Story by Mike Puzzanghera and Peyton Doyle
ORONO, Maine — Down two with under 30 seconds to go, the Northeastern Huskies got two good looks on the offensive end — one that would’ve tied, one that would’ve put them ahead, and both from star point guard Derin Erdogan. Neither one dropped, and the Huskies lost a tough battle on the road to the Maine Black Bears, 61-59.
“The shots just didn’t fall,” said Northeastern head coach Bridgette Mitchell.
Erdogan, who finished with 15 points, drove into the lane and pulled up from the foul line on the first attempt, creating a bit of space against Maine freshman Sarah Talon. The shot was short and hit the front rim, but Gemima Motema grabbed the offensive rebound. The sophomore found Erdogan on the wing for an open three, but it rimmed out. With Maine not in the bonus, Northeastern did not have enough time to commit the fouls required to send the Black Bears to the line, which would have given the Huskies one final chance.
What will haunt Northeastern from the matchup is something they have struggled with all season long, rebounding. The Huskies lost the battle of the boards 34-23, moving their average rebounding margin on the season to -7.8.
The 23 rebounds were the second-fewest grabbed by the Huskies this season, one of the main reasons for that low figure however was a general lack of available defensive rebounds. The Black Bears shot the lights out.
Maine finished at 70% from the field in the first quarter and 75% from beyond the mark in that period. For the game the team shot an astonishing 51/50/100, truly the difference maker as Northeastern also hit all of their free throws but shot 42% on their 57 field goals and 30% from three, including a 1-5 mark in the last three quarters.
“Maine is a talented team,” Mitchell said. “They have a rich tradition of just how well they play and how well they execute down the stretch.”
In nearly every other category, Northeastern led. They won the turnover margin by 11, they got 18 more points off of turnovers, and they committed less fouls.
While the Huskies have struggled to stay ahead in the turnover battle to start the season, they blitzed the Black Bears in this one, swiping 16 steals. Erdogan snagged five while Motema posted a career high with six steals, taking advantage of lax passes and jumping the lanes.
Motema, whose 20 points were a team high, also caused problems for the Black Bears on the offensive end through dribble penetration and pull-up jumpers.
“G’s really quick and explosive, and she was able to get to the rack quite a bit for us and demonstrate the mid-range game that she’s been working on all summer,” Mitchell said.
Junior forward Deja Bristol also had a big game for the Huskies, with a season-high 10 points. The Black Bears struggled to defend Bristol in the post. Though it looked like she reaggravated the knee injury that kept her out for Northeastern’s first two games in the second quarter, she came back out to start the second half.
In another fortunate break for the Huskies, sophomore Camille Clement also appeared to have avoided serious injury after a scary fall in the second quarter. Clement went down grabbing her left knee, but worked it out on the sideline and eventually came back in the game in the fourth quarter and grabbed one of her two steals during the comeback bid.
Northeastern plays in the St. Pete Showcase next, with games against UW Green Bay and Portland, Friday and Saturday respectively. Tipoff is at 2 p.m. for both games.