Hamiton, NY—It was a rough opening night for Northeastern. The new-look Huskies couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end of the floor, scoring a mere 25 points in the first half and eventually falling to the Colgate Raiders 65 to 58.
With two key contributors, transfers Joe Pridgen and Tyreek Scott-Grayson, sidelined with injury, Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen threw everything he could at the wall. 11 Huskies played minutes, but nothing stuck. Northeastern’s numerous lineup combinations shot a fairly pedestrian 40% from the field, but that number hides the true extent of the Huskies’ offensive misery. Northeastern turned the ball over a staggering 16 times, twice as many as Colgate’s eight. This turnover disparity was especially painful in the first half, where Northeastern turned the ball over seven times to Colgate’s one. Repeated turnovers prevented Northeastern from developing any kind of offensive rhythm or shooting stroke, as most possessions ended with a steal, shot clock violation, or other jarring mistake by Husky ball handlers. At one point, Northeastern had managed only four shot attempts compared to seven turnovers.
Despite their offensive ineptitude, the Huskies were shockingly still in the game for the extent of the first half. Unbelievably, a small run near the end of the half had Northeastern entering the locker room with the lead thanks to their strong defense and many missed looks from deep for Colgate, who shot only three of 13 from beyond the arc in the first half. Chris Doherty, Shaquille Walters, and Quirin Emanga put up solid performances on the defensive side of the ball, with the 6’7” Doherty putting in great work against larger Colgate big men. 6′ 11” Colgate forward Jeff Woodward was held to just three points in 17 minutes, while 6′ 10” Keegan Records put up only two points in 23 minutes.
As it turns out, it would be their defense against smaller players that would spell doom for the Huskies the second half. Senior Colgate guard Nelly Cummings, who finished the first half with only eight points, found another gear and rattled off 17 second half points to set a new career high of 25. Northeastern’s offense remained stuck in the mud, leaving Colgate ample chances to break off a big lead after squandering numerous chances in the first half. They finally did so about five minutes into the second half, rattling off a 14-4 run lead by Cummings and fellow guard Ryan Moffatt, who would finish with an efficient nine points.
Northeastern’s anemic offense could not muster enough consecutive quality possessions to make a comeback feasible. While the turnover issue was toned down slightly in the second half, the Huskies shot a mere 21% from beyond the arc on 14 shots. This poor shooting rate left them unable to bail out bad possessions (of which there were many) and made it impossible to keep up shot-for-shot with Colgate, who benefitted from Cummings’ five of six shooting from deep. Transition offense was also quite lacking for Northeastern, who managed only four points off of Colgate’s eight turnovers and had few quick buckets to speak of. In the waning minutes of the game, Northeastern finally capitalized on some Colgate mistakes against the Husky full court press to mount a small comeback, but a few throw line bricks meant it was too little, too late for Northeastern.
Northeastern entered the game with many questions about the nature of their offense this season. Unfortunately, the lack of two key contributors and the offense’s overall poor showing make many of them tough to answer. One question still up for debate is that of ball handling. Coach Coen hinted that Northeastern might turn to Walters as a ball handler, given his quality performance when forced to step up as a point guard in 2019 and experience with Coen’s system. However, Coen leaned heavily on sophomore transfer Glen McClintock, who led the team with 37 minutes played, to carry the facilitating load against Colgate. McClintock’s first go at point guard for the Huskies was rocky, as he had some quality moments, such as two first half turnaround jumpers, but also failed to get the Northeastern offense in any kind of rhythm. Whether or not McClintock will continue to be the primary ball handler and lead the team in minutes once Pridgen and Scott-Grayson return (and given his mediocre showing tonight) remains to be seen.
Another question that can’t quite be answered without more evidence is that of the rotation. Coen may have given 11 players minutes today, but it is hard to believe that he will continue to use such a range of on-court combinations as the season progresses. However, it is certainly possible that Coen will expand his rotation a bit this year compared to the last several seasons of Northeastern basketball since the Huskies lack an established superstar at guard for the first time in years. Guard Jahmyl Telfort, the heir apparent to Northeastern’s lead scorer position, did lead the team with 17 points on a fairly efficient line, but disappeared for key stretches and was not aggressive enough with driving to the basket given the Huskies jump shooting woes. Another player that put up a good line but was not involved quite enough was Chris Doherty, who set a career high with 14 points but also did not take over as much on offense as he should have given the success he was having under the basket. Other rotation items to watch include 2020-21 starter Jason Strong playing only 17 minutes off the bench and Notre Dame transfer Nikola Djogo having a silent debut with no points in a mere 14 minutes despite starting.
Overall, tonight’s game was one Northeastern would like to put in the rearview mirror. It will likely be a while before Northeastern establishes an offensive identity, so some more shaky performances in the non-conference slate may be in the pipeline. Which Huskies eventually emerge as the most important contributors is still up in the air, so exactly who Colgate will face when they travel to Boston to play Northeastern again in early December is unknown. The Huskies have one more road tilt at Georgia State this Friday Nov. 12 before returning home for a marquee matchup against rival Boston University in their home opener on Tuesday Nov. 16. It is unclear whether Scott-Grayson and Pridgen will be ready for either contest, but in any case, Northeastern’s plans for approaching their next few games remains anyone’s guess.