Many of Northeastern’s wins this season have resulted from a wave of improbable Jordan Roland shots. The senior guard has shown out this season, his long-distance bombs guiding the Husky offense.
On Saturday afternoon, a squad hailing from Roland’s old conference arrived at Matthews Arena to battle the Huskies. Roland stood a good chance of winning the senior guard battle over Jon Axel Gudmundsson, whose sporadic play this season is a far cry from his dominance last year.
But Gudmundsson rediscovered the play that garnered him the 2018–19 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Award, dropping 28 points on just 12 shots and adding seven rebounds and four assists. He paced his Davidson Wildcats to a 70–63 win over the Huskies in Northeastern’s last big test before the start of conference play later this month.
Gudmundsson’s deadly onslaught and preposterous efficiency stemmed from his three-point shooting. His six makes on eight attempts were all the more remarkable considering many of them were shot from a no-rhythm standstill, under duress from Northeastern’s wing defenders, from several feet beyond the arc. After heavily riding Roland’s hot perimeter shooting hand early this season, the Huskies finally felt what it’s like to be on the other end.
“You never want to live with that,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said after the game. “We want to make him put it down [on the floor] a little better, our closeouts have to be better. But he was spaced pretty deep.
“Stretching your help into the post or way out to 30 feet — when you shoot with range like that it makes it tough on the defense . . . he didn’t miss; so he’s got to help you out a little bit.”
Compounding Northeastern’s defensive to-do list was Davidson big man Luka Brajkovic. The 6’10” sophomore stands five inches taller than Max Boursiquot, who guarded him for most of the game.
“You could let him go one-on-one in the post or you could try to bring somebody at him and hope that your rotation is better than his ability to pass out of it,” Coen explained. “We did both and he was elite at both things.
“In the first half I thought he did a great job getting the ball out of the post, out of the double team. We were a little slow on our rotation or closed out a little short and they didn’t miss any shots. We did a little better job playing them one-on-one and tried to beat them to the spot but he’s a good player and that’s what good players do.
“He plays with great poise and composure in the low post, which is unique. He’s got the ability to score the ball with both hands and he’s a very good passer. When you spread the floor with very good shooters and put them around that level of a post player it’s tough to guard.”
Brajkovic finished with 14 points (7–11 FG), pulled down four rebounds, and dished out three assists. Junior guard Kellan Grady, who entered the game averaging a team-leading 17 points, was quiet for most of the game. Though his seven rebounds tied Gudmundsson for the team lead, he never quite found his shot, missing nine of his 13 shots and finishing with just nine points. Some of the misses are a credit to Northeastern’s interior defense, others were makeable shots that caromed, slid, or dripped off the rim.
Despite the blend of rebounding, shooting, and time management errors that doomed Northeastern down the stretch, the Huskies played a solid game. Roland, who entered the contest as the nation’s second leader scorer behind Marquette guard Markus Howard, logged 24 points and five rebounds. Though his two-for-six effort from three-point range was pedestrian by his standards, his six-for-seven mark on two-pointers ensured a high offensive efficiency.
Senior forward Bolden Brace hit two clutch threes but missed the other five he took. Most of the shots were quality looks, and given that Brace has made about half of his threes this season, Coen was understandably unconcerned with the open misses.
“Bo’s going to end up top-five in three-pointers made,” Coen said, referring to Brace’s place on Northeastern’s all-time list. “It’s going to come and go. For whatever reason he missed his shots, but I’ll take Bolden Brace with his feet set from three any day of the week. I think most opposing coaches don’t feel too comfortable if he’s got his feet set.”
Shaq Walters and Tyson Walker joined Roland in double figures, with each netting 11 points. Walters added five rebounds and two assists, and — a couple of airballed jumpshots notwithstanding — played a productive, energetic game. He even showed off some new moves.
Walker tacked on five assists and tallied 36 minutes despite being sent to the bench twice after hard body-check fouls from Davidson big men. Two of his assists yielded dunks, including a gorgeous transition feed to Walters for a one-handed spike.
Despite entering the game shooting a substandard 33 percent from downtown, the Wildcats won the game on the perimeter, nailing two more threes than the Huskies despite taking four fewer shots. Northeastern’s season-low turnovers (none of which yielded fastbreak points for Davidson) helped them gain momentum after halftime and tie the game. But Gudmundsson found the range again, Brajkovic’s gravity re-opened the floor, and Northeastern had no answer.
Northeastern (5–5) has four remaining games in December, all road games. After a weeklong rest, they will fly to Michigan for tilts against Eastern Michigan (December 17) and Detroit Mercy (December 19). After another break, they begin conference play against Towson (December 28) and James Madison (December 30).
WRBB will not broadcast those games, but will upload game stories to the website. On December 27, the day before Northeastern opens CAA play, the site will feature a breakdown of the Huskies’ CAA opponents, including rankings and analysis of their non-conference performance and what to expect moving forward.