By: Matthew MacCormack
“You just set the bar. That was the hottest team in the country. They’re talking about them, ACC champs, everything else. You just set the bar. When you set your minds, that’s who you can be.”
Northeastern head coach Bill Coen could hardly contain his excitement as he addressed his players in the locker room Friday night. And who could blame him? His Huskies had just recorded the program’s first win against a ranked opponent in nearly 29 years, all thanks to a game-winning, buzzer-beating jump shot from redshirt senior Quincy Ford that buried the No. 15 Miami Hurricanes, 78-77 in Coral Gables.
Ford drove to the elbow before releasing a perfect jumper over Miami guard Davon Reed that found the nylon just as the buzzer sounded, stunning the formerly undefeated Hurricanes. The redshirt senior led the Huskies from start to finish, tallying 24 points, six rebounds and four steals on five of 10 shooting from beyond the arc.
“Early in the game I had two quick offensive fouls, pushoffs, so when [Reed] stopped my momentum, I sort of stopped, and I shot it,” Ford told reporters after the game. “I was blessed that it went in.”
Thanks to some efficient three-point shooting, the Huskies led by as many as 13 points in the opening frame, and held a four-point advantage halfway through the second. But the Canes, who had defeated No. 16 Utah and No. 22 Butler in back-to-back games to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, didn’t go down easy. The up-tempo Miami attack ran the floor well in the second-half, hitting several baseline threes to take advantage of the holes in NU’s 3-2 defense. The duo of Reed (19 pts, seven rebs) and guard Sheldon McClellan (18 pts) helped the Canes fight back and build a 70-63 lead with four minutes remaining.
“You’re not gonna keep a good team down for long,” Coen told reporters. “We weren’t gonna play a perfect game, but it’s really how we choose to react to the adversity.”
Husky freshman forward Jeremy Miller (nine pts, five rebs), who has already shown his mettle in his first quartet of college games, was certainly not fazed by the adversity. After a free throw cut the lead to six, Miller came up with a huge four-point play, canning a baseline three with the harm, and converting the ensuing freebie with less than three minutes to play.
Senior guard David Walker (21 pts) converted a layup and a pair of free throws to help Northeastern build a 76-72 lead with 35 seconds to play. Reed responded with a baseline three, and NU turned the ball over on the inbounds play. McClellan put the Canes ahead, 77-76, with a jumper at the 18-second mark, leaving NU with the final possession.
After freshman guard Devon Begley had a shot blocked out of bounds, the Huskies ran an inbounds play, and Ford worked his magic. It was a special moment for the St. Petersburg, Florida native, who said he had close to 30 family members in attendance.
“It was just a great feeling coming back to Florida,” Ford added.
Ford hit two threes in the game’s first two minutes as NU jumped out to an 8-0 lead. The Huskies led for the entire first half, and went into halftime with a 35-30 advantage. Northeastern built its lead in classic mid-major fashion, knocking down 7 of 12 three point attempts and limiting Miami to just two offensive rebounds in the first half. Coen said that while Ford and Walker were the keys to the offense, he was pleased with to contributions of Begley, Miller and senior guard Caleb Donnelly, who combined for five threes.
“When you’re getting those type of productions from complementary guys, that’s really what you need to beat a quality team and a quality program such as Miami,” Coen said.
Miami’s talent eventually caught up, but the Huskies did just enough to come away with a massive upset road win. Now, Coen said, the Huskies must maintain that level of play moving forward, especially with crosstown rival Harvard coming to Matthews Arena Wednesday night.
“It’s just another stepping stone for us,” Coen said. “The next challenge is to match this effort back to back to back and really establish ourselves as a quality team this year.”