BOSTON — In a thrilling and hard-fought 151st meeting between crosstown rivals, it was a dog fight as Northeastern clashed with Boston University in a well-attended season opener at Matthews Arena.
Both teams battled it out from the jump. As the clock began to tick, the players wasted no time showcasing their defensive presence. Northeastern’s sixth-year forward Chris Doherty found himself on the wrong end of an early turnover, providing BU with an opportunity to assert their defensive dominance. Otto Landrum’s steal exemplified the Terriers’ commitment to disrupting their opponents’ plays, setting the tone for a tightly contested first half.
In the opening minutes, both teams struggled to find their offensive rhythm. Missing layups and jumpers characterized the initial exchanges, as the players worked to shake off early-game jitters. The game’s early stages were a testament to the defensive intensity of both the Northeastern and BU squads, as they contested every shot and were on the hardwood fighting for every loose ball.
At 1:08 in the first half, BU’s Miles Brewster opened scoring with a layup, marking the first points on the scoreboard. The back-and-forth nature of the contest was exemplified by the relentless battle for rebounds, with Terriers like Nic Nobili and Kyrone Alexander who finished the first half with a combined eight rebounds amongst the two Terriers.
Northeastern got on the board soon after as Jared Turner drained a three-point jumper, courtesy of an assist from Luka Sakota. This play ignited a scoring surge for the Huskies, temporarily shifting the momentum in their favor. Not only did this get Northeastern’s offense going, but it also had Matthews Arena fired up with fans on their feet. The Huskies’ offensive duo of Joe Pridgen and Masai Troutman added to the surge by orchestrating key plays that extended the score while showcasing their offensive abilities.
The defensive intensity on both sides was noticed, with blocks and steals from Landrum and others disrupting Northeastern’s offensive flow. The first half became a showcase of defensive tenacity, as players hustled to secure crucial stops and create turnovers.
Ethan Okwuosa’s successful layup for BU provided them with a narrow lead, but Sakota responded with a successful free throw, narrowing the gap. The halftime buzzer sounded with the Terriers holding a slim 34-31 lead.
As the players returned to the hardwood, the game resumed with heightened intensity and a greater sense of urgency from both teams. The pace remained relentless, as both teams sought to seize control of the game. Alexander of BU, a force to be reckoned with throughout the match, launched a three-point attempt, Doherty was there to secure the rebound, displaying his defensive presence around the rim.
As the clock ticked down, the game continued to be a seesaw battle. The players demonstrated exceptional resilience as each possession was a testament to their determination to secure victory. Doherty cashed in his first-ever career three-point basket and soon thereafter Troutman brought the house down with a dunk, which was a spectacle of sheer athleticism.
Defensively, both teams remained committed to contesting shots and disrupting plays. Blocks, steals, and deflections became commonplace as players fought across every inch of the court. For Northeastern, Jared Turner led the team in steals with two while Alexander Nwagha led in blocks with two as well.
The tide began to turn when Sakota, a pivotal offensive figure for his team, sank a crucial three-point shot. This play not only brought Northeastern within striking distance but also injected a surge of energy and belief into their squad. The momentum was undeniably shifting, with Northeastern’s players feeding off the positive turn of events.
With the score now closer, both teams showed remarkable poise under pressure, notably the defensive prowess of Harold Woods. His pressure on Northeastern’s full-court press was impactful in causing a steal down the stretch.
As the game began to wind down, Northeastern managed to gain a slight edge, propelled by a combination of timely plays and unyielding defense. Pridgen’s layup, assisted by Doherty, served as a testament to the teamwork and synergy that defined Northeastern’s performance in the better part of the second half. This put the Huskies up seven points with 5:08 left in the half.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Huskies did enough to get by as they finished the game victorious with a final score of 67-58. With this win it propelled Northeastern to take the advantage in their rivalry against Boston University taking a one-win advantage — 76-75 all-time.
At the post-game press conference, head coach Bill Coen commended the team for a great way to open their season against a formidable cross-town rival. He acknowledged the team’s excitement for the opening night victory, and how that caused some “mishandling of the ball” in their first match-up of the season.
Coen mentions that in the second half, the team showed better execution on offense and improved defensively. He credits their improved defense in part to Woods, who he referred to as “the player of the game” and “focal point on defense” who set the tone and helped keep Boston University out of the paint.
Coach commented on Sakota’s performance in his first game for Northeastern, acknowledging that he believes the grad student transfer from Harvard will “only continue to improve.” Coach Coen emphasizes Sakota’s competitiveness and ability to contribute both on and off the ball. The Huskies will be going to Cambridge next week to match up against Sakota’s former team.
Lastly, Coach Coen credits Doherty for “putting in the hard work during the summer, making 250 three-pointers a day.” He believes Chris’s three-point shooting will have a positive impact on the team’s offense as he could evolve into a stretch 5 role within this Northeastern offense.
The Huskies look to continue on the right foot as they progress through the rest of the out-of-conference part of their schedule as they will travel to Philadelphia to face La Salle University on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. However, the road is still long for this squad as they begin their 2023-24 campaign.
WRBB will provide live coverage of Northeastern’s matchup against the Harvard Crimson on Tuesday, Nov. 14 with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.