BOSTON — What looked like a much-needed end to their three-game losing streak turned into another heartbreaking loss for Northeastern on Saturday afternoon.
The Huskies appeared to have overcome a 14-point second half deficit when they were up four with just 21 seconds left and freshman guard Rashad King heading to the free-throw line. But a miss on the front end by King and a couple of poor inbounds allowed Elon to storm back in the closing seconds, winning by a final score of 74-73.
The first 10 minutes of the game were rather even, with the teams tied at 17 midway through the first half. Redshirt senior forward Chris Doherty had 10 of those 17 points for Northeastern, and finished as the game’s leading scorer with a season-high 22 points, cashing in against the Phoenix’s 2-3 zone defense.
“[Elon’s] defense was geared to keep [Doherty] from getting the basketball inside,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen. “He did a good job working from position and being strong around the basket.”
The Phoenix, however, went on a 13-2 run, and took a double-digit lead into halftime. The Huskies shot just 2-for-11 from three-point range in the first half, with both of those makes coming from freshman guard/forward Jared Turner. Junior forward Coleman Stucke, coming off a 6-for-13 performance from deep against Delaware, missed all four of his three-point attempts in the half.
Unlike in some of their previous comeback attempts, Northeastern closed the gap right out of the gate in the second half, rattling off a 31-13 run to go up four halfway through the second frame. Key to that run was the three-point shooting of Stucke, who found his form and made four threes in under five minutes.
Meanwhile, freshman guard/forward Max Mackinnon was the star of the show for Elon, either scoring or assisting on nine of the Phoenix’s 13 field goals in the second half. The Brisbane, Australia native showed great interior driving and passing, multiple times faking a shot only to dump it off to sophomore forward/center Sam Sherry for an easy bucket.
The Huskies did not get their lead up to multiple possessions until junior guard Glen McClintock hit a three with less than two minutes to go — his first make from beyond the arc in four games — to give the Huskies a 71-67 advantage.
Northeastern then traded buckets with Elon to maintain the four-point lead, and got a stop after a questionable video review overturned an out-of-bounds call to give the Huskies possession.
With the shot clock off, the Phoenix had to foul, and they sent King to the line for a one-and-one. King, who came into the game 9-for-13 from the foul line on the season, missed the first free throw, and graduate student guard/forward Jerald Gillens-Butler quickly answered with a three. Northeastern could not get the next inbounds in cleanly, as the ball went out of bounds off of McClintock’s hands. Down one, Gillens-Butler drove the ball himself and finished a tough layup to put Elon back in front.
The Huskies had two timeouts, but Coen did not call one until McClintock had brought the ball up into the frontcourt and attempted to drive it, allowing almost six seconds to come off the clock.
Coming out of the timeout, Northeastern initially set up as if they were inbounding the ball from the sideline in front of their bench, but the officials moved the inbounds to the side of the basket on the end line. The four Huskies who were receiving the pass then lined up along the halfcourt line in a bizarre formation akin to a football play. Stucke ended up catching the pass and attempted a runner in the paint that was blocked by Sherry at the buzzer.
“It’s kind of difficult to get a last-second shot around the basket against the zone, and they were protecting that,” Coen said. “We got a clean look and Coleman had a lane to the basket, so we got something there. I was hoping for a foul in that situation, but didn’t come away with it.”
The tough defeat extends Northeastern’s losing streak to four, and it does not get any easier for the Huskies, as their next three games come against the top three teams in the CAA.
“I thought we played inspired basketball in the second half,” Coen said. “Clawed back and had the game in a really good situation, and just didn’t finish the game. … We kept the door open for them way too much. Got to give them some credit, they made some good plays. They made winning basketball plays and were able to eke out a victory here.”
The Huskies next take to the court Wednesday night, as they host Hofstra at 6 p.m. Justin Diament and Jordan Walsh will have the call for WRBB Sports.