BOSTON — The Huskies entered tonight’s game on a three-game losing streak, with back-to-back losses against CAA conference opponents. On the other hand, the Hofstra Pride were coming off a huge victory against Delaware, positioning them in the middle tier of the conference.
Northeastern has struggled to find quality looks; in back-to-back games the Huskies only shot a combined 34% from the field. Following a rough game against the Monmouth Hawks, Northeastern looked to bounce back Thursday and secure their first conference win of the season.
Everything was going smoothly for the Huskies in the first couple of minutes; the defense was hustling and limiting open looks. After dominating the first half, followed by a dreadful second half, the Huskies battled out to win it 71-68 in an absolute nailbiter, with Hofstra’s star player Tyler Thomas missing a game-tying three-pointer.
The Huskies kicked off the game with an inspired Luka Sakota, who was returning from injury after a two-game absence. The transfer from Harvard scored 10 out of the first 15 from the Huskies, with a perfect 4-4 from the field.
“I thought having Luka back in the lineup was very important,” said head coach Bill Coen. “He started things off with some big shots and got everybody comfortable.”
After both teams’ benches entered the game, Hofstra started finding its tempo offensively, sharing the rock, and facilitating wide-open three-point field goals. However, Northeastern never took the foot off of the accelerator, and kept the offense going by swinging the ball around consistently.
The Huskies played the best half of the season in the first, shooting 4-9 from deep and 65% overall while scoring 42 points.
“I thought we played as well as we played all year in the first half,” Coen said. “Every piece was clicking, the rebounding was on point, and the players that came from the bench played a significant role. Specifically Pridgen, who single-handedly carried the 17-2 run to close out the first half with 10 points in 11 minutes.”
One of tonight’s biggest surprises was the lack of productivity the Huskies obtained from their season-leading scorer, Chris Doherty. The graduate student struggled while shooting 1-5 from the field in the first half. Hofstra’s 6 ’11 ” center Jacob Fritz managed to eliminate Doherty’s interior offensive game. Doherty could not get into the paint, nor shoot comfortably from mid-range.
After an outstanding first half, Hofstra came up hot after the intermission going on a 20-5 run in the first 7:43 of the second half. The Northeastern defense disappeared in the second half, and costly turnovers kept Hofstra in the game. After clawing back into the game, the Pride, led by Tyler Thomas, got their first lead of the game with 8:57 to go. Thomas ended up with 32 points in an eye-opening performance.
“A couple of double teams, but he’s seen it on a lot of basketball, and he’s scored 40 in the game multiple times,” Coen said, on how to guard Thomas.
Both teams battled it out in the last 10 minutes of the game. Regardless of the situation, Sakota came up clutch with a three-point dagger that put every single person on their feet.
“He’s a good player, we’ve missed him,” Coen said. “Last couple of games, to see the different teammates in our club being able to get a guy who other players can borrow confidence from, it’s got a very good record presence is going to go to score the ball is going to high basketball IQ.”
Unfortunately, Thomas, Hofstra’s leading scorer, responded immediately by nailing a deep ball from the top of the key. The Huskies went on top 71-68 after Sakota drilled both free throws, leaving 18.7 seconds for Thomas to make his final move. Luckily, Thomas could not find the netting, and Northeastern won its first game in about three weeks.
The Huskies avoided starting conference play 0-3, and they are set to encounter the Towson Tigers next Saturday, who currently hold the 8th position in the CAA.
WRBB will have full coverage on Saturday’s game when the Huskies will face the Towson Tigers in the last encounter of a three-game home stand. Justin Diament and Jordan Walsh will be on the call for the noon tipoff on 104.9 FM