TOWSON, MD — It’s hard to overstate how fun Tyson Walker is to watch.
When he’s given command of an offense, and when he’s dialed in, he moves about the court with a palpable ease and confidence. The game’s pace and his own internal clock become inexorably linked, and the defense has increasingly little say in whether his shots go in.
Never was Walker as dialed in as he was Saturday afternoon in SECU Arena, when he poured in a career-high 36 points — his second-straight 30-point game — to power Northeastern to a 76–67 win over the Towson Tigers. It was the best individual scoring effort the Huskies had seen since January 18 of last year, when Jordan Roland dropped 38 on UNCW.
It also marked head coach Bill Coen’s 250th Northeastern win, tying him with Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun for the program record.
The Huskies, playing their first game after a 20-day COVID hiatus, moved to 9–6 (8–1 CAA) and preserved their pole position in the conference standings. James Madison, with whom the Huskies split a pair last month, defeated Hofstra on Saturday to remain the only team in Northeastern’s neighborhood as the season hits the home stretch.
Coen told WRBB before the game that he knew he was wading into uncharted territory. Never before had a team of his taken such a lengthy midseason break.
“For the early portion of the pause, we weren’t allowed to do anything,” he said after Saturday’s game. “We didn’t play live until Tuesday. At the same time, if guys had been away for two weeks, we weren’t confident to have a full practice. So we had shorter, more intense practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and then did more of a mental preparation coming into this weekend.”
“I was a little nervous because of rest vs. rust,” he continued, “But all in all, I thought it was a good effort. It took our guys a few minutes to get back into the swing of the competition, but once they did I thought they did much better.”
Walker wasn’t the only Husky hammering the Tigers. Jason Strong logged 12 points on highly efficient perimeter shooting. And Greg Eboigbodin tallied his own career-high with 13 points, 10 of which came in the first half.
“He has been hampered with some minor injuries,” Coen explained. “Greg finally got healthy over the pause . . . We needed him against a really tough front line of Towson and their ability to rebound the ball. He gave us an anchor on the backboards and in the low post.”
Eboigbodin erupted early, showing that he wouldn’t let the down time halt his performance. He brought his bouncy shoes too, helping Walker carve up the Towson defense in the game’s opening minutes and throwing an alley-oop from the point guard.
The pick-and-roll duo combined for 28 first-half points, but the Huskies’ inability to hush Towson’s offensive roar meant that their offensive brilliance netted only a 39–38 halftime lead.
“Defensively we weren’t aggressive enough, we weren’t helping outside the lane on penetration,” Coen said. “We really weren’t attacking dribblers and we were letting them get too comfortable . . . We talked about that at halftime and said, ‘If we come out and defend we’ll put ourselves in a great spot.’ We were already scoring enough points.”
In the second half, Northeastern tamed the Tigers. Leading scorer Zane Martin had just three points on one-for-six shooting (giving him an inefficient 14 points on the afternoon). As a team, Towson shot 32 percent from the field, and while they earned 20 free-throw attempts after the intermission, they bricked nine of them.
As Towson’s shooting slid, Walker kept stoking his iridescent inferno. The soft-handed sophomore dug deep into his bag of tricks to send defenders skidding all over the court. Bamboozling brakes and demoralizing dekes created space for himself and his teammates. Walker matched his first-half total of 18 points which, along with a game-high five assists, blew the game open.
“[Towson] tried a couple different things on him,” Coen explained. “They tried to be very aggressive on ball-screen plays early in the game. They tried to press on most makes, trying to limit his ability and make him give it up to someone else. They also tried switching late in the game and trapping him.”
“It is just a function of having a really good day,” Coen continued. “He has seen those types of coverages before and he has a great sense of when he has to score and when he has to get others involved. He’s going to see that and more tomorrow when we face Towson again. They are certainly going to gameplan to try and limit his effectiveness.”
The only Tiger who improved after halftime was Demetrius Mims, who finished with 11 points on a team-best four-for-five from the field. Jason Gibson contributed 14 points but dealt with foul trouble late in the game.
Coen also confirmed that sparkplug forward Chris Doherty, who played just six minutes and did not attempt a shot, is still working his way back from the injury that kept him out of Northeastern’s last game 20 days ago. Doherty will be available tomorrow, but Coen admitted that “he’s not quite where he needs to be.”
Tomorrow’s game could also be huge for Coen, who can pass Calhoun’s record with a win. Milton Posner and Peyton Doyle will call that contest for WRBB, with coverage commencing at 12:45 PM Eastern.