Story by Daisy Roberts
Photos by Sarah Olender
BOSTON – It’s been a long season for the Northeastern Huskies. Over the past 61 days, the team had not won a single game. They were 0-11 in conference play, by far the worst in the CAA.
The Huskies managed to squeak out their first conference win of the season, beating the Towson Tigers 58-53. Led by junior Chris Doherty, who was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder with 14 points and 10 boards, the home team was able to finally overcome their recent woes.
Doherty was fantastic today, utilizing his body incredibly well. When asked about his star forward, Huskies head coach Bill Coen said, “He’s undersized in terms of height, but he’s got a huge heart. When the ball goes up on the backboard, he goes and gets it. That’s his physical and mental toughness. He gives us a chance night in and night out when he rebounds the ball like that and scores tough baskets in and around the rim.”
Along with Doherty, the Huskies had an unexpected standout player on the court today in Quirin Emanga. Emanga came off the bench, as he has been throughout the whole season, and although it may not look like he had much impact from the stat sheet alone, his presence on the court was outstanding. He scored seven points, shooting perfectly from the field, but only tallied one rebound. However, Emanga’s impact was greatest on defense. He drew multiple offensive fouls, took charges, and was ultimately one of the most physical players on the court, which Northeastern greatly needed.
Coen commented on Emanga’s night, saying “Quirin [Emaga] is one of our tougher, defensive-minded guys. Playing Towson, you know it’s going to be a physical battle, and that’s his forte. We knew coming in that he could have an impact on the game and make a difference. He has a willingness to give up his body and take charges or play in the post. He lived up to that today and we needed it.”
Being such a low-scoring game, though, the key factor in this outing for both teams was their defense. Towson was unable to stop Northeastern in the first half, especially from long distance. Northeastern shot 57% from three-point range in the first 20 minutes of the game, and although they cooled down in the second half, Towson was never able to get hot at all. The Tigers shot an abysmal 6.7% from range, mostly due to Nicolas Timberlake, who shot 0-9 from that distance. Northeastern’s defense was definitely the main reason why they hung onto this game.
When asked about what he thought his team’s strengths were today, Coen responded, “I thought we won the game on defense. We also finished the game at the foul line, which is something we haven’t been able to do during this stretch. I think we were defensive-minded right from the jump… We had a few guys coming in off the bench with timely buckets, but it was defense and rebounding that carried the day for us.”
Though Timberlake had a horrible day from the field, his teammate, junior Cam Holden, was the Tigers’ saving grace. Holden was the day’s leading scorer with 21 points, going 7-13 from the field. However, his normally strong rebounding and assist numbers were absent today, as he only tallied one board and two assists. Northeastern won the day’s rebounding battle, beating the Tigers 26-19 on the boards, and it was a much-needed win. The Huskies have been plagued with turnovers, with 14 today, so the extra possessions gained from rebounds were very much appreciated.
It was very much a tale of two halves, though, as Northeastern went from a blistering hot offensive performance to something quite similar to what we’ve seen from them during their losing streak. In the second half, they only shot 36% from the field, which pales in comparison to the 57% from the first half. As their offense slowed down, Towson was able to nearly make a full comeback after being down by 11 points at the start of the second.
Towson’s fans played a large part in the energy shift in the game, as there were seemingly more fans for the away team than the home squad in Matthews today. However, the energy was appreciated from both sides.
“I’m just glad that there are fans and people coming out and watching. It was a hotly contested CAA battle and having extra people in here makes a difference for our players and theirs as well. It gives the environment that you want in college athletics.”
Even with the slower second half, Northeastern was able to hold on for just long enough to obtain their first conference victory. Coen expressed his pride in his team, saying “It’s been a long month and it would be easy for them to just mail in the rest of the season and not compete, but I thought they showed heart and determination against a really good Towson team. To come out against a team playing this well and get 40 minutes of effort is huge. It took all of that effort to get the win against an outstanding and well-coached Towson team… Hopefully, this is a momentum-changer game for our season and maybe we can get back on track.”
All in all, today must be deemed a success for the Huskies. No matter how close the game was, it was a win. A change in momentum is exactly what this Northeastern team needs, as they look to tack on some more wins before the upcoming CAA Tournament. They next match up on the road against Delaware this Thursday, February 10, as they look to start a new streak, this time in the win column. WRBB correspondent Adam Doucette will be writing the recap.