BOSTON — In a game that left the home crowd with their heads in their hands, Harvard stepped up when it counted and left Matthews Arena with one more tally in the win column as Northeastern fell in their home opener, 70-69, continuing their winless season start.
Though Wednesday’s result was close, the Huskies have struggled to compete with their talented opponents from start to finish.
“[We’re] playing against high-quality teams, great coaches, great programs, in the hopes that it’ll serve us well come the new year when we start CAA play,” said head coach Bill Coen.
After a sluggish start shooting the ball, where the team went 1-for-6 from the field and fell behind 10-3, the juniors, guard Jahmyl Telfort and forward Coleman Stucke, were finally able to get Northeastern rolling in the first half. Combining for 22 of the 32 first half points, the two Canadians not only did enough to get the Huskies back into the game but actually gave the home team a two-point lead heading into the restart.
Despite the promising halftime result, Northeastern still left a lot to be desired, most glaring of which was in the front court. Senior forward Chris Doherty had to leave the game after just three minutes due to an injury. From there it was reminiscent of the previous weekend’s matchup against Providence, as Harvard showed little issue scoring from inside the paint. The Huskies seemed incapable of scoring from sets, relying heavily on pushing the tempo in transition to secure baskets and in turn exposing themselves to turnovers.
Whether it was Coen’s adjustments or simply the players settling in to their first home game of the season, we saw a different Huskies team about midway through the first half. Junior forward Alex Nwagha provided pivotal support off the bench, settling down Harvard’s post presence, while Stucke added much needed energy to the offense, securing three offensive boards as Northeastern started looking a lot more comfortable in the half court game and the offense began to flourish.
“I thought we got some great minutes from Alex,” Coen said. “He gave us some great minutes up front. … I thought our competitiveness on the glass helped us settle it down.”
The only thorn Northeastern was left to deal with during the halftime break was figuring out how to contain Harvard’s senior forward Chris Ledlum. The Crimson’s current leader in points showed that title was not just a formality as he scored 15 points in the first half, hitting all but two of his eight shots.
In the second half, Northeastern continued from where they left off, but this time Telfort formed a new tandem, as he and freshman guard Harold Woods were able to feed off one another, scoring 12 of Northeastern’s first 18 second half points. The Huskies certainly needed whatever they could take as Ledlum showed no sign of stopping what he did in the first frame. At times it felt like those 3 were the only players on the court, as they alone were responsible for more than half of the made field goals from the period.
In the final four minutes, the game saw five lead changes. Telfort made an untimely error, turning over the ball, the Huskies down by one with just 34 seconds left to play. Eyes were on Coen as he made the decision to play the defense straight up as opposed to fouling and forcing Harvard to make their shots at the line.
While the Crimson milked every second they could from the clock, Harvard’s jumper came up short and the Huskies were able to secure the rebound with four ticks remaining. While everyone in the building was waiting for a timeout, Northeastern pushed the pace. Woods was able to get the ball to Stucke, finding himself all alone running full speed towards the basket. With momentum pushing him forward, he attempted an off-balance runner to the left side of the penalty stripe that banked off the glass just a bit too strong. The buzzer sounded with the Crimson ahead by one as the Huskies dropped their third contest in as many tries.
“I was about to call timeout,” Coen said. “Then I thought Harold had a head of steam, and so sometimes you can over-coach.”
The loss brings up a lot more questions than answers for the young Huskies team. Despite the result, possibly the brightest spot on the night for the Huskies was seeing the play of the freshmen, most specifically Woods and fellow guard Chase Cormier, who showed flashes of the point guard he can be for the Huskies in the foreseeable future.
“They’ve got a lot of enthusiasm,” Coen said. “I thought Harold Woods had a terrific game. We got great energy from Jared Turner in the backcourt. Masai [Troutman] is a two-way player and terrific athlete. … Chase gave us some good minutes.”
A lot can be said about this game and the ongoing season, but until Northeastern can win their first game, the losses are all anyone will be able to think about.
“They’re ready to play in college basketball, but we’re not ready to win yet,” Coen said.
The Huskies’ next game will be Saturday at Syracuse against the Orange, their final game stateside before the London Classic. The Huskies’ last game against Syracuse was in 2020-21, in which they lost 62-56. WRBB will have coverage from Justin Diament and Peyton Doyle live starting before the 4 p.m. tipoff.