “We probably played a lot more zone tonight than we’ve played in 20, 25 games, but we needed it to try to get back in the game.”

The zone threw Northeastern’s offense off the rhythm it had established from the opening tip. The Huskies started turning the ball over and forcing up contested long-range shots. Towson, normally the slowest-playing team in the CAA, used every defensive rebound as a chance to push in transition. Between their layups, foul drawing, perimeter shooting, and offensive rebounding, the Tigers went nine possessions without an empty trip. The zone threw Northeastern’s offense off the rhythm it had established from the opening tip. The Huskies started turning the ball over and forcing up contested long-range shots. Towson, normally the slowest-playing team in the CAA, used every defensive rebound as a chance to push in transition. Between their layups, foul drawing, perimeter shooting, and offensive rebounding, the Tigers went nine possessions without an empty trip. The run was keyed by Brian Fobbs — who finished with 21 points to lead all scorers — as well as Nakye Sanders and Dennis Tunstall, who each scored nine without missing a shot.

Combined with their rediscovered defensive restraint — they didn’t commit a foul for the first ten minutes of the second half — it allowed the Tigers to seize the momentum, with a resounding rejection by Sixth Man of the Year Nicolas Timberlake prompting a Jakigh Dottin layup that trimmed the lead to four.

But with Towson bearing down on them like a bowling ball, the Huskies refused to fall. Brace hit a quick three off a baseline inbounds to stem the tide, then Boursiquot threw down an basket-shaking jam off a slick pick-and-roll feed from Walker.

But the final dagger would come with a minute left when Walker stole an errant dribble and flew downcourt. With Towson big man Nakye Sanders bearing down on him, Walker tossed a pass to Walters — the man who filled in for him at point guard last week — who flushed home a clean one-handed dunk to seal the game and end Towson’s season.

The Tigers truly had a commendable year, leaping several spots in the conference standings after posting one of the largest record improvements of any team in the country. But this is the CAA, where absurdity is the new normal and calling a team an underdog proves only that you’re about to lose the money you bet against them.

The Huskies’ next opponent is a perfect example of that. After needing last-second heroics from Marcus Sheffield just to squeak by the worst team in the conference, No. 7 Elon scrapped their way to a win over No. 2 William & Mary and Nathan Knight, their newly crowned Player of the Year. Northeastern and Elon will square off at 8:30, and god only knows what happens then.

“We’re really, really excited to still be playing basketball in March,” Coen said with a wide smile. “It’s the greatest month of the year, and if you’re involved at all — as a player, as a fan, as a coach — the excitement around these tournaments is just unbelievable.”