By Jordan Walsh
The only previous meeting between the Northeastern Huskies (4-2) and Central Michigan Chippewas (1-3) prior to Friday night was almost exactly two years ago, Nov. 27, 2019. CMU, in a season that would end with a third consecutive NCAA tournament berth, defeated the Huskies that evening by a score of 79-63. Both teams have faced significant changes in personnel since then – the Chippewas’ three highest scorers from that game (Kyra Bussell, Micaela Kelly and Maddy Watters) all departed from the program after the 2020-21 season, with Kelly becoming just the second Chippewa to be selected in the WNBA draft.
Nevertheless, Central Michigan is still a force to be reckoned with this year, and they came into Friday night’s contest ranked No. 19 in Collegeinsider.com’s Women’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll. That’s in part because of the shooting prowess of junior guard Molly Davis, who led the Chippewas in scoring (10.7 PPG) in their first three games this season.
Friday night’s battle at the Cabot Center was more defensively oriented than the 2019 matchup, with just nine points scored in total in the first five minutes of the game. CMU pressured the Huskies throughout, aggressively double-teaming and even triple-teaming, trying to force turnovers and intercept passes. Open looks down low for Northeastern were few and far between, but the two forwards who played significant minutes in this game, graduate student Emily Calabrese and junior Sammie Martin, converted on difficult attempts to counter the pressure.
While Central Michigan held the lead for the majority of the first half, the Huskies did not let the game get away from them, as the Chippewas’ largest lead in the first 20 minutes was five points. CMU was dominating the game in transition, however, holding a 10-0 advantage in fast-break points at the half. Also propelling the Chippewas was Tiana Timpe, who accounted for all three of Central Michigan’s three-pointers in the first half.
In the third quarter, CMU looked as if they might run away with it, jumping out to a 10-point lead. Key to the run was Davis, who made two shots from downtown after going 0 for 4 from three in the first half. Despite that, the Huskies showed resilience, driving to the rim and laying it in or earning trips to the line. Freshman guard Claudia Soriano, in particular, had multiple fast-break layups in the third quarter.
In the fourth, the Huskies went to another level, outscoring the opponent 27-17, including a stretch of 11 unanswered points. It helped that some of Central Michigan’s shooters went cold — Timpe, for example, went 0 for 2 from beyond the arc and eventually fouled out. Calabrese led Northeastern with three field goals in the final quarter, including a huge and-one that started the scoring in that frame.
For Calabrese, who transferred from St. Bonaventure before this season, it was her first time scoring double-figures as a member of Northeastern.
The Huskies made all of their final eight field goals to close out the Chippewas, winning by a final score of 63-57.
Northeastern head coach Bridgette Mitchell praised her team’s tenacity in the face of a run, something they were unable to find against Boston College on Wednesday afternoon, saying that “our team didn’t break.”
The Huskies will next take the court in a Wednesday matinee against Boston University at 11 a.m. WRBB will have the broadcast, with Mike Puzzanghera and Peyton Doyle on the call.