By Andrew Lee and Milton Posner
When Shaq Walters splashed home a long, difficult three-pointer with 17:53 left in the game, Northeastern men’s basketball fans had every reason to be jubilant. The team had tried 15 triples to that point, converting 10. And they led the undefeated Georgia Bulldogs by 14 points on the road.
Ten minutes later, they trailed by seven. Twenty-one unanswered Georgia points turned a dominant Husky first half into a footnote in a 76–58 Bulldog blowout.
“I thought it was physicality, to be honest,” Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen said of the second-half struggles. “Every cut there was a body on, every dribble there was a body on. They were climbing the glass and they’ve got some terrific athletes . . . We had a couple plays where I thought we could’ve settled down and got back into flow, but that didn’t happen.”
The Huskies mustered just 13 points after the intermission, their lowest total in a half since they logged 11 first-half points against South Florida on November 29, 2008. They made just five of 30 tries from the field, turned the ball over 13 times, and attempted no free throws. Georgia forced their way inside to earn quality looks, contested Husky shots, and coaxed Tyson Walker into foul trouble that limited his second-half minutes.
“Our secondary ballhandlers have to get better,” Coen said bluntly. “Tyson had his way in the first half and was able to split ball screens and everything else. They had a strategy to go at him and try to foul him out of the game and make somebody else handle it. So our other guys have to grow, learn in that role, and do a better job of taking care of the basketball.”
Had the Huskies not collapsed in the second half, the first half would have been the story. In arguably the best 20 minutes of basketball the team has played this season, they dialed in from downtown to the tune of 69 percent. Jahmyl Telfort led the way, splashing home all four triples he attempted and logging a game-high 15 points in the period.
Tyson Walker catalyzed the offense, torching the Bulldogs with lightning-quick drives and smooth-stroked jumpers on his way to 14 points and six assists before halftime. Even when Georgia started taking better care of the ball and limiting Northeastern with a zone defense, the Huskies kept knocking down shots, and led 45–32 at halftime.
“We had really good spacing,” Coen said. “When we got into the paint, we knew they were gonna take charges, so we emphasized getting two feet down and making passes, rather than trying to score over them or around them.”
But they couldn’t recreate that formula in the second.
“I thought the second half we got sped up and guys got into the lane and didn’t look to spray it,” Coen observed. “The first half we got in and we made really good plays; whenever we get assisted baskets we’re playing our type of game. Second half was more one on one, more dribbling, less passing, and that’s never a good sign.”
Walker and Telfort finished with 19 and 15 points, respectively, to lead the Huskies, though they both fell off in the second half and no other Huskies were major contributors on offense. Andrew Garcia, Toumani Camara, P.J. Horne, and Sahvir Wheeler keyed the Bulldogs’ attack, each posting double figures in points.
The win made Georgia one of only eight teams in the country to stay undefeated through seven games. The Huskies dropped to 1–4 in their last scheduled non-conference game, though Coen confirmed that the team is seeking another contest — hopefully a home game — early next week.