Story by Daisy Roberts
Photos by Sarah Olender
BOSTON – The Northeastern men’s basketball team is having a pretty lackluster start to the new year. Entering today’s game on a seven-game losing streak, including 0-6 in conference play, as of late, there haven’t been too many positives for the Huskies. And as much as it would have been great to see the script flipped today, that just wasn’t in the cards.
Northeastern lost by quite a large margin at Matthews, with the Hofstra Pride outscoring them 72-50. A key factor for Hofstra’s win was 5’10” guard Zach Cooks, who put up 19 points in just over 25 minutes, making him today’s leading scorer. Cooks, who was by far the smallest player on the court, made his presence known, tallying three steals to go along with his offensive prowess. The Huskies, being a much larger team, could not find a way to guard Cooks, as his small size and quick thinking outsmarted the home team from tipoff to the final buzzer.
Speaking of the size difference between the two teams, Hofstra played with a very guard-heavy lineup, whereas Northeastern relied on the size of their forwards. It would lead most to believe that the larger team would be able to dominate, but that simply wasn’t true today. Hofstra utilized their smaller size well, ducking under and around the larger Huskies and scoring plenty in transition.
Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen commented on this, saying “[T]hey had a lot of mismatches and they took better advantage of that than we did.”
The Pride was incredibly slippery on offense, especially through their playmaking and fast breaks. They out-assisted Northeastern 15-11 and had 11 fast-break points compared to Northeastern’s two. Junior Aaron Estrada utilized his speed all day, tallying 16 points in addition to eight rebounds and two assists. He, along with Cooks and fellow guard Darlinstone Dubar, carried the Hofstra offense to what became an easy road victory.
A key issue on the court today for the home team was their shooting. During this eight-game losing streak, the team has not once shot for over 50% from the field, including a 35% clip today. Beyond that, they were abysmal from distance, making six out of their 24 shots from beyond the arc. And it’s not like Hofstra had an incredible day; they only shot 30.4% from distance and 50% total, but the perpetual issue of a lack of offense plagued Northeastern all game.
Coen commented on this, pointing out that “For us, it’s been the same story all year long… We had some really good looks that didn’t go down. I thought we had some looks around the basket that we didn’t convert. We’ve got to finish better around the rim and we’ve got to make our open threes.”
The one slightly bright spot for the Huskies was the return of star forward Chris Doherty, who missed the past two games due to a minor injury. Doherty scored 10 points, one of two players on his team in double digits, as well as collecting seven rebounds. Considering he may not have been at his best today, Doherty was a leader on the court, acting as an option when there truly weren’t many for Northeastern.
However, Coen was wary about giving Doherty too much praise, noting, “Chris is always going to give you effort; he’s a high motor guy. He’s got strength and toughness and we need him to play at a high level to be competitive. I did feel like his timing was off a little bit. He scored some points, but he had to earn everything. Nothing came easy for him out there. Hopefully going forward, he’ll get in a little more of a rhythm.”
The dead silence of the empty arena was deafening after the final buzzer sounded. The building was filled with utter dejection, and the lack of fans in Matthews certainly did not help keep the team motivated. Due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, Northeastern has disallowed fans from attending athletic events for the time being, and this was certainly felt by the team today.
Coen stated, “It’s certainly a lot better with fans. On days like today, I thought there were a few times where we scored a couple of buckets where usually the N-Zone and the students would get behind it and allow you to go on some mini runs, and we certainly miss that. That’s no excuse for how we played, but it is certainly better when our fans are here to support us.”
In Coach Coen’s words, there are “no excuse[s] for how we played.”
Heading into a season with so much success the previous year, nobody could have seen this level of hardship coming for this team. And yet, the outlook on this season continues to get worse, with the light at the end of the tunnel, the conference tournament, getting farther and farther into the distance.
The Huskies look to put an end to this major slump this Monday, January 24, where they will host the first of two games against UNC Wilmington. Justin Diament, Jordan Walsh, and Rae Deer will be on the call; make sure to tune in at 7 p.m. Until then, all the Husky faithful can do is cross their fingers and hope for some salvageability for this season.