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.
Not one week after a surprising, inspiring, rejuvenating run
to the CAA Championship game, Northeastern men’s basketball found itself in
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
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
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.
BOSTON — At the close of CAA action on Saturday, the Northeastern Huskies’ average margin of victory in conference play rested at 7.7 points, nearly three points better than the next-best team. And yet they sat tied for fifth, owners of a 5–4 conference record, an anomaly possible only because each one of their losses has been by two points.
Four losses. Three of them in front of their home crowd. Two
of them on last-second game-winners. Eight combined points.
The Huskies appeared to be in the driver’s seat for most of
Saturday’s tilt against the Delaware Blue Hens. They took a 13-point lead into
halftime, buoyed by Jordan Roland’s 14 points. Max Boursiquot and Myles
Franklin each contributed eight points without missing a shot.
Northeastern picked up where it left off Thursday night against Drexel. Players moved constantly and the ball didn’t sit in one person’s hands for too long. Boursiquot, Bolden Brace, and Greg Eboigbodin sprung ballhandlers loose on screens; if the screens didn’t force switches or create separation, they would spread out and re-screen the ball. Roland earned a number of open perimeter looks by dashing around staggered pindown screens. The offense was efficient, precise, and energetic.
On defense, Boursiquot once again held fast against larger matchups,
in this case 6’10” Villanova transfer Dylan Painter and 6’7” standout Justyn
Mutts. The Huskies fought through and around screens, rotated swiftly, and swiped
errant or lazy passes. Transfer guard Nate Darling, who nearly kept pace with
Jordan Roland’s scoring in non-conference play, registered just six points on
The first half mirrored Thursday’s game against Drexel; the second mirrored last week’s game at UNCW. Once again, a 16-point second-half lead steadily evaporated. Once again, Northeastern allowed the opponents’ guards easy access to the lane. Once again, the game ended in a 76–74 Husky loss.
“We just couldn’t get a stop in the second half,” Northeastern
head coach Bill Coen remarked. “We just came out really, really flat . . . They
made a couple shots, got their energy up, and decided to play attack
On one level it was a team problem. Northeastern’s rotations
weren’t as crisp in the second half as they’d been in the first, and sometimes
close contests didn’t happen even when the rotations did. Perimeter defenders
had a harder time keeping their assignments in front of them. The Blue Hens
tried 12 second-half two-pointers and nailed 11 of them.
But the biggest post-halftime change was Darling, who poured
in 28 points and missed just three shots all half. He established his perimeter
shooting and his assertive driving simultaneously, leaving the Huskies wondering
which way to force him. He finished with a game-high 34 points — his best total
since November 10 — and catalyzed the Blue Hens’ 47-point second half.
Just like the UNCW game, the meltdown didn’t happen all at
once. In the absence of speedy transition basketball (the squads combined for
just 13 fastbreak points) or numerous turnovers, the lead shifted gradually.
The Huskies also suffered from factors outside their
control. Junior forward Shaq Walters was not present at Matthews Arena, which Coen
attributed to a “violent stomach bug.”
“Just really, really bad timing for Shaq . . . it was a day
that we could really use him,” Coen noted. “With his perimeter defense he would
have been the perfect guy in this role.”
It was a significant loss for a Northeastern frontcourt
already missing junior forward Tomas Murphy, who has been sidelined for more
than two months with an ankle injury.
“Tomas hasn’t returned to practice yet,” Coen confirmed. “I’m
not really sure where it’s gonna go but he hasn’t been healthy enough to get
back and practice . . . The deeper it gets into the season I’m less hopeful.”
All the challenges aside, the Huskies had a chance to pull
out a victory. Down two points with the shot clock turned off, they planned to
feed Roland for their last shot, with an inside option for Boursiquot as well.
But with 10 seconds left, Tyson Walker found himself with the ball out top,
guarded by the larger, slower Jacob Cushing. Walker started his drive, but lost
his balance on a crossover, fell, and couldn’t bet Cushing’s dive for the ball.
Roland finished with 27 points and is averaging 30 points
per game across the team’s last five contests. Boursiquot chipped in a
career-high 18 points, adding six rebounds and immeasurable defensive presence
in the first half. Besides Darling, the only Blue Hen with a great stat line
was junior guard Kevin Anderson, who notched an efficient 12 points, seven
rebounds, and six assists.
The Huskies have shown brilliance at times in non-conference
play, but the brilliance has been dulled by poor execution down the stretches
of close games. They will try to get back on track Thursday night at William
& Mary, the team that dealt them the first of their four two-point losses.
Milton Posner and Adam Doucette will call the game, with coverage beginning at
6:45 PM EST.
BOSTON — On December 31, 13 hours before the clock hit midnight and the year reset, Tyson Walker was named CAA Rookie of the Week for the third time this season; no other player has won it more than once. The main reason the league cited was his scoring; Walker notched a combined 32 points in the Huskies’ double-digit wins over Towson and James Madison on Saturday and Monday.
But apparently three awards weren’t enough. Tyson Walker
wants a fourth.
Think 32 points in two games isn’t impressive? How about 32
in one game? Walker’s performance — remarkable for anyone but astonishing for a
freshman — buoyed Northeastern throughout a 77–68 victory over the Phoenix. It
was the fourth straight win for Northeastern (9–6) and their third straight to
begin conference play.
“He’s got the ability to score the ball. He’s got the
ability to distribute the ball,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “He’s
got great feel, he’s got great confidence, and he’s got great presence.
“The hardest position in college basketball to transition
into is the point guard position. You’re growing into your own game, trying to
get a feel for how the coaches would like you to play, get a feel for how your
teammates play. But Tyson has been unbelievable. It’s been a seamless
transition to the position.”
Much of the offensive success that Walker and the Huskies
found could be attributed to Elon’s strategy of — or, at the very least, resignation
to — switching on Northeastern’s ball screens.
“When they kept switching,” Walker remarked, “and it was a
mismatch where the big man’s guarding me, I recognize that I’m pretty fast and
it’s hard to guard me.”
“It gets teams to slow down their pace,” Coen added. “Tyson’s
a hard guy to switch on. A lot of teams have tried it, but he’s able — with his
quickness — to get to the rim and use his shooting ability to create shots from
In case his driving layups weren’t sufficient, Walker also
splashed home four of his seven three-point attempts, raising his season three-point
mark to a blazing 46 percent.
Walker was aided by Northeastern’s constant offensive activity.
Players moved well without the ball, cutting to the basket and popping into
open perimeter space. When a player completed an action, be it a dribble, pass,
or screen, he immediately looked for the next one. Particularly essential was 6’5”
Max Boursiquot, who started his fifth consecutive game as an undersized center.
His effort has boosted the Huskies’ inside presence and floor balance in the
absence of injured forward Tomas Murphy, who Coen confirmed has not been
cleared to return to practice.
“When we gang-rebound it really helps our transition game,”
Coen explained. “Max can really run the floor; he can rebound and run and push
the ball. So it makes us a little bit more deadly in transition. Obviously we
give away a little bit of size and girth down underneath, but Max is a tough,
physical competitor and he’s battled through that.”
Elon jumped out to a 10–2 lead before Northeastern’s
shooters found their rhythm. The teams traded buckets — yielding eight lead
changes and four ties — until Walker got hot, with Elon’s last lead of the
evening coming with 7:21 to play in the first half.
Walker had 14 points at halftime, then dropped another eight
in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the second half. When Walker went to the
bench and the Phoenix made a run, Jordan Roland was there to slow them down
with a series of midrange jumpers. Roland finished with 17 points and four
But when Elon closed the gap down the stretch, even trimming
the lead to two points three separate times in the game’s waning minutes, it
was Walker who held them at bay.
The Phoenix (4–11, 0–2 CAA), who have struggled all year
after graduating or losing last year’s top five scorers, were led by freshman
guard Hunter McIntosh and grad transfer guard Marcus Sheffield II. Both scored
17 points, though McIntosh was markedly more efficient, making six of his 11
shots and four of his six triples. Freshman guard Hunter Woods contributed 12
points and eight assists.
The Huskies were extremely disciplined, committing a season-low
five turnovers and scoring 15 points off 11 Elon giveaways; nine of the 11 came
off Northeastern steals. Though Walker’s superhuman scoring allowed the Huskies
to weather it, they did lose the rebounding battle, 37–24, to a team that
entered the game with the conference’s worst rebounding margin. The Phoenix pulled
down nine offensive rebounds to the Huskies’ two and scored 14 second-chance
points to the Huskies’ three. Things worked out against Elon, but such a
deficit could prove more costly against a great rebounding team like William
Northeastern closed the 2019 calendar year with a win on
Monday at James Madison, then opened 2020 with a win at home. After a sporadic
start to the season leading to a 6–6 record in non-conference play, the Huskies
appear to have hit their stride.
“We’ve gained valuable experience,” Coen observed. “Tyson’s
not the same player he was [in the season opener] at BU. He’s grown. Shaq had a
whole year off; now he’s 15 games into it and getting a little bit of rhythm.
Max was out with an injury for a year; he’s getting a rhythm. Greg was out for
a whole year. It takes time to blend in those new pieces.”
The Huskies will remain in Boston awaiting the William &
Mary Tribe, who will visit Matthews Arena on Saturday afternoon. WRBB will call
the game, with coverage beginning at 3:45 EST. It will be the Huskies’ first
major test in conference play, but the Huskies are up to the challenge,
especially if Walker can carry Thursday night’s momentum into Saturday’s
“We’ve had a lot of really good point guards here,” Coen
said. “I think Tyson, when everything’s said and done, will be one of the best
ones we’ve had.”
With the CAA’s conference slate beginning today, WRBB examined the non-conference performances of all 10 CAA teams and ranked them from worst to best. The rankings are based on each team’s record and strength of schedule, with occasional deviations if a deep dive into a team’s schedule, margins of victory, or statistics warranted one.
CAA teams played 125 non-conference games and won 68 for a winning
percentage of .544. Their average opponent, as determined by KenPom’s strength
of schedule metric, was very slightly below the Division I average.
They also spent a sizeable chunk of the last six weeks bludgeoning Division II and III squads. Eight CAA teams won a game by 40 or more points, with three teams winning by 60 or more. The largest margin of victory went to the Towson Tigers, who flattened Division III Bryn Athyn by 69 points. Only Northeastern’s biggest blowout — a 57-point laugher against Holy Cross— came against a Division I team.
Though a comment or prediction is given for each team’s
upcoming schedule, the rankings reflect only how the teams performed in their
completed non-conference games. Each section is prefaced with the team’s record,
strength of schedule rank (compared to other CAA teams), head coach, and, just
for kicks, the player with the best name along with an explanation for why.
With that said . . .
#10: Elon Phoenix
Non-Conference Record: 4–9
Strength of Schedule Rank: Fourth
Head Coach: Mike Schrage (first season)
Best Player Name: Federico Poser — fun to say whether you
pronounce it correctly or not
This is not to say that Elon had no bright spots in the season’s first six weeks. Stanford grad transfer Marcus Sheffield emerged as a premier scorer, posting 17 points per game to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
Freshmen Hunter Woods and Hunter McIntosh were also pleasant
surprises for a team that lost its top five scorers from last year. Both are
averaging double figures in scoring and shooting more than 40 percent form
downtown. Woods also leads the team in rebounding.
The Phoenix even managed to hang with No. 5 UNC for the
first 20 minutes of their November 20 matchup, despite the Tar Heels entering
as 30 ½-point favorites. Though UNC pulled away at the start of the second
half, the Phoenix faithful could take some small comfort in Sheffield’s poster
slam over former CAA standout Justin Pierce.
But the good news ends there for Elon. The UNC loss was one piece
of a six-game losing streak. Of their four non-conference wins, two came
against Division II teams, one against a Division III squad, and one against a Kennesaw
State club ranked 342 out of 353 Division I teams.
The Phoenix are last in the CAA in offense and scoring
margin, and are the only squad shooting below 40 percent from the floor. They
are last in offensive rebounds and rebounding margin. Their sole saving grace
is their three-point shooting; they are the only CAA club making more than 10
threes per game and are fourth in three-point percentage. But even then there
is a downside; they are worst in the conference at defending the three.
The emergence of Woods and McIntosh as scoring threats is welcome news for first-year coach Mike Schrage. But Elon’s lack of depth and veteran talent is evident. Given that the team finished with the CAA’s worst non-conference record despite multiple players exceeding expectations, it’s hard to imagine they can pose a threat during conference play.
#9: UNCW Seahawks
Non-Conference Record: 5–8
Strength of Schedule Rank: Third
Head Coach: C.B. McGrath (third season)
Best Player Name: Brian Tolefree — you don’t have to pay for
If the William & Mary Tribe were the CAA program most ravaged in the offseason — four of their top five scorers fled to other schools after the dismissal of longtime head coach Tony Shaver — then UNCW was the program most ravaged in non-conference play.
Though the Seahawks weren’t expected to shine much after the
graduation of monster forward Devontae Cacok and the transfer of junior
standout Jeantal Cylla, they at least had a few exciting pieces to fuel coach
C.B. McGrath’s up-tempo offense.
The first domino to fall was sharpshooting junior guard and
leading returning scorer Ty Gadsden, who began the season sidelined by injury,
played December 7 against Charlotte, and hasn’t played since. The team confirmed
he is out indefinitely, indicating that he may return sometime this season. The
same cannot be said for fellow junior guard Jay Estimé, who injured his knee,
went under the knife, and will miss the rest of the season. The injuries, when
combined with the departure of grad transfer Carter Skaggs in November, gutted
a Seahawks’ roster struggling for experience (the Seahawks are one of seven Division
I teams without a senior).
But the last and largest domino fell after the team’s
non-conference closer against Vanderbilt on December 21, when sophomore point
guard Kai Toews informed McGrath and his staff that he is leaving the program. McGrath
called the announcement a “total surprise.” The team said Toews planned to pursue
a professional basketball career in his native Japan; Toews announced on
Twitter that he was “thinking of going on a professional path or transferring.”
Toews said previously that he would like to compete for the Japanese national
team at the FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Though he was averaging just five points, four rebounds, and
three assists this year, Toews was a crucial component of the team’s future. Although
he wasn’t a major scoring threat, he was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team last
year after breaking the conference record with 253 assists.
In their stead, sophomore guard Jaylen Sims has picked up
some slack, leading the team in points (15) and rebounds (6) per game while
shooting a CAA-best 47 percent from behind the arc.
Sophomore forward Martin Linssen has also chipped in,
logging 10 points and four rebounds per game in his first season with the
Seahawks after transferring from Valparaiso. But the biggest surprise has been
six-foot freshman guard Shykeim Phillips, who is averaging nine points per
contest on 49 percent shooting. Though he isn’t scoring from the perimeter, he
uses a smorgasbord of quick hesitations, jukes, and handles to dart to the
basket for layups. Phillips began the season off the bench, but earned a
starting spot several weeks in.
But, like Elon’s, most of UNCW’s five wins have come against
Division III teams, with Campbell and FIU as the only DI victories. The four
departures and injuries are reflected in the CAA-worst five-game losing streak
they take into conference play. Their typically high-octane offense keeps their
scoring, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and assists in the CAA’s
top five, but their field goal, three-point, and scoring defense all rank
Even if Ty Gadsden returns for a good chunk of conference play, enough damage has been done to put the Seahawks in contention with the Phoenix for the CAA’s bottom spot.
#8: Drexel Dragons
Non-Conference Record: 7–6
Strength of Schedule Rank: Sixth
Head Coach: Zach Spiker (fourth season)
Best Player Name: Coletrane Washington — greatest jazz name
of all time
Like Elon and UNCW, Drexel needed to replace a mix of graduates (Trevor John, Troy Harper) and transfers (Alihan Demir). The three combined to average more than half of the team’s points last season.
Unlike Elon and UNCW, Drexel has maintained enough healthy
talent to post a winning record in non-conference play.
The biggest component behind the Dragons’ success has been
the miraculous progression of senior guard/forward Zach Walton, who jumped to
Drexel from Edmonds Community College (not in the NCAA) and played just seven
games last year before an injury ended his season. Walton had a breakout night in
the team’s third game against Abilene Christian, dropping 22 points and sinking
the game-winning three after reigning CAA Rookie of the Year Camren Wynter was
denied the ball.
Ten days later, he dropped a season-high 32 points in a win
over Bryant. Though Walton’s 28 percent clip from downtown leaves much to be
desired, his 13 points per game are keying a Drexel offense badly in need of
scoring punch. His four boards per night and a steady series of highlights aren’t
too shabby either.
Wynter and James Butler sit right behind Walton in the
scoring column with 12 points per game. Both lead the CAA in a key category,
Butler in rebounds (11.5 a game) and Wynter in assists (5.8). Butler’s inside
presence is by far the biggest reason for Drexel’s strong rebounding margin,
the third-best in the CAA.
But Drexel lacks both an elite scorer and a deep, balanced roster of offensive options, which will likely spell trouble in conference play. Their offense and defense both ranked eighth in non-conference play, and though their assist and three-point defense stats led the conference, they need to find another gear to exceed preseason expectations. They also need to figure out how to win away from home; they won five of their six contests in Philadelphia but lost all five road games.
#7: Northeastern Huskies
Non-Conference Record: 6–6
Strength of Schedule Rank: Eighth
Head Coach: Bill Coen (14th season)
Best Player Name: Greg Eboigbodin — save for the word “boing,”
there’s no better way to describe the motion and feel of a trampoline
It’s surprising to see the Huskies this far down on the list, especially given that their scoring margin ranked third in the conference. But a .500 record and the third-weakest strength of schedule leaves them here.
That said, their bright spot was brighter than anyone else’s.
In the season’s first few games, senior guard Jordan Roland torched every
defense he saw, leading the nation in scoring and forcing his name into
national conversations, award watchlists, and ESPN segments. He infuriated
defenses with a flurry of difficult lefty floaters and overwhelmed them with
twisting, drifting, contested threes from distances where no one in their right
mind would think to shoot a basketball.
Roland’s best game came in an 84–79 win against Harvard on
November 8. He scored 11 points in the game’s first three minutes en route to a
42-point firestorm that shattered the single-game school record held by Husky
legends J.J. Barea and Reggie Lewis.
Though he tailed off somewhat as the season progressed, his
22.4 points per game still lead the CAA and rank seventh in the nation. His marks
of 51 percent from the floor, 43 percent from three, and 93 percent from the
foul line are all preposterous, and rank as the conference’s fourth-best, second-best,
and best, respectively. He is also second in the conference in minutes per game
(37.3) and has established himself as the clear favorite for CAA Player of the
Year ahead of Delaware’s Nate Darling and Charleston’s Grant Riller.
Tyson Walker, Max Boursiquot, and Shaq Walters have stepped
up at various times, giving hope that the Husky offense can become more
balanced. Walker in particular has exceeded expectations, starting every game and
taking the offensive keys from graduating guard Vasa Pusica.
But the consistency hasn’t been there. Senior guard/forward
Bolden Brace, who was expected to be the team’s second scoring option behind
Roland, has shot efficiently but hasn’t scored in volume, logging double
figures in just four of the team’s 12 games. Without reliable scoring from him,
Northeastern will be hard-pressed to remain a top-three CAA team.
The team also suffered from injuries to big men; 6’8” Tomas
Murphy has missed the last eight games with an ankle injury and 6’10” Greg
Eboigbodin has missed the last two. Though there have been some fine
performances in their stead — namely back-to-back double-doubles by 6’5”
utility man Max Boursiquot — the lack of size has presented problems for the
Huskies. Though their CAA-worst rebounding numbers are partially attributable
to their having the slowest pace in the conference, their challenges in
crashing the boards without Murphy and Eboigbodin have often hampered their
ability to build and maintain momentum in games.
The Huskies excelled from the outside, nailing a CAA-best 41
percent of their three-pointers, with their three most frequent perimeter
shooters all shooting between 42 and 44 percent. They also sank 82 percent of
their free throws, easily the best mark in the conference. But they allow the CAA’s
highest field goal percentage, in large part due to the shortcomings of their
The Huskies’ non-conference slate left plenty for coach Bill Coen to be optimistic about. But offensive inconsistency, namely from players not named Jordan Roland, left the Huskies with a .500 record when they could have fared much better.
#6: Towson Tigers
Non-Conference Record: 6–6
Strength of Schedule Rank: Second
Head Coach: Pat Skerry (ninth season)
Best Player Name: Demetrius Mims — m’s in all the right
Last year, Towson struggled mightily, winning less than a third of their games while trying to incorporate 11 new players. This year, with 90 percent of their scoring and 86 percent of their rebounding from last year returning, the Tigers have a much better chance to develop.
Towson finished with the same 6–6 record as Northeastern,
but Towson had a higher strength of schedule. Oddly enough, their most
encouraging moment was a loss. Despite entering a mid-November game against the
No. 15 Florida Gators as 18 ½-point underdogs, the Tigers kept the game close
throughout. The clubs were tied with 80 seconds left before Florida salvaged a
As expected, senior guard Brian Fobbs has keyed the Towson
attack, averaging 17 points and five boards a night. However, his relatively
low efficiency marks (41 percent from the field, 29 percent from three) will
have to rise before he can join the elite tier of CAA scorers.
Sophomore guard Allen Betrand and senior forwards Nakye
Sanders and Dennis Tunstall have continued their solid offensive production
from last year. But all three will need to up their production before Towson
can take the next step.
The Tigers’ reliably scrappy, energetic defense has shown up
this year; they allow a CAA-best 65.4 points per game and boast the second-best
rebounding margin and third-best steal total. But they don’t rank near the top
of the conference in any meaningful offensive category and only Fobbs qualifies
as any sort of offensive standout.
Their excellent defense can only take them so far, and if Towson wishes to capitalize on the senior seasons of Fobbs, Tunstall, and Sanders, the entire team needs to boost its scoring.
#5: Charleston Cougars
Non-Conference Record: 6–6
Strength of Schedule Rank: First
Head Coach: Earl Grant (sixth season)
Best Player Name: Zep Jasper — plenty of powerful plosives
Charleston is a general consensus top-three CAA team that finished 6–6 in non-conference play. At first glance, this might lead to comparisons with Northeastern, but Charleston had a decidedly superior non-conference slate.
Though they suffered blowout defeats at the hands of
Oklahoma State and Central Florida, their other four losses were by
single-digit margins to good teams: Central Florida again, Wake Forest,
Richmond, and VCU. The Cougars fought through the most difficult non-conference
schedule of any CAA team and emerged with plenty to be happy about.
They are led by senior guard and CAA Preseason Player of the
Year Grant Riller, who is logging 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists per
night. His scoring mark is good for third in the CAA (20th in the
nation) and his field goal and free throw percentages are both top five in the
conference. His scoring is coming in the same way it did last year: subpar
three-point shooting and a sky-high percentage around the rim.
On November 29, Riller keyed a win over Providence and
passed former teammate Jarrell Brantley for third on the school’s all-time
scoring list. Two weeks later, he notched his 2,000th collegiate point.
That said, there is room for Riller to improve, particularly
regarding his 26 percent mark from three-point land. He’s had a strong season,
but at his best he is the conference’s greatest scorer and arguably its top
player overall. He hasn’t hit his ceiling yet.
The Cougars lack a clear second scoring option behind
Riller, but junior guard Brevin Galloway and senior forwards Jaylen McManus and
Sam Miller have all assumed larger roles in the offense. Miller in particular
has stood out, notching seven points and seven rebounds per contest thanks in
part to moderately efficient perimeter shooting.
The Cougars boast a strong defense, led by a combined four
steals per game from Riller and Galloway. Though their CAA-worst perimeter shooting
badly warrants improvement, many of their other low ranks in team stats
compared to other CAA squads can be explained away by their slow pace of play
and the tough competition they’ve faced so far.
Their record isn’t fantastic, and there is room for improvement up and down the roster. But don’t be fooled; this Cougars team is still dangerous.
#4: James Madison Dukes
Non-Conference Record: 7–4
Strength of Schedule Rank: Seventh
Head Coach: Louis Rowe (third season)
Best Player Name: Michael Christmas — because Christmas time
At the outset of the season, James Madison appeared poised to snap a streak of three consecutive losing seasons, and they haven’t disappointed so far.
Leading the way is junior guard Matt Lewis, who ranks fifth
in the conference in points (18), rebounds (7), and minutes (35) per game, and
adds a third-best five assists per game as well. He’s taken the lead on a team
with no seniors in the regular rotation.
His backcourt partner and fellow junior Darius Banks is
faring almost as well, averaging 14 points (on 41 percent from downtown) and
five boards a night. He has also continued his thievery from last year, swiping
the ball 1.6 times per contest.
And if that wasn’t enough junior talent, try 6’8”, 250-pound
junior forward Dwight Wilson, who missed the first four games of the season but
has averaged a double-double since. Or junior forward Zach Jacobs, who chips in
eight points and six boards a game.
But the performance nobody saw coming, especially with so
many returning offensive centerpieces, is freshman forward Michael Christmas,
who is putting up nine points and six rebounds per game, shooting a comical 46
percent from three on decent volume, and has established himself as a one-man
The Dukes’ team stats require a bit of context to decipher.
At first glance, their counting stats and percentage stats appear to tell
opposing stories. This is explained by the team’s pace of play, easily the
fastest in the conference. The Dukes have the 26th-fastest pace out
of 353 Division I teams; the next closest CAA team is Hofstra, nearly 100 spots
down the list.
More possessions mean that the Dukes score more and give up
more points, skewing their counting stats. The percentage stats tell a more accurate
story. James Madison is eighth in the CAA in field goal and three-point
percentage; save for Banks and Christmas, the regular three-point shooters are
converting less than a third of their tries. They also struggled from the
charity stripe, making just 65 percent of their free throws.
The Dukes shone on defense, limiting opponents to the lowest
field goal percentage and second-lowest three-point percentage of any CAA team.
They also led the conference in blocks.
The Dukes’ offense has a high ceiling and is likely to improve as the season progresses. But it is their defense that has turned heads, going from a middle-of-the-pack unit last year to — along with Towson — the conference’s best so far this year. If they can overcome the offensive hole left by the graduation of Stuckey Mosley, the Dukes can join the CAA’s top tier.
#3: Hofstra Pride
Non-Conference Record: 9–4
Strength of Schedule Rank: Tenth
Head Coach: Joe Mihalich (seventh season)
Best Player Name: Stafford Trueheart — no idea why he’s playing
basketball instead of commanding the English army in the 12th
Hofstra begin their non-conference schedule with a mandate (a first-place finish in the CAA Preseason Poll) and the question of how to replace the offense of graduating guard Justin Wright-Foreman, the two-time reigning CAA Player of the Year and arguably the best scorer the conference has seen in years?
But, as it turns out, you can lose Wright-Foreman and still
have the best and deepest backcourt in the conference. It begins with a pair of
seniors: Eli Pemberton and Desure Buie.
The pair have remarkably similar numbers. Pemberton averages
17.1 points per game, good for sixth in the conference; Buie’s 16.6 points rank
eighth. Pemberton is third in minutes per game with 35.6; Buie is right behind
him at 35.5. Pemberton averages six rebounds per contest; Buie notches six assists,
good for second in the conference. Buie has also retained the defensive
brilliance that won him CAA Defensive Player of the Year last year; he leads
the conference with 2.7 steals a night.
Junior guards Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn round out the backcourt,
averaging a combined 18 points and 11 rebounds. Coburn’s seven rebounds per
contest lead the team, while Ray has been the most efficient scorer among the Hofstra
guards, shooting 41 percent from downtown.
Sophomore forward/center Isaac Kante, who sat out last
season after transferring from Georgia, has established himself on a squad short
on rebounding and defensive presence down low. He is averaging nine points on
61 percent shooting to go along with seven rebounds.
The Pride also scored the biggest win of any CAA team so far
this season. On November 21, they walked into Pauley Pavilion and toppled UCLA.
Keyed by 29 points from Buie and 27 from Ray, Hofstra came
back from a 13-point first-half deficit to take the game 88–78. It was the
Bruins’ first loss of the year and one of the biggest wins in program history
The Pride are the best-scoring offense in the CAA so far,
though their numbers are inflated by their relatively fast pace of play and
their strength of schedule, which was the weakest of any CAA team. Their four
main guards are all among the conference’s ten best free throw shooters, with
Buie’s 91 percent second only to Northeastern’s Jordan Roland. The team as a
whole knocks down 78 percent of their foul shots, second only to Northeastern’s
82 percent. The Pride have the most steals, most offensive rebounds, and best
assist-to-turnover ratio of any CAA team.
Hofstra’s biggest causes for concern inside depth (as
evidenced by their middle-of-the-pack rebounding numbers) and efficiency — they
ranked seventh in field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
The Pride enter conference play riding a three-game winning streak. They have a quartet of guards that can outpace anyone. If they can find the efficiency and inside play buttons, they will be an imposing bunch.
#2: William & Mary Tribe
Non-Conference Record: 8–5
Strength of Schedule Rank: Fifth
Head Coach: Dane Fischer (first season)
Best Player Name: Thatcher Stone — if people were once again
named after their professions, you’d hire him to build you a sturdy house
This one was a surprise.
A month after their CAA Tournament exit last season, the
Tribe looked like a bomb had hit them. Tony Shaver, their coach of 16 years, had
been fired. Justin Pierce, Matt Milon, Chase Audige, and LJ Owens — four of the
team’s five leading scorers who had a combined eight years of eligibility
remaining — had transferred. Leading scorer Nathan Knight was thinking about
bailing on his senior season and declaring for the NBA draft.
New head coach Dane Fischer walked into this mess and pulled
everything together. The Tribe posted the CAA’s fourth-best winning percentage
in non-conference play; the three teams ahead of them had considerably weaker
It begins, as any William & Mary conversation inevitably
does, with Knight. When he decided to return for his senior season, the Tribe
retained the conference’s best big man and, along with Charleston’s Grant
Riller, a solid candidate for Player of the Year. He hasn’t disappointed,
posting nightly averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds, with his 56 percent mark
from the field and 1.5 blocks per game leading the conference. Along with
Northeastern’s Jordan Roland, Knight was named to the watchlist for the Oscar
Robertson Trophy, given annually to college basketball’s best player.
As spectacular as Knight has been, his elite play was
expected. What wasn’t as expected was the establishment of senior center Andy
Van Vliet as an elite two-way player. The seven-foot Wisconsin transfer is
averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds a night, the latter tied with the 6’10” Knight
for second-best in the conference. His is sixth in the conference in field goal
percentage and blocks.
Good shooters are not hard to come by in the CAA; good
shooters who are seven feet tall are rare. Both Knight and Van Vliet can space
the floor, nailing 35 and 39 percent of their threes, respectively. This allows
Fischer to play a twin towers lineup without sacrificing perimeter shooting,
creating matchup and switching nightmares even for well-balanced defenses.
The Tribe also have benefitted from a pair of guards: grad
transfer Bryce Barnes and junior Luke Loewe. Barnes is averaging eight points,
three rebounds, and four assists a night in his first and only season for the
Tribe after three years playing for Milwaukee. Loewe has taken a gigantic step
forward, upping his production and efficiency across the board. He’s averaging
11 points a night on a hyper-efficient 53 percent shooting from the floor and
47 percent from downtown.
Sophomore guard Thornton Scott has missed nine straight games
with a lower leg injury. In the four games he played — all of which the Tribe
won — he showed tremendous progress from last year, averaging 13 points, five
rebounds, and four assists with an absurd 52 percent clip from downtown. If he
returns soon, it will add another weapon to an already well-stocked arsenal.
The Tribe won their first four games out of the gate, three
of which came on the road. One of those wins came against Wofford, courtesy of
a game-winning layup by Barnes. Before Barnes’s shot dropped, Wofford had won
its last 17 home games in a row.
Fischer has picked up his predecessor’s tendency for a
relatively even distribution of minutes. Van Vliet leads the team with just 30
per game, trailed closely by Knight and Loewe. It begs the question of what
happens if Fischer decides to up their minutes, leaving opponents to face his
twin towers for longer stretches.
William & Mary’s team stats reveal no obvious weaknesses
so far. Their scoring, assist rate, points allowed, margin of victory, field
goal percentage, field goal defense, and three-point percentage all fall
between third and fifth. They rank second in defensive rebounds and blocks, and
first in rebounding margin. Even their bottom-half offensive rebounding and
three-point defense aren’t far off from respectable levels.
Entering the season, the Tribe were a question mark, with Knight projected to dominate but nothing else assured. With non-conference play complete, the Tribe have joined the CAA’s top tier and have as good a shot at the CAA title as anyone.
#1: Delaware Blue Hens
Non-Conference Record: 10–3
Strength of Schedule Rank: Ninth
Head Coach: Martin Inglesby (fourth season)
Best Player Name: Nate Darling — any Delaware fans who think
he’s cute have an easy poster idea waiting for them
December 3, 2019. Hofstra, the winner of the CAA Preseason Poll, was 6–3. Northeastern, the defending conference champion, was 4–4.
The Delaware Blue Hens, who most preseason observers had
placed outside the CAA’s top tier, were undefeated, winners of nine straight
games. And though they fell to earth by losing three of their next four to
close non-conference play, the statement had been made: Delaware is the team to
beat in the CAA.
Although many had high expectations for junior guard and UAB
transfer Nate Darling, he has outplayed those expectations and then some. His
21.4 points per game are second only to Northeastern’s Jordan Roland and rank
16th in the nation. He has played more minutes and made more threes
than anyone in the CAA, and his stellar three-point percentage of 42 ranks
third. Throw in his four rebounds and three assists per contest, and Delaware has
the best CAA transfer since Northeastern nabbed Vasa Pusica from San Diego.
But because one excellent transfer isn’t enough, the Blue
Hens have another: sophomore forward Justyn Mutts. In his first season with
Delaware after leaving High Point, Mutts is logging 14 points per game on 53
percent shooting (second in the conference to Nathan Knight) and 9.6 rebounds
(fourth in the conference). As if that weren’t enough, his highlights are
Now, for the returning play . . . what? They have another transfer?
He’s from Villanova? He’s 6’10”? He dropped 19 points in his Delaware debut?
Sure, why not? This might as well happen.
Dylan Painter is a midseason transfer, so he only recently
became eligible, playing in Delaware’s final two non-conference games. The Blue
Hens won nine games in a row, then added a major piece to compliment Mutts down
And finally we turn our attention to returning junior guards
Ryan Allen and Kevin Anderson. Both have long been ticketed for CAA stardom but
have seen serious injuries impede their progress. They’re healthy now, and at
the perfect time. They have similar numbers: double-digit scoring, a field goal
percentage in the high 40s, and a three-point percentage around 40 percent.
The Blue Hens are third in scoring, points allowed, field goal and three-point defense, and defensive rebounds. They lead the conference in scoring margin, field goal percentage, and assist-to-turnover ratio. Though they ultimately fell 78–70 to No. 20 Villanova, they proved they could hang around against a superior team. In the season’s fourth game, Painter and Anderson combined for 69 points.
Last year, Delaware finished with a losing conference record
and lost in the semifinal round of the CAA Tournament. Now they’re stacked, and
the road to the conference’s March Madness bid goes through them.
Anyone who glanced at a pre-game matchup sheet could hazard
a guess at how Tuesday evening’s game would go. Northeastern, which entered the
game fifth in the nation in three-point percentage, would rely on outside
shooting. Eastern Michigan, which entered ranked ninth in the nation in scoring
defense, would use their height and length advantage to pressure the Huskies
Those assumptions bore out on the court in Ypsilanti,
Michigan, with Eastern Michigan (9–1) outlasting Northeastern (5–6) and
escaping with a 60–55 victory. It was the Huskies’ second straight loss and the
second time this season they’ve fallen below .500.
Though the Eagles were paced by double-digit scoring efforts
from Noah Morgan (19), Yeikson Montero (10), and Ty Groce (10), their biggest
advantage was seven-footer Boubacar Toure, whose seven-point, six-rebound,
two-block stat line underscores his impact. He established himself defensively
from the opening tip, pressuring Northeastern’s inside shots and forcing them
to attempt more and more threes as the game progressed.
Northeastern’s ability to counter Toure was diminished, with
big men Greg Eboigbodin (6’10”) and Tomas Murphy (6’8”) sitting out. Murphy,
usually good for 10 points and versatile midrange play, injured his ankle and
hasn’t played since November 16 against Old Dominion.
The task of guarding Toure fell to Max Boursiquot, who,
despite his inarguable defensive strength and versatility, is seven inches
shorter and 30 pounds lighter than the Senegalese center. The disparity was
never more apparent than when Toure snatched an offensive rebound and dunked,
seemingly unbothered by three Huskies surrounding him with their arms raised.
This mismatch contributed to a noticeable disparity in play
styles between the squads. Eastern Michigan pushed the ball inside and
rebounded their misses, while Northeastern passed around the perimeter to earn
open threes. The Eagles encouraged this by playing a 2–3 zone, shutting off
interior passing lanes and keeping the Huskies out of the paint.
Eventually Northeastern started rebounding their own misses,
earning a number of easy kickouts to the perimeter. Guilien Smith hit back-to-back
threes, then Myles Franklin nailed another after Toure’s massive block on Roland
sent the ball caroming off the glass and out to the three-point line.
Northeastern led 17–13 with 11:54 remaining. They wouldn’t
score for almost eight minutes, as Eastern Michigan interior defense held
strong and Northeastern went cold from downtown. Behind Montero’s multiple
buckets, the Eagles scored ten unanswered points during that stretch to take a
six-point lead. A steady Northeastern comeback briefly tied the game before an
Eastern Michigan basket gave them a 31–29 halftime lead.
Northeastern was shooting 43 percent from outside the arc,
but just 23 percent from inside it. They closed the rebounding gap against the
larger Eagles, though their increased aggressiveness resulted in 10 fouls and
13 Eastern Michigan free throws in the first half.
Though the exact positioning of the defenders varied, Eastern
Michigan continued their zone after the break, and Northeastern responded by
relying even more heavily on outside shooting. They stuck to a similar game plan
— get the defense scrambling, move the ball on the perimeter, and earn open
shots. But after connecting on six of their 14 attempts from downtown in the
first, Northeastern hit just five of 17 attempts in the second. Several times,
the Huskies passed up a potential transition layup for a kickout to the
Everything Northeastern did in the second half, Eastern
Michigan had an answer. Northeastern regained the lead midway through the
period on a Jordan Roland three; Eastern Michigan responded with a two-handed
jam from Toure and a layup from Morgan. Franklin tied the game with a three;
Montero finished a spinning layup under duress. Tyson Walker hit a corner three
on a friendly bounce; Montero scored another spinning layup.
Northeastern found themselves trailing 58–55 with 30 seconds
remaining. Whatever play head coach Bill Coen drew up during the timeout was
quickly abandoned when the Eagles abandoned Max Boursiquot on the left side.
Boursiquot retreated behind the three-point line, fired, and watched his
game-tying attempt clank off the rim. After Walker’s putback dripped off the
cylinder, Montero hit two free-throws to put the game out of reach.
Though Northeastern’s play was not without flaw, Boursiquot’s
missed equalizer was a microcosm of their biggest difficulty in this game:
missed threes. Many if not most of their tries were good looks, but not enough
of them fell. Their total of 11 makes on 31 attempts is decent enough percentage-wise,
but ultimately posed problems in a game where the Huskies tried more threes
Northeastern’s other problem was their two best players.
Jordan Roland and Bolden Brace combined for just 18 points on five-for-23
shooting from the floor and four-for-16 from three.
Boursiquot had the best game of any Husky, finishing with an
efficient double and strong defensive play given the height and length deficits
he faced. Myles Franklin also had a solid game, finishing with six points, six
rebounds, and five assists.
Northeastern’s 55 points marked their lowest total of the
season, though unsurprising given that Eastern Michigan entered the contest
holding opponents to 57.3 points per game. The Eagles’ size, length, and inside
aggressiveness yielded a 30–12 advantage in points in the paint and an 11
percent advantage in field goal percentage.
A win in Thursday evening’s game against Detroit Mercy would
finalize the Huskies’ non-conference record at .500. WRBB will not broadcast
the game, but will publish a recap online.
WORCESTER, MA — From 1096 to 1271, the Roman
Catholic Church waged a series of wars against Muslim powers in the eastern
Mediterranean. Though the Crusades arguably increased Christianity’s reach, the
Church’s wealth, and the Pope’s power, the Crusaders repeatedly failed in their
main goal of retaking the Holy Land.
Tuesday night, in a conflict with far lesser stakes, the Northeastern Huskies
rode into Worcester to battle the Holy Cross Crusaders on the basketball court.
The modern Crusaders fared even worse than their namesake.
years of men’s basketball, Northeastern has never dominated like they did Tuesday
night. It was overwhelming. It was absurd. It was borderline unfair. They
eviscerated Holy Cross 101–44.
57-point margin of victory eclipsed the previous record of 56 set against Connecticut
in 1946 and equaled against Suffolk in 1984. It is the second school scoring
record the Huskies have broken in their last four games, with Jordan Roland’s
42-point masterpiece against Harvard on November 8 setting a new individual
Cross got the scoring going with a free throw two minutes in. It was their only
lead of the night, and it lasted for 15 seconds.
first field goal was a three-pointer five minutes in. It would be their last bucket
from downtown for 35 minutes.
Northeastern turned the first half into an unmitigated farce. They clogged the passing lanes, poked the ball away from incautious ballhandlers, and reaped the benefits with easy transition buckets down the other end. They pushed the pace on almost every possession whether they had stolen the ball or not, as they recognized early that the Crusaders couldn’t keep pace.
Roland, the nation’s leading scorer entering the game, played perhaps his best
basketball of the season in the first half. He dropped 21 points on 8-for-9
shooting and made all five of his threes. Almost every perimeter shot he took was
tightly contested, fading away, or both. He was in such a rhythm that he almost
shot from 30 feet while bringing the ball up. When a hard close forced him to
shovel the ball to a teammate, his wide grin matched the feeling he and every
fan in the arena had: it probably would have gone in.
Roland didn’t have as dominant a second half — he played just 27 minutes all
game in light of the Huskies’ enormous lead — he did hit the most unbelievable
shot in a game full of them. After a hesitation move forced his defender to run
into him near the foul line, Roland chucked the ball up. He was nearly parallel
to the floor, shooting with an awkward flailing motion, only because he thought
a foul would be called.
but Roland made it anyway. He finished with 28 points on 11-for-13 shooting,
including 6-of-7 from downtown. When he left the game for good with 12 minutes
remaining in the second half, he was one point shy of outscoring the Crusaders
is the centerpiece,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen remarked. “I’m actually
shocked when he misses.”
Roland wasn’t dominating, Jason Strong was. The seldom-used forward contributed
17 minutes on a night when regular starting big man Tomas Murphy sat with an
ankle injury (Coen doesn’t expect the injury will sideline Murphy for long).
Strong nailed seven of his eight shots — including all four threes — and
finished with a career-high 18 points and six rebounds. His textbook, upright
shooting form was on full display.
think he’s been a little bit frustrated at times early on,” Coen said of
Strong. “But he attacked practice this week. That’s the type of player he can
be. He might be our second-best shooter [after Roland].”
Northeastern had opened up a 63–23 lead. Coen typically waits to empty his
bench until the closing minutes of a blowout, when his lead is secure beyond
any reasonable doubt. By the end of the first half, all 11 Huskies that dressed
to play had seen the court. Strong, Quirin Emanga, Vito Cubrilo, and Guilien
Smith — who entered tonight’s contest with a combined 13 minutes of playing
time this season — played 53 combined minutes tonight.
an opportunity for us to go deeper in the bench,” Coen observed. “We’re going
to need that later on in the season, certainly in the tournament down in
shot a ludicrous 71 percent from the floor — and 75 percent from three — in the
first half. Some of the threes were difficult, contested shots that went in
anyway, but many of them were open shots earned through crisp passing, strong ball
screens, movement off the ball, and a nearly constant transition pace.
you’re catching the ball in rhythm, [you get] much better shots,” Coen said. “We
shared the ball at a high level tonight, and I think that set the tone. That
type of passing got contagious, and then the basket got real big for us.”
42–24 rebounding edge makes sense in light of Holy Cross’s abysmal shooting (17–57
FG, 2–27 3FG). It’s easier to get rebounds when the other team is bricking most
of their shots. But Northeastern’s 11–9 offensive rebounding edge is nothing
short of remarkable considering they had so few opportunities to get them. Greg
Eboigbodin led the rebounding with eight, followed by Strong’s six. Emanga and Shaq
Walters both registered five-point, five-rebound games.
scored six efficient points, but his biggest contribution was his defense. He
played a season-high 25 minutes and committed one foul, a season low. His coverage
on Holy Cross’s ball screens — stepping up on good shooters, dropping back to
contain drivers, and hedging when appropriate — defended Northeastern’s
interior territory against the Crusaders and helped the Huskies build and
Walker, Myles Franklin, and Max Boursiqout all finished in double figures.
Walker stood out, earning 15 points with a series of drives.
shooting and rebounding, Northeastern won the battle of assists (23–7), steals
(13–7), fastbreak points (21–6), points in the paint (38–22), and points off
turnovers (24–6), among others. There were no individual bright spots for the
Crusaders; their four leading scorers combined for just 32 points and all of
them missed more shots than they made. Leading scorer Drew Lowder missed all
six of his three-point attempts in Holy Cross’s biggest home loss since they
started playing at the Hart Center in 1975.
The win bumped Northeastern to
3–2 on the year; the Crusaders are winless in four games. Northeastern will fly
to Fort Myers, Florida for the Gulf Coast Showcase, where they begin play
against South Alabama Monday at 11 AM ET.
Even though Northeastern entered
the game on a two-game skid, and even without the hot-handed Tomas Murphy, the
Huskies were expected to handle Holy Cross. They were not expected to bludgeon
them to this degree, in this manner.
The first half was a wonder,
when any Northeastern player could cast up a contested three with everyone in
the building assuming it would fall. The hot shooting, mixed with the volume of
turnovers the Husky defense forced, made it seem as though Northeastern was
making more shots than Holy Cross was taking. The game was a fastbreak and the
Huskies were running it.
It wasn’t suspenseful. It wasn’t
competitive. It bordered on being a joke. But, especially for the first 20
minutes, it was a sight to behold.
For the first time this season, Jordan Roland — whose 81
points through two games had garnered himself and his team national recognition
— did not log an otherworldly performance.
For the first time this season, Northeastern played the
balanced offensive game last year’s team did so well.
And for the first time this season, they lost, succumbing to
the UMass Minutemen, 80–71, under a torrent of second-half three-pointers. The
loss — Northeastern’s fifth straight against UMass — dropped the Huskies to 2–1
and boosted the Minutemen to 3–0.
The first few minutes of the game featured a duel between
big men: UMass freshman Tre Mitchell and Northeastern junior Tomas Murphy.
Murphy, who had been quiet in the season’s first two games, struck first with a
putback layup. Mitchell responded with his own layup.
Murphy notched another layup when Northeastern broke UMass’
full-court press. Mitchell countered with a three.
Murphy converted a two-handed jam off a nifty hook pass from
Tyson Walker. Mitchell splashed another three.
Murphy laid home another easy one on an up-and-under pass
from Bolden Brace, at which point both teams decided they should probably defend
these guys a little better. Improved ball denial slowed both players, though
consecutive threes and a transition finger roll from Brace kept the Husky
offense from stagnating. Northeastern hit six of their first eight shots as
both teams pushed the ball in transition.
Roland didn’t take a shot for the game’s first five minutes
and didn’t score until a lefty floater nine minutes in. Despite a full-court
dash for an and-one layup a few minutes later, he struggled to find the red-hot
touch he showed in the previous two games. He may have been impacted by a hard
fall he took after being undercut on a drive, which forced him to brace his fall
with his hands.
The Minutemen took their first lead of the contest about 10
minutes in, when their press finally forced a turnover and they converted an
open layup. That play notwithstanding, Northeastern’s spacing and crisp passing
overcame the press almost every time.
With about seven minutes remaining, Murphy notched
consecutive buckets with a breakaway dunk and a reverse layup, the latter
courtesy of the fine interior passing that netted the Huskies a 24–14 first-half
advantage in paint scoring. Northeastern’s defense dropped back and hedged on
ball screens as appropriate, denying access to the middle of the court and
limiting the number of easy shots at the rim.
With five minutes to play, Mitchell broke a 1-for-8 UMass
stretch with a gorgeous spin into an and-one layup. As the clock wound down in
the first half, Northeastern held a one-point lead. After Jordan Roland’s
three-point attempt hit the shot clock — he flailed trying unsuccessfully to
draw a foul — freshman UMass guard Sean East II notched the highlight of the
night for college basketball, and perhaps for all of sports.
With 0.6 seconds on the clock, teammate Samba Diallo
inbounded the ball from under Northeastern’s basket. He dropped the ball in
nonchalantly, as if to concede the last bits of clock. He didn’t think it was
worth flinging the ball toward the basket from the opposite side of the court.
East did. He fielded the ball and chucked it skyward from just
behind Northeastern’s free-throw line. The ball sailed 80 feet, then hit
nothing but the bottom of the net.
Diallo kept strolling calmly downcourt, his posture and
demeanor unchanged. The rest of the team sprinted straight into the locker
Though Northeastern had dominated UMass down low for much of
the half, nine Husky turnovers had allowed the Minutemen more chances at the
basket. Roland, the nation’s top scorer entering the game, took just six shots.
Despite a dozen points apiece from Brace and Murphy — and the turnover-forcing help
defense slowing Mitchell in the post — Northeastern trailed, 36–34.
Brace opened the half by matching East’s impossible three
with a difficult one of his own. With his dribble exhausted and the shot clock
ticking down, he swished a fadeaway drifter to retake the lead.
But East’s shot marked a turning point in the Minutemen’s
three-point fortunes. After hitting just five of their 13 attempts from
downtown in the first half, UMass went 8-for-14 in the second. Mitchell, East,
and Carl Pierre finished with multiple makes from distance.
Djery Baptiste came off the bench and clogged the middle,
denying the Huskies the inside touches that powered their offense in the first
half. Though the UMass press continued to fail at forcing turnovers, it made
Northeastern begin many possessions with five or six fewer seconds on the shot
clock than they would ordinarily have.
Roland saw excellent defense every time he touched the ball,
and the contested shots he hit against BU and Harvard didn’t fall tonight. He
did log a solid 14 points on 11 shots, but the play from the other Northeastern
guards was lacking. Tyson Walker and Myles Franklin made just one shot each,
their combined seven assists soured by a combined six turnovers.
Brace put up 20 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists; he’s
averaging a team-high nine rebounds through three games. Murphy sank nine of
his 12 shots en route to 18 points. Shaquille Walters notched nine points — his
best in a Husky uniform — and five boards. For UMass it was Mitchell, Pierre,
and East, who combined for 55 points and all made more shots than they missed.
Max Boursiquot, who took a hard fall after a rebound in the
second half against BU, has not played in the two games since.
The question of where Northeastern’s offense would come from after the departures of Pusica, Occeus, Gresham, and Green were deferred in the first two games by Roland’s superhuman efforts. But if Roland is returning to earth, the question becomes more pertinent. Brace and Murphy provided excellent play inside, leaving the non-Roland members of the backcourt as tonight’s culprits. Northeastern next takes the court Saturday at home against Old Dominion.
Michael Petillo and Adam Doucette will have the call, with coverage beginning at 12:45 PM ET.