By Zolan Kanno-Youngs, News Correspondent
After being sidelined for the start of the 2012-2013 season due to an ankle injury, senior co-captain Jon Lee made his return to Matthews Arena in Tuesday’s 79-73 loss to UNC Asheville.
The point guard fit back into the starting point guard position with ease as he recorded 19 points on 7-12 shooting, to go along with five assists. His co-captain Joel Smith led the way for the Huskies with 19 points on 9-15 shooting – four of which came from behind the arc.
“I thought Joel got a little better looks with Jon back in the lineup and he’s going to get a different type of attention. Jon’s going to help that,” head coach Bill Coen said. “They misconnected a couple times on some passes where in years past they had great chemistry together. I think you could see they were a half a lick off on their passing when looking for each other, but I think they played well today.”
Sophomores Reggie Spencer and Quincy Ford also contributed on the boards with eight rebounds apiece however, this was not enough to stop the relentless Bulldogs. UNC Asheville beat the Huskies in second chance scoring 21-8 and outscored the Huskies in the paint by 14.
“UNC Asheville was just a notch tougher than we were today. It seemed like they got to lose balls and offensive rebounds. I know we gave up a ton of points on second chance points and I thought that their physicality particularly around the rim earned them the victory,” Coen said.
To combat that toughness and specifically the height the Bulldogs had, Coen went with a big lineup to start the game with junior Dinko Marshavelski and Spencer both in the lineup. The Bulgarian center continued to improve, scoring six points in just the first four minutes of the game but the 6’10 body of junior center D.J. Cunningham and senior forward Jeremy Atkinson made their presence known on the defensive end.
“They got a little bit more physical and we missed some layups,” Coach Coen said. “Reggie and Dinko had some good looks in the lane. You’ve got to give them credit, they bodied up down there just enough to make us miss.”
The UNC Asheville defense would allow the team go on an 11-0 run against the Huskies midway through the period which would eventually be cut to two thanks to a Northeastern run late in the first half.
Even after the Bulldogs opened the second half on a 9-3 run, Northeastern was able to cut the lead to two again by pushing the tempo, which opened up a pair of three’s for both freshman forward Zach Stahl and Smith. From there, The Big South team was able to go on a 17-6 run propelled mainly by great shooting from senior forward Jeremy Atkinson who had 21 to lead the Bulldogs.
After the Huskies cut the lead to eight, UNC Asheville responded with another run, giving them a 14-point lead with four minutes on the clock.
If not the game, Northeastern can be happy its leading scorer from last year is back in uniform and ready to play just a few weeks before conference games begin.
“Obviously, Jon is a good player, he played a good game but for us to be a really, really great basketball team, he’s got to play great games for us,” said Coach Coen.
The next Northeastern game will be on Friday, Dec. 21 as the Huskies take on Central Connecticut in New Britain, Conn.