Story by Justin Diament
Photo by Ethan Wayne
Anything can happen in the second half of a Northeastern Huskies Men’s Basketball game. Northeastern, who had been victimized by three second half comebacks in the early going of the 2021-22 season, finally pulled off one of their own. Down 14 at the half and a staggering 20 with 16 minutes remaining in the second period, Northeastern stormed back, putting together a 10-0 run that grew into a 18-2 run and got the Huskies back in it.
But before Northeastern could claw themselves out of a hole, they had to dig one. Northeastern came out of the gate slow, looking unable to find any rhythm on offense and often setting for threes late in the shot clock. Glen McClintock and Vito Cubrilo, who joined forces in the starting lineup to form a formidable shooting duo in Tuesday’s tilt against Detroit Mercy, managed only three combined points against larger, stronger Raider defenders. McClintock and Cubrilo also struggled mightily on the defensive end, where their size was exposed against larger guards Tucker Richardson and Oliver Lynch-Daniels. Northeastern shot a mere two of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half, while Colgate’s offense found more open looks and finished the opening period shooting seven of 14 from the same region.
Colgate’s offensive dominance was led by star guard Nellie Cummings, who stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, four assists, and two rebounds in the first half. Lynch-Daniels also had an electric first half, taking over as the lead option while Cummings was on the bench and putting in 11 points of his own on four of five shooting. Those two alone matched Northeastern’s first-half scoring output of 23. Northeastern, on the other hand, managed no double-digit scorers and was led by Jahmyl Telfort’s seven points. Chris Doherty was heavily challenged under the net on both sides, as Keegan Records snagged five boards for Colgate and Jeff Woodward used his 6’11, 265 pound size to back down Doherty on offense.
Northeastern, in desperate need of a burst, made significant changes in the locker room. On the brink of an insurmountable deficit, Huskies Head Coach Bill Coen changed up his primary lineup in the second half, sitting the smaller McClintock and Cubrilo in favor of Tyreek Scott-Grayson and Shaquille Walters. Scott-Grayson played his most minutes in any half so far as well, as he contributed 10 second half points in 15 minutes. His snappy passing added an extra gear to the Husky offense as well. Walters, who was a game-time decision, tested out his lower body with 13 off-ball minutes in the first half, but was fully unleashed by Coen in the first half as a primary offensive option. In the second frame, Walters was a perfect four for four from the field with 12 points. Walters was asked to play an ambitious 18 of 20 second half minutes to help Northeastern’s comeback attempt.
“With Shaq coming off his injury, I wanted to make sure he felt 100% and confident in his body when he went out there. Tried to bring him off the bench and see how he felt, and he said he felt great. He got the lion’s share of minutes in the second half,” said Coen.
But the crown jewel of Northeastern’s offensive explosion was Jahmyl Telfort. Telfort, who has yet to live up to lofty preseason expectations, has found difficulty with consistently scoring as a first option thus far in the season. In the second half today, however, Telfort put up 11 points on sparkling five of six shooting. His passing was also much improved, as he did not commit a second half turnover after struggling with staying within himself early in the season. Telfort remained on the floor for all 20 second half minutes and played an instrumental role in salvaging a victory for Northeastern.
Perhaps even more impressive for Northeastern was their second-half defense. With a 20 point deficit to make up, there was little room for error in allowing Colgate’s prolific offense to go on a run of any kind. Northeastern’s larger second half lineup befuddled the Raiders as the open looks dried up. Cummings only managed six second half points on two of seven shooting, while the previously prolific Lynch-Daniels came up empty on his three second half attempts. The keys to Northeastern’s defensive stand were Telfort, who often blanketed the much smaller Cummings; Walters, who resumed his role as the defensive captain for the Huskies; and Scott-Grayson, who showed his ability to frustrate ball-handlers and quickly move between assignments.
“I thought one of the biggest plays of the game was [Scott-Grayson’s] steal,” said Coen. He’s got very quick hands on the defensive end, he’s got the ability to push the ball and get us in transition. I thought he did that a couple times and made a great drop-off pass to Chris. He affected the game in a lot of ways, but he’s just getting his feet wet. This was his second live action in a while; he’s just gonna get better and better.”
Doherty came out of the locker room much improved as well, defending the paint with vigor in his 19 second half minutes. Jason Strong, who played all 20 second half minutes, played great help defense on driving big men and helped hold Colgate to only 10 second half points in the paint despite their size advantage.
As Northeastern stormed back, the Matthews Arena crowd responded first with disbelief and then with raucous cheers. Every Doherty putback, Telfort drive, and Walters three brought the arena to life, giving Northeastern the energy they needed to complete a comeback the likes of which Northeastern has not managed since 2013. With 3:59 remaining, Walters put in a jumper to give Northeastern a 61-60 advantage that they would never relinquish.
“They put us in a hole in the first half and we challenged the guys in the locker room just to go out and play harder than them for the first four minutes to try to set the tone. Shaq and the other guys came out of the locker room with a ton of energy and really just kind of willed us to victory,” said Coen.
As the game wore on, the Huskies’ more aggressive defense did result in an increase in foul calls. Colgate, frustrated with their blown lead, also began fouling at will, as both sides reached the double bonus before the conclusion of the game. This was a sharp departure from the two free throws taken in the first half by either squad. Foul shots were an issue for both sides, who frequently missed the front ends of one and ones down the stretch. For as great of a game as he had, Telfort did crack under the pressure and missed two key free throws in the clutch, giving the Raiders an opportunity to tie the game down just three with 16 seconds to go. Fortunately for Northeastern, Scott-Grayson nabbed a steal and hit his free throws to ice it, giving the Huskies an incredible comeback victory.
Northeastern will work to continue their winning ways against UMass next December 7th. Tune in to WRBB for coverage of this in-state rivalry next Tuesday at 7 PM.