BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies returned to the Cabot Center for the first time this season on Saturday as they took on another in-state rival in Holy Cross, after a Tuesday victory against Merrimack.
The Huskies offense started the same as it did earlier earlier this week, with junior guard Derin Erdogan aggressively leading the break to find easy buckets in transition. Sophomore forward Asha Parker was the recipient of the first assist from Erdogan, laying it up to open the scoring for both teams. Freshman guard Ariana Webb was a benefactor soon after, and Erdogan hit a jumper of her own to give Northeastern an early 6-1 lead.
Holy Cross answered quickly though, as junior guards Bronagh Power-Cassidy and Cara McCormack responded from deep to quickly close the deficit. This was the spark the Crusaders needed to start their offense. After the two teams traded buckets, Holy Cross went on an 8-0 run to close the first quarter. Junior forward Janelle Allen contributed two layups, and senior guard Addisyn Cross, scored from the charity stripe and connected from three at the end of the quarter.
Out of the short break, Power-Cassidy hit a baseline jumper to extend the run to 10-0 and the lead to 20-11. The Huskies, badly needing a bucket, got two nifty layups from sophomore guard Gemima Motema to get herself in the scoring column. However, the Crusaders did not let up, as they went on a 6-2 run thanks to threes from Cross and McCormick.
This was more or less the rest of what Holy Cross got this half though, as Northeastern clawed back, courtesy of Webb, who notched her first career three ball and added a pair of free throws. Freshman forward Oralye Kiefer, who was heavily used during the first half, closed the Crusader lead to 30-23 after junior Halle Idowu found her for a layup off an offensive board.
Northeastern took that momentum into the second half, as Webb continued to rack up points. After the teams traded twos to start the quarter, the freshman got back to back buckets — a long jumper after another Idowu offensive rebound and a layup in transition from Motema. She finished with a career-high 11 points, along with five rebounds.
The Huskies did not stop here: Motema free throws and a steal and layup from Erdogan gave the home team the lead and forced Holy Cross to call a timeout. That did not stop the bleeding though; after the teams traded free throws, Northeastern got an extended possession that resulted in an Erdogan three, thanks to two offensive rebounds by Idowu.
Despite her team-high 13 points at the end of the game (and nine in the third quarter), Erdogan struggled from three as this was the only one she made out of five attempts. The Huskies’ run stretched to 15-4, but the Crusaders got lucky with a timely media timeout.
Coming out of the break, the results were different. Holy Cross got five points back from a jumper by sophomore forward Callie Wright and a three from Cross, en-route to a 8-2 run to retake a 44-40 lead to finish the quarter. The turnover margin haunted the Huskies during the first half, as they gave away the ball nine times compared to the Crusaders’ four but the offense executed better during this quarter, giving the ball over one time and allowed them to get back into this contest.
It was evident from the last quarter that the Huskies weren’t going to give up despite the score, so Holy Cross got much needed insurance. Freshman guard Mary-Elizabeth Donnelly started off with a three, and Power-Cassidy one-upped her, connecting from a couple steps beyond the arc, bumping the lead back up to 10.
Northeastern was on a three-minute scoring drought as they watched the visitors stretch their advantage, and Motema once again stopped the bleeding, this time dishing a pass to Idowu for an easy layup. Then, on back-to-back possessions, sophomore guard Camille Clement and Motema recorded steals and got to the free throw lines running the fast break. Northeastern suddenly saw itself with a 6-0 run in just a minute, cutting the Holy Cross lead to two.
Despite the miscommunications on defense, the Crusaders did not crumble as Power-Cassidy hit her third three-pointer of the afternoon to put her team back up two possessions. Motema countered with a floater, who ended her day with 12 points. Holy Cross called another timeout to draw up a play and put the Huskies away. Northeastern almost came up with a stop, but a foul late in the shot clock by Webb gave the Crusaders two free throws and subsequent points. Desperately needing a quick score to keep the game within reach, Northeastern got that from Clement, who started the game 0-5 from the field, to bring the deficit back to two.
She wasn’t so fortunate the next possession as she missed a heavily contested three, after McCormick split a pair of free throws on the other end which kept the game within reach. Northeastern called a timeout prior to this possession to draw up an inbounds play and it looked like the goal was to get Clement a shot, as Idowu was looking for the entire time after receiving the inbounds.
“Holy Cross did a great job forcing us to shoot contested shots… and we weren’t very effective in our ability to get off the shots that we wanted to get,” head coach Bridget Mitchell said.
With 15 seconds left, Northeastern had no choice but to play the foul game, as Power-Cassidy, who finished with a game-high 15 points, sank her free throws to put the Crusaders up 60-55 and wrap up this contest.
The Huskies won the rebounding battle 41-32, something Mitchell has emphasized throughout the season, with Idowu leading the way with 12, including five on the offensive glass.
“We wanted to build on Merrimack [on Tuesday], but only getting +9 [on the rebounds] wasn’t going to do it against [Holy Cross],” Mitchell said.
Furthermore, they only turned the ball over three more times than the Crusaders did (14-11), despite the disastrous first half. However, Holy Cross shot 9/22 (41%) from downtown, sinking Northeastern.
The Huskies are back at the Cabot Center on Monday as they take on cross-town rivals Harvard at 5 p.m. Mike Puzzanghera and Peyton Doyle will have the call on WRBB Sports 104.9 FM.