By Jordan Walsh
HEMPSTEAD, NY — In a season that has featured plenty of tough defeats for the Northeastern Huskies (7-19), Saturday afternoon’s contest on Long Island might just sting the worst of all.
The Huskies held an 11 point lead over the Hofstra Pride (19-9) more than halfway through the second half, and an eight-point advantage with less than 90 seconds to go, but the visitors managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and lose their 14th conference game of the season, by a final score of 76-73.
The result assures that Northeastern will finish with one of the two worst records in the Colonial Athletic Association, meaning that the Huskies will need to win a play-in game just to reach the quarterfinals of next month’s conference tournament. The first round has been reduced from four teams to two this year, due to James Madison’s CAA postseason ban.
The Huskies did a good job of slowing the pace in the first half against the Pride, something they needed to do against a Hofstra team that boasts the CAA’s highest scoring offense. Sophomore guard Jahmyl Telfort led the way for Northeastern with 11 points in the first 20 minutes, working his way inside against a Pride defense that applied ball pressure and disrupted passing lanes.
Telfort also connected twice in the half with redshirt senior forward Jason Strong, who went 5-for-8 from beyond the arc in the game.
The Huskies were able to limit Hofstra to one shot on offensive possessions for much of the game, and the Pride finished with just two second-chance points. Especially in the first half, Northeastern’s presence on the interior forced Hofstra to shoot for threes instead of driving to the basket, which worked out well for the visitors when the Pride went just 2-for-14 from three in the half. Senior guard Omar Silverio, who made a CAA-record 11 three pointers in Hofstra’s previous game, had only one three in the entirety of Saturday’s contest.
The Huskies finished the first half on a 7-0 run to lead 32-29 going into the break. It was an excellent showing to start out, especially against a team that had pummeled them 72-50 at Matthews Arena last month.
To start the second half, Telfort continued to do it all for Northeastern, including slamming down a thunderous dunk to give the Huskies a lead they would not relinquish until the final seconds of the game.
Redshirt junior forward Chris Doherty also kept making his presence felt down low, scoring 15 of his 22 points in the second half. Excellent ball movement and effort on both ends of the floor allowed the Huskies to build up a double-digit lead, as part of a 13-2 run.
Northeastern seemed to be cruising through the second half, and their play was the best it had looked in a long time. Nevertheless, it still remained to be seen whether the Huskies could continue this effort for the full 40 minutes, something that had plagued them in conference games this season.
The answer to that question would be a resounding “no,” as Hofstra hit four three-pointers in three minutes to cut the deficit to four.
A three from Strong increased the Huskies lead to eight, but it would be the last points they would score, as Hofstra netted 11 unanswered points to complete the comeback and give Northeastern another painful moment in their nightmare season.
Before the game and during halftime, Hofstra held “Joe Mihalich Day” ceremonies to honor the legacy of their former head coach, who led the Pride for seven seasons and won the 2020 CAA Tournament before suffering a stroke in August of that year. The crowd that showed up to the Mack Sports Complex to support Mihalich, who now serves as a special advisor to the athletic department, erupted when graduate student guard Zach Cooks netted the layup to give Hofstra the lead.
For the Huskies, the loss means they will finish winless in conference road games this season. Northeastern finishes up the regular season with a three-game homestand, starting Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Charleston. WRBB’s Peyton Doyle, Rae Deer, and Eamonn Ryan will have the call.