Northeastern entered Wednesday’s clash with Vermont coming off their most dominating win of the season, an 81-63 rout of Old Dominion on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Catamounts won a nailbiter that same day, scoring six points in the last three seconds of their 66-65 win over Yale.
Both teams were hunting to remain in the win column, but ultimately it was the Catamounts who took the matchup at Matthews Arena, defeating Northeastern in the 74th matchup between the two by a final score of 73-71.
The game was one of back-and-forth momentum, with a high-powered offensive first half featuring an at one instance 13-point lead for the Huskies, a deficit which Vermont cut to just three by the end of the half.
Graduate student forward Chris Doherty would open Northeastern’s scoring with back-to-back layups under the basket, and the Huskies would only continue to pile on in the opening minutes of the first half, taking a 30-17 lead 10 minutes into the game following a few fastbreak scores from sophomore guard Rashad King.
The Catamounts began to fire more and more shots from beyond the arc, knocking down 9 three-pointers in the first half alone. Powered by sharpshooting big man Nick Fiorillo, Vermont pulled the score back to 43-40 by the close of the first half.
It seemed as if the Huskies had regained their footing at the start of the second half, jumping up to a nine-point lead halfway through the frame after sophomore guard Harold Woods scored from the paint a couple of times. However, a potential shot clock violation call was disputed by the Catamounts coaching staff, and while the call did go Northeastern’s way, it took away all their momentum, allowing UVM to once again begin a comeback.
With Vermont missing two of their top three scorers in junior guard Shamir Bogues and graduate student forward Matt Veretto, they looked to their other leading scorer, junior guard TJ Long, to provide them with offense, and provide he did. Long would go on to score 11 points in six minutes to give the Catamounts a 69-66 lead with 30 seconds remaining.
Ultimately, a last-ditch effort from sophomore guard Jared Turner brought the Huskies within two just as the game clock wound down, the game finishing with a final score of UVM 73, Northeastern 71.
Once again, a familiar storyline for the Huskies emerged: a struggle to come up with clutch plays in the closing minutes of their games. From their 79-74 loss to LaSalle or their 79-77 loss to Kennesaw State, Northeastern has struggled to score in crunch time, and this plagued them again Wednesday night — including Turner’s buzzer-beating three-pointer, they made just four field goals in the final ten minutes of the game.
The Huskies are not completely at fault for this loss, however, as Vermont was firing on all cylinders offensively — a surprise considering the lack of Bogues and Veretto in the lineup. Long, Fiorillo, and graduate student guard Aaron Deloney all scored in double-digits, making five, three, and three shots from long distance, respectively. The Catamounts went 15-for-29 from beyond the arc, a barrage of scoring that Northeastern could not keep pace with in the closing moments of the game. Northeastern struggled themselves from three-point range, going 5-for-17 in that respect.
One bright spot for the Huskies was one of sophomore guard Masai Troutman’s best performances of the season, finishing the game with 15 points and leading the team in both rebounds and assists, with six and three, respectively.
“He’s a terrific athlete,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said of Troutman. “I think he made some great plays getting to the rim, he’s explosive off the dribble. I think his game is starting to round out… He’s doing some other good things, defending, rebounding.”
Another shining star for Northeastern was perennial program cornerstone Doherty, who hit a season-high 21 points off of 9-for-13 shooting from the floor, as well as an impressive zero personal fouls. It marks the first time this season Doherty has not been called for a foul, a feat well deserving of recognition considering the physical battles Doherty and Fiorillo had in the paint. Doherty operated from his office, constantly driving along the baseline to right under the basket, delivering reverse layups to keep Northeastern in the game.
“Chris is the centerpiece of what we do,” Coen said. “He gives us go-to baskets. We tried to play through him in the post early in the start of both halves and towards the end of the game. For the most part, Chris always delivers.”
Northeastern will have some time before they suit up next, traveling to Charlottesville, Virginia for a very tough matchup against the red-hot UVA Cavaliers Saturday, December 16. Until then, the Huskies will look to shake off another tough loss to swallow with three more games until conference play begins.