By Aren LeBrun, News Staff
The Northeastern Huskies fell to first-place Drexel University in a 73-85 loss on Thursday night that dropped them to 11-7 overall and 4-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The Dragons, who remain undefeated in conference play at 6-0, fired on all cylinders offensively, shooting a blistering 61 percent and dishing out 23 assists.
Senior guard Deanna Kerkhof led the Huskies with 16 points, one of four Northeastern players in double figures. The loss spoiled a career milestone for Kerkhof, whose three-pointer with 2:10 to go in the first half made her the fifteenth player in Northeastern history to reach 1,000 career points.
Junior center Jewel Tunstull posted 10 points and seven rebounds, while teammate and fellow post player Christine Huber scored 13 points to go along with her five rebounds. Senior guard Kashaia Cannon and sophomore guard A’lece Mark each scored 13 points for the Huskies.
Senior guard Holly Mershon was the catalyst of the Dragons’ machine-like offensive attack. Mershon flirted with a triple-double, posting a season-high 33 points to go along with eight assists and seven rebounds, all while shooting an efficient 12-16 from the floor. Senior forward Taylor Wootten put up big numbers as well. Wootten, the Co-CAA Player of the Week, recorded 26 points, seven boards and five assists.
Nothing came easy for Northeastern early on. Drexel used tough defense to deny penetration and force tough shots throughout the opening minutes. The Dragons moved the ball quickly and efficiently on offense, feeding the hot hands of Wootten and Mershon to jump out to an early 16-2 lead at the first media timeout.
“I think defensively we could have done a much better job,” head coach Daynia La-Force said. “I mean, you can’t win against the best team in the conference if you come out and give them that much confidence to start the game.”
The Huskies loosened up a bit offensively coming out of the timeout, with A’lece Mark hitting a three followed by two post scores in-a-row from Huber. Mark followed up with a strong layup through contact and hit her free throw to complete the three-point play.
Drexel was not phased by this sudden spark in the Husky offense. Wootten scored on consecutive plays for the Dragons. Then Mershon buried a three from the wing, one of her three deep shots in the first half.
Following the second media timeout, Husky sophomore guard Amencie Mercier came off a ball screen at the top of the key and drove all the way to the basket, finally cutting the lead to single digits. Wootten answered with a three in the corner, and Mershon hit a jump shot off a sideline inbounds play to grab the 20-32 lead. Huber then scored off an offensive rebound to cut the lead to 10.
This is where Drexel clamped down and started clicking offensively, getting out in transition and hitting open shots. The 12-0 run was capped off by Mershon’s third three-pointer of the half.
Cannon stopped the run with a pair of long balls on the other end, but Drexel got the last word with Mershon scoring a layup to make the score 50-38 going into the break.
At the beginning of the second period, the Huskies brought more energy than they did in the first, with Tunstull scoring on two consecutive post plays before Cannon shook free of her defender with a quick crossover move and scored on the double clutch layup. She then drew a shooting foul on a turnaround jumper on the next play, hitting one of two at the line.
Mershon silenced this momentum with a pullup jumper, and senior guard Renee Johnson-Allen scored on two consecutive plays, one a jump shot and the other a floater in transition. Mershon’s fourth deep ball of the night came from the corner in transition, and that is when the Dragons finally took complete control of the game, coasting to the 85-73 finish.
“We just gotta follow the game plan,” said La-Force. “We didn’t contest their shots, our rotations were poor … When the opponents get tougher, they gotta be more disciplined and buy into the game plan.”
The Huskies were coming off a two-game road trip coming into Thursday’s loss to Drexel, giving them less than a day to prepare for the No. 1 team in the conference. Fatigue is a factor, but according to La-Force, this does not mean it’s an excuse.
“We’ve played some tough games, back to back,” she said. “But we can’t use that as an excuse. Come conference time, we’re playing every single day. We gotta be ready to match up, we gotta be ready to play.”
After a quick one-game road trip to the University of Delaware on Tuesday, the Huskies return to Solomon Court on Sunday, Feb. 3 to play Towson. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.