by Matthew MacCormack
To call Northeastern’s season a “roller coaster ride” would be an understatement.
Just a few short weeks ago, the UNCW Seahawks waltzed into Matthews Arena and walked away with an easy 17-point victory. The Huskies were 12-13 with a 4-8 mark in the CAA, losers of seven of their last eight.
Oh, how things have changed.
The Huskies will enter this weekend’s conference tournament as one of the Colonial’s hottest teams. Head Coach Bill Coen and his squad went 5-1 to end the season, usurping the College of Charleston for the six-seed and clinching a first-round bye in Baltimore.
The extra day of rest is nice, yes, but the No. 3 Towson Tigers (20-11, 11-7 CAA) are a formidable foe for Saturday evening.
Coach Pat Skerry and likely All-Conference selection William Adala Moto will lead the surprise Tigers, who reached 20 wins for the second time in the past three seasons.
Read on for everything you need to know about Northeastern’s Saturday matchup:
When: Saturday, March 5 @ 8:30 p.m.
Where: Royal Farms Arena; Baltimore, MD
Streaming: Listen live here on WRBB 104.9. Jake Fischer, Jeremy Leopold and Matthew MacCormack will be on the call
The Tigers lead the CAA with an impressive +7.4 rebounding margin, which ranks in the top-25 nationally. Skerry’s squad enjoys taking things slow and relies on getting fresh shot-clocks, thanks to gobbling up the 7th most offense boards per game (14) in the country. They also excel at getting to the free throw line; they rank 6th nationally in free throws attempted and 14th in freebies made. Defensively, the Tigers are very stingy (66 ppg) and are able to switch on most ball screens.
Spacing has been a problem, as the Tigers don’t have any knockdown three-point shooters and rank 9th in the conference in three-point percentage. They also lack a true floor general; Byron Hawkins is a young point guard who won’t wow with his distribution abilities. Skerry doesn’t have the luxury of a go-to-guy when the chips are down.
Northeastern and Towson split the season series:
Jan. 23 @ Northeastern (L 72-79): Quincy Ford missed the game after suffering an apparent head injury in the prior contest, a triple-OT loss to Hofstra. David Walker scored a career-high 32 points, but Towson patched together a 16-0 run that ultimately buried the Huskies. NU surrendered 28 points off 16 turnovers
Feb. 11 @ Towson (W 47-44): The Huskies ended their slide in an ugly, ugly win. NU nearly surrendered an 11-point second-half lead, but Towson struggled mightily from the field (31%). Northeastern’s 2-3 zone stifled the Towson offense, but the Tigers took advantage on the boards, corralling 20 offensive rebounds.
Players to Watch
PF William Adala Moto, Jr: A 6’6 forward from Cameroon, Adala Moto was third in the conference with 8.1 rebounds per game. He’s also a capable inside scorer, leading the team with a 13.7 ppg clip.
PG Byron Hawkins, So: This speedy, shoot-first point averages 13.6 points and 2.2 assists per game.
SG: Mike Morsell, So: Morsell’s 34-point outburst in a win over William & Mary shows his scoring potential. The 6’5 sophomore is very streaky, however, with 13.6 ppg and a 29% 3pt FG rate.
SF John Davis, Towson
Davis’ season-long averages seem ho-hum: 10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg. But don’t let the season box score fool you; Davis can play, and he has the Huskies’ number this season. He has averaged 19 points and 10.5 rebounds, and shot 52% in two games vs. NU this season. At 6’5 with an array of post-moves, Davis is a more versatile version of Zach Stahl.
C Jeremy Miller, Northeastern
Miller is an exciting talent; a 6’10 stretch big with intriguing length and floor-spacing ability. But his Achilles Heel has been on the defensive end. Miller has found himself in early foul trouble in many games this season. Straying away from silly fouls will be crucial against Adala Moto and the other experienced Towson bigs.
“Towson is plus seven on the glass. That is what they do and they really, really excel at. We were fortunate enough to get the win down there. I think we did some other things well during that game, but their offensive rebounding gives you concern because it gives them so many extra possessions. They are a physical group of guys, they are defensive minded, and they are an outstanding rebounding team. They present challenges on many different levels.”
–Bill Coen during Tuesday’s CAA Teleconference
“Our guys have tremendous respect for Northeastern, and quite frankly, I’m sure we’ll probably be an underdog going into the game. When you look at it, you’ve got to take away the three point shot. They have two first-team all-conference guys in [David] Walker and Quincy Ford and then they’ve got all types of other guys that shoot the ball and Zach Stahl’s been an unbelievable player…We’ve got to have good shot selection against the zone. They played us twice, with zone the whole game and we know they’ll play the zone again. The better the shot selection, the better the pace of the game and the more opportunities we’ll have to successfully rebound the basketball. It’s a monumental challenge. There’s not anyone that wouldn’t tell you Northeastern isn’t capable of winning this thing and it’s going to be a war on Saturday night.”
–Pat Skerry during Tuesday’s CAA Teleconference