Chiara Jurczak/WRBB Sports

BOSTON – The Northeastern Huskies capped their seniors’ careers at Matthews Arena with a victory, prevailing over the last-place Hampton Pirates 70-62 on Saturday afternoon.

As is customary for the last home game of the season, Saturday was “Senior Day,” an opportunity for the team and fans to honor the seniors and graduate students one final time at Matthews. Emotions ran high during a pregame ceremony which saw the seniors and their respective families recognized at center court.\

And, when it came time for tip-off, Northeastern fed off that emotion. Seniors Chris Doherty and Luka Sakota scored or assisted on all of the Huskies’ first 17 points as Northeastern leapt out to a 17-6 lead at the 13:02 mark of the first half. From there, the Huskies continued to methodically build the lead. Freshman guard JB Frankel sandwiched two 3s around a dunk from sophomore guard Harold Woods, and after three Sakota free throws, Northeastern’s lead ballooned to 32-15. Hampton was finally able to gain a foothold in the waning minutes of the period, but a buzzer-beating tip-in by senior forward Alexander Nwagha gave the Huskies a 40-22 lead at halftime.

Despite shooting just 23% from distance, the Huskies scored 40 points in the first half. Most of the scoring was due to excellent team play – Northeastern recorded 11 first half assists and shot 14-of-18 from inside the arc, while only turning the ball over once. Seven different Huskies scored in the frame, as Woods and Doherty led the way with a combined 21 on 10-of-13 from the floor. The defense limited Hampton to just 8-of-28 in the period; only senior guard Tedrick Wilcox scored more than four points in the half, ending with 12. 

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The second half started with the Huskies looking ready to make this one a laugher. Eight quick points from sophomore guard Jared Turner and a loud slam by Doherty gave Northeastern a 58-32 lead with 11:45 to play, and the game seemed nearly out of hand.

But, as anyone who’s watched these Huskies knows, no lead, no matter the size, is ever safe. Led by junior forward Ja’Von Benson, the Pirates went on a quick-hitting 13-2 run, and the lead was cut to 60-45. A Rashad King floater stemmed the bleeding, but Hampton continued to whittle away. After a Doherty three stretched the lead to 17 with 4:08 to go, Northeastern scored just one point over the next 3:36 as the once-dead Pirates were suddenly within six with 33 seconds remaining.

Ultimately, though, it was too little, too late. Doherty made his free throws, and sophomore guard Masai Troutman sealed the victory with a breakaway dunk. Hampton’s last-ditch threes were nowhere close, and the Huskies walked away with a 70-62 win.

Although it had the feeling of another second-half collapse for Northeastern, this one was never as close as it might’ve seemed. The Pirates’ comeback attempt never got closer than six, and even then, the time and score left the Huskies in full control.

As they’ve done throughout their careers, all of the active seniors contributed in a big way. Doherty ended with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists, while Sakota chipped in seven points, four rebounds, and eight assists. Nwagha played superb defense in limited minutes, and his impact went far beyond his final line of four points and six rebounds. 

“A really good group,” said head coach Bill Coen when asked about the seniors’ impact in their time at Northeastern. “Once you wear the jersey, you’re always part of the Northeastern basketball family… those guys will always have a home here.”

Elsewhere, Troutman and Turner had eight points each, while Frankel contributed six points and four assists in some quality minutes off the bench. Sophomore guard Rashad King had a quiet night, but held his own defensively and made a key floater in the second half.

The second half woes continued for Northeastern, losing the period 40-30. The Huskies had 11 of their 12 turnovers in the second half, and looked tentative offensively at times. It was a continuation of a discouraging trend, even though they pulled out the win.

“We got cute with the shot clock,” said Coen about the second half. “They came down and made shots. We got ourselves into some tough situations and turned the ball over.”

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For Hampton, Ja’Von Benson was a bright spot, turning in 18 points to go with 11 rebounds. He had several thunderous dunks, and his nose for rebounds saved multiple possessions for the Pirates. Wilcox paced the team in points with 19, but shot just 7-of-19 from the floor. Junior guard Jordan Nesbitt had a game he’d like to forget, scoring just eight points on an unsightly 3-of-17 from the field.

Hampton forward Kyrese Mullen was inactive for the second straight game. The forward is averaging 15.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, leading the team in both categories.

Northeastern forward Bryce Johnson played just one minute in the contest before exiting with what appeared to be a head injury. He was back on the bench in the second half, though, and Coen seemed to suggest his removal was mostly precautionary.

The Huskies will travel to Delaware for a Thursday showdown, while Hampton will return home to face Monmouth.

Northeastern continues to fight for tournament seeding when they face Delaware on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.