By Michael Petillo
BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies defended home court on Thursday night, defeating James Madison 77–57 to secure a first-round bye in next week’s CAA tournament. Graduate transfer Guilien Smith led the Huskies with 20 points and Shaquille Walters dropped in 15 points to go along with six assists.
Northeastern (15–14, 9–8 CAA) jumped out to an early lead thanks to three early three-pointers by Smith and used a balanced scoring effort to stretch the advantage to 20. The second half was more even, but JMU never mounted a significant run.
The contributions of Smith and Walters were particularly valuable to due to the absence of starting point guard Tyson Walker, who is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder during Saturday’s game against Drexel. In his stead, Smith stepped into the starting lineup and played a season-high 36 minutes, nailing five threes and playing his signature lockdown defense.
“It felt great to get that first one to go and from there I was just feeling it,” Smith said.
Walters assumed most of the ballhandling duties with Walker sidelined. He comfortably handled JMU’s pressure and got Northeastern into their halfcourt offense throughout the game.
“He had to be the primary ball-handler out there tonight,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said of Walters. “He had really great court composure and was able to quarterback the offense.”
In addition to overcoming Walker’s injury, the play of Walters and Smith allowed Northeastern to secure a win despite an uncharacteristic off night for Jordan Roland. Normally the Huskies’ leading scorer, Roland managed only 11 points amid stifling JMU defense.
The win gives Northeastern a two-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s regular season finale against Towson, who knocked off CAA-leading Hofstra on Thursday night. Coverage begins at 3:45 PM EST with Milton Posner and Alex Bensley on the call.