Story by Eamonn Ryan
BOSTON — The Northeastern men’s basketball team (7-20, 1-15 CAA) suffered yet another loss on Tuesday night, this time to the visiting College of Charleston Cougars (15-12, 7-8 CAA) by a score of 83-72 in Historic Matthews Arena.
For about 30 minutes of the contest, the Huskies kept it close, keeping the Cougars just an arm’s reach away as both teams constantly gained and lost the lead, but after a 6-0 Charleston run with 9:47 to play in the game, the Huskies could not recover. Overall, the Huskies shot 25-for-50 from the field and 8-for-16 from long range but were unable to get it done on the defensive end, allowing Charleston to knock down shots at a clip of 58%.
“It’s like Groundhog Day: we get to the four-minute timeout, and it’s a two-possession game and, fatigue or turnovers or some mishap — we don’t finish the games off,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said. “I’m waiting for those lessons to be learned and for that experience to kind of take root.”
Early on, the Huskies were plagued by foul trouble as forward Chris Doherty quickly picked up three in the first half. In came redshirt senior forward Jason Strong to try and fill Doherty’s role, which he did well enough. Strong was physical, often battling underneath for position and when he did get the ball, he either scored or took on a distributor role, dishing out a season-high four assists in just the first half.
Even with Strong’s solid game, his limitations as a rebounder and true big man hindered the Huskies from sticking to their game plan.
“I thought Jason did a pretty good job. We [switched to] zone [defense] when he was in and tried to protect him a little bit,” Coen said. “You miss Chris on the boards, and you miss Chris’ physical presence when they have such a big front line, but I thought Jason did a really, really nice job.”
While Strong contributed offensively, also scoring eight points, the Huskies’ porous inside defense was clear as they allowed the Cougars 26 points in the paint after one. Senior guard Dimitrius Underwood and freshman wing Ben Burnham capitalized, attacking the NU defense and finding easy buckets at the rim.
“I thought we shot the ball pretty well; had a few too many turnovers but we couldn’t really prevent them from getting their quality shots. They were physical around the rim, and they got a lot of in-close touches and made the most of it,” Coen said.
Another strong performer on Tuesday evening was guard Nikola Djogo, who always seems to put on a solid performance when he’s playing in front of a home crowd. The Notre Dame transfer poured in a career-high 27 points for the Huskies on 10-of-15 shooting and going 4-for-7 from downtown in his full 40-minute effort.
“To his credit, I thought he bounced back from Saturday, from a subpar game, and really came out with a different mindset today to kind of really answer the bell and he set the tone for us in the first half and came to have a pretty good second half as well,” Coen said.
Djogo has been a bright spot all year for the Huskies and has proven to be an effective leader on the court and in the locker room. His experiences as well as his 12.1 points per game and 5.4 rebounds per game have been a consistent force so far, even though he struggled against Hofstra last weekend.
“He’s a very mature young man, he’s a good locker room guy and teammate and you know, it’s been a pleasure,” Coen said.
While the first half ended an extremely close affair with the Cougars leading by just two points, fatigue and foul trouble got to the Huskies in the second as they shot 40% and only knocked down two triples. A lack of depth was also a major problem late in the game, with no points coming from the bench in the final frame.
Moving forward, the Huskies will play the second of their three-game homestand to close out the season with just William & Mary and Elon left on the schedule. WRBB will have coverage of the matchup between the Huskies and the Tribe on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with Daisy Roberts and Justin Diament on the call on Mixlr.