Story by Peyton Doyle
Photos by Sarah Olender
WASHINGTON DC – For 38 minutes of play it appeared that the tournament magic for the Northeastern Huskies would live on, as they were down by just a single point to the Towson Tigers, the top seeded team in the conference, in their 2nd round CAA tournament matchup.
However, the Huskies ran out of whatever mystical serum head coach Bill Coen was feeding to his players, as their luck and their shooting went dry over the last two minutes of this season.
Two of Northeastern’s stars, forward Chris Doherty and guard Shaquille Walters, fouled out in the closing minutes of the game and Towson’s Nicholas Timberlake and Cam Holden sealed the game with some clutch free throws.
The 68-61 loss was the 22nd for the Huskies this season, the most suffered by Northeastern in Coen’s tenure as head coach, as his team faced countless injuries that decimated both their offense and defense throughout the course of the year.
In this game, however, Coen and his Northeastern team battled valiantly, overcoming many faults in their game to hold Towson to under 70 points, something that no team has been able to do since these two teams last faced off on Feb. 5.
From the start, the greatest challenge for the Huskies was where they were going to find points against the stout Tiger defense, a defense that led the CAA with the fewest points allowed per game and boasted two All-Defensive team selections in Holden and big man Charles Thompson.
Early on the Huskies were showing flashbacks of their first half performance from the night before against the William & Mary Tribe where they scored just 18 total points. Coen’s team did not score a single point in this game for more than five and a half minutes to open it.
Luckily for Northeastern, Towson too struggled from the field to start, just hitting two shots in their first nine minutes of play. The offensive lifeline for the Huskies came with the injury to Thompson who played just 15 minutes in the game.
Thompson was subbed out for Chase Parr around the 13 minute mark and from there the Huskies went on a tear, outsourcing the Tigers 12-4 over the next four minutes, with Jason Strong contributing seven of those points and Doherty making his presence felt on the interior against his inferior opponents.
Doherty was asked post game if he was feeling fatigued after playing in back to back days.
“At the start of the game, I was telling myself I was tired, but I realized that there’s a lot more going on in the world than this game,” Doherty said. “With what is going on in Ukraine right now, those people are going through it and this is just a basketball game and so I started to tell myself that I wasn’t tired and to dig down deep. No, I wasn’t tired.”
Following that torrid stretch from Doherty, Strong, and the rest of the team which made the game 18-8 in their favor, Towson went on a run of their own, rattling off 17 points in four minutes to take a one point lead.
Luckily for the Huskies, Nikola Djogo made one of the teams two triples at an opportune time, nailing a shot from deep and giving the Huskies a three point lead. A pair of free throws by Holden at the end of the half brought the Tigers closer, but the top seeded Towson entered halftime down by 1 to the Northeastern underdogs.
The second half, however, was quickly taken over by Timberlake, who had just two first half points but hit two threes and slammed home a dunk in the opening two minutes of the second frame.
Coen discussed Timberlake’s performance post-game.
“Timberlake’s a guy you’ve got to try and prevent from seeing the ball go in,” Coen said. “Once it goes in and he starts heating up, it’s tough to stop him. In the first half, we did a good job of limiting his looks. He got free in the second half on a short closeout. It was a soft switch, he got behind, then he got in his rhythm a little bit. Cam Holden found him with a great cross-court pass, so he had a couple opportunities there.”
As the half went on, Towson’s active hands got the better of them as the officials went to their whistles and set up Northeastern to take free throws from the bonus early on. The Huskies were able to keep pace with the Tigers due to their foul shooting for the first 15 minutes of the second half, but found themselves down by 11 after Timberlake hit an emphatic three with five minutes left in the game.
That three was one of five that he sank in the second half. Timberlake compiled 23 points in that period, curling around screens and finding himself in the right spots for spot up jumpers.
With that three, the Huskies found themselves facing elimination in the eyes for the second day in a row, but a new life rushed through the squad in the following four minutes.
Points by all five Northeastern starters brought the team within one, but in the end the official’s foul rulings got the better of them and they saw their season slip away with each passing Towson foul shot.
The Huskies won’t play again until their season begins next November and for the first time in four years they will be without Strong or Walters. Coen will have to look to new players to be veteran leaders on the roster.
WRBB will continue to have coverage of both Northeastern hockey teams, the upcoming women’s basketball CAA tournament next weekend, and the Huskies baseball season, which has just begun. As always, make sure to tune in to 104.9 FM on the radio whenever you are in the Boston area or listen live from the website wherever you are. It is and always will be your home for Huskies sports.