As Northeastern took the court against Weber State Wednesday morning, they were fresh off a close defeat at Drake’s hands, a defeat caused in part by 19 Northeastern turnovers and the resulting disparity in shot attempts.
For the second day in a row, Northeastern give the ball away 19 times. But this time, they did everything else right, and walked away with a 79–69 win over the Wildcats in their third and final game in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida.
Northeastern hit first, and they hit hard. Tyson Walker opened the game with a three-pointer.
When Weber State’s Cody John responded with a three, Jordan Roland hit right back with a triple of his own. On the Huskies’ next possession, Bolden Brace snatched an offensive rebound from the jaws of three Wildcats. The contested fadeaway three they earned from the rebound doesn’t seem like a bargain on its face. But when it’s Jordan Roland taking the shot, this sort of thing can happen.
A moment later, when Shaquille Walters threaded a bounce pass to Walker for a transition layup, Weber State was forced to call for time. Three minutes in, Northeastern had opened an 11–3 lead.
When the teams resumed play, Northeastern decided the right corner was looking pretty good. Brace set up shop there, Roland dished him the rock, and Brace nailed a three, passing Chaisson Allen for sole possession of sixth place on Northeastern’s career three-point list.
Seconds later, Roland stole the ball, pushed the pace, and found Walters behind the line in the same spot. Good.
Next possession, same shooter, same spot. Good.
After two made free throws by Greg Eboigbodin, Brace tried a pump-fake, sidestep three from the same spot. Same result.
After two games of tough shots, the Husky offense had finally clicked. The ball moved without friction, passes were crisp, players moved without the ball. Passers screened for the players they dished to and any player who caught the ball immediately did something with it, preventing Weber State from rotating to shooters in time. The open looks helped NU shoot 57 percent from three — including 10-for-14 in the first half — a marked improvement from the 31 percent they shot in last two games.
Northeastern swarmed Weber State’s passing lanes, choking their offense, forcing live ball turnovers, and generating easy transition looks. That, plus the infrequent whistles in the first ten minutes, aided the Huskies’ momentum and helped them jump out to a 20-point first half lead.
Then Northeastern turned the ball over five times in two minutes, Weber State trimmed the lead to 13, and it appears as though yesterday’s habits were returning to bite the Huskies.
But Eboigbodin and Roland had other plans. Their superb play to close the half handed the Huskies an 18-point lead entering the locker room.
In the last three games, Eboigbodin has played more minutes — and scored more points — than in any of the games before. Wednesday’s game saw his best effort yet, as he logged 13 points (5–6 FG, 3–3 FT) pulled down seven rebounds, and dished out three assists without turning the ball over once. He showed off his agile post moves with a couple of jump hooks, finished a nifty lob from Walker, and even drove to the basket for an and-one layup.
But his best play came a minute into the second half. He had the ball on the wing when Brace took a free-throw line screen and curled along the right side of the lane toward the basket. The screen didn’t get Brace much separation and he wasn’t expecting a pass. But Eboigbodin threw a bounce pass so perfect that Brace, who wasn’t looking, corralled it and laid it in without a hitch.
Roland, who scored a combined 22 points in his last two games, came alive Wednesday with a 24-point showing. Eleven of those points came in the last four minutes of the first half, courtesy of two three-point fouls — he made five of six free throws — and two three-point buckets.
Brace turned in his first quality performance since his 20-point, 12-rebound showing against UMass on November 12. He picked up just two fouls — which allowed him to play 36 minutes — and notched 18 points (7–10 FG, 4–6 3FG) and seven boards. It was just his second double-digit scoring effort in eight games this year, and it showed how much more efficient, well-spaced, and free-flowing the offense can be when teams need to worry about him and throw as many bodies at Roland.
Though the stat sheet would claim Tyson Walker’s eight points and five assists were somewhat negated by his four fouls and four turnovers, his passing was eye-popping. He threw crisp, accurate, cross-court passes to open shooters, demonstrating chemistry and positional awareness that would be excellent for anyone, let alone a freshman point guard in his eighth game with the team.
Shaq Walters, starting his sixth game this season, turned in eight points and eight rebounds. He nailed a couple of first-half threes, indicative of his expanded skill set and role in the offense.
After three games in three days, the Huskies (4–4) can rest for six days before their Wednesday tilt against Maine at Matthews Arena. Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser will call the game for WRBB, with coverage beginning at 6:45 PM EST.