By Michael Petillo
CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Coming off a pair of heartbreaking, buzzer-beating home defeats to William & Mary and Hofstra, the Northeastern Huskies marched into TD Arena Thursday night badly in need of a win. Against Grant Riller and the second-place College of Charleston Cougars, snapping that two-game skid would be no small feat. But in a wild back-and-forth contest the Huskies did just that, defeating the Cougars, 79–76.
Jordan Roland was at his sharpshooting best, starting strong and keeping Northeastern within striking distance throughout a tumultuous first half. Over a stretch of four-and-a-half minutes in the first frame, Charleston went on a 13–0 run capped by senior forward Sam Miller’s third three pointer of the game. That brought the score to 35–21 in the Cougars’ favor.
But with just under five minutes to go in the first half, Northeastern began clawing back and a Roland layup trimmed the deficit to just two. Riller sparked a quick 5–0 Charleston response, yielding a 43–36 Cougar halftime advantage.
The start of the second half belonged to Charleston, with Riller leading the charge and extending the margin to double digits. Once again, however, the Huskies refused to roll over, with Roland dominating the scoring.
But Roland wasn’t the only key to the win. Graduate transfer Guilien Smith came off the bench to guard Riller in the second half and made an immediate impact. His quick feet and energy disrupted Riller on multiple occasions and several of Riller’s seven turnovers came when Smith was defending him.
“Guilien just had fresh legs and the appropriate amount of aggressiveness,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “And really kind of bothered him a little bit [with] his athleticism and toughness.”
Smith helped the Huskies get back into the game, but with the score tied at 72 and barely 30 seconds to play, Northeastern turned to their star to deliver the final blow. Roland used a Greg Eboigbodin screen to drive to his left, stepped back, and buried a contested three. The shot silenced a raucous Charleston crowd and Northeastern took the lead for good.
Playing well on the road will make any coach happy, but this one was extra special.
“We talked about the losses,” Coen remarked. “Everybody was obviously frustrated that we didn’t get the results we wanted, but we got back into the gym, guys got recommitted to what we gotta do, work on the fundamentals, and get better . . . it was just a complete, total team win. Proud of the guys.”
Roland finished with an efficient 33 points and tacked on four steals. Bolden Brace recorded his third double-double of the year with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Riller paced the Cougars, finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists for the first triple-double in Charleston history. That said, his mildly inefficient shooting and seven turnovers caused some headaches for the Cougars. Miller’s six three-point makes on seven tries netted him an uber-efficient 20 points, and Zep Jasper finished with 13.
The win moved Northeastern to 10–8 (4–2 CAA) and kept them tied with Drexel for fourth place. Charleston has lost its last two games after a 5–0 start to conference play.
Northeastern will look to pick up another conference win on Saturday when they travel to UNCW. Coverage will begin at 6:45 PM EST with Michael Petillo and Matt Neiser on the call.