By Aren LeBrun, News Correspondent
Northeastern overcame its first-half turnover struggles to outlast the College of William & Mary Tribe in an overtime thriller Thursday night at Solomon Court. The win improved the Huskies to 9-4 on the season and 2-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Despite their slow start, the Huskies increased their defensive intensity late and took advantage of a balanced offensive attack to force the extra period and eventually earn the highly contested 71-69 victory. Northeastern was paced by the strong play of junior center Jewel Tunstull (16 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks), senior captain Deanna Kerkhof (15 points, nine rebounds, four assists) and sophomore guard Amencie Mercier’s 15 points. Sophomore guard A’lece Mark also chipped in seven rebounds and a game high 10 assists. The Tribe’s senior forward Emily Correal’s game high 21 points led the visitors, who fell to 2-12 on the season.
“This is a very competitive conference,” head coach Daynia La-Force said. “They’ve been competing. This was an overtime loss for them, they’re right there. We have been winning, and the difference is that we just know how to win.”
Although Northeastern entered the break with a four point lead over the Tribe, it was not all smooth sailing for them in the first half. The Huskies were plagued by turnovers throughout the period, as William & Mary’s consistent high-intensity, trapping defense forced 10 first half turnovers and 24 missed field goal attempts. Northeastern was also pounded on the glass early on, giving up 11 offensive boards.
The Huskies managed to shake off their early rust coming out of the third media timeout of the period, relying heavily on the efficient play of Huber and Tunstull on both ends of the floor (11 points, three rebounds, two blocks from Huber and eight points, six rebounds, and a block from Tunstull).
After a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Jazmen Boone gave the Tribe a four-point lead, Northeastern answered with an 8-0 run sparked by Tunstull’s strong finish through contact after grabbing an offensive rebound. Mark hit a free throw, and Tunstull made another strong move in the post for an easy score. Sophomore guard Amencie Mercier’s fast break layup capped the run and secured a four-point lead for the Huskies going into the break.
Northeastern came out of its locker room hot and in the opening minutes executed much sharper than in the first half. Mercier went on a seven-point tear that appeared would blow the lead wide open until Correal answered with a three pointer.
After senior guard Kashaia Cannon’s three-pointer, neither team scored until after the second media timeout. Cannon stole the ball on defense and drove it all the way to the basket, drawing the foul and making both at the line. A three-pointer from senior guard Janine Aldridge cut the Huskies’ lead to just one, before sophomore guard Kyla Kersetter scored off a backdoor cut to give the Tribe a 46-45 lead.
From there, both teams began trading baskets and the lead. Cannon scored a layup for Northeastern, answered quickly by a three-pointer by Kersetter. Kerkhof drove to the lane and drew the foul, knocking down both clutch free throws to tie the game at 49 apiece.
An elbow jumper by sophomore guard Anna Kestler gave the lead back to William & Mary, but Kerkhof nailed a three on the other end to put the Huskies up by two.
After the final media timeout, the Tribe jumped out to a 58-54 lead off a jumper from Kestler and a leaning, double clutch three-point shot from Aldridge at the end of the shot clock.
Kerkhof drew a foul on offense, hitting both ends of the one-and-one. The Huskies then forced a shot clock violation to give themselves time for one more possession, on which Mark hit the cutting Tunstull for the game tying layup to force overtime.
“It feels good,” said Tunstull. “They were pushing me around in there, but I decided to work a little harder and thrive off of their tough defence.”
Kerkhof scored first in the overtime period on a pair of free throws, then Correal hit a jumper to tie the game at 60. Kerkhof answered with a three-pointer from the top of the key to give Northeastern a lead that it would not lose.
“It’s just important to keep attacking,” said Kerkhof. “When you start going east and west instead of north and south, that’s when you get into trouble.”
This game marks Northeastern’s second conference win this season, putting them at a perfect 2-0 in the CAA. Last season the Huskies finished at 6-12 in conference play.
At the other end of the conference is William & Mary, who is 0-3 in the CAA and 2-12 overall. Despite these numbers, Coach La-Force and her players are not about to disregard their competitiveness.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised [with their competitiveness],” said Kerkhof. “When you start conference play, everyone’s 0-0. In the CAA, everyone’s going to compete.”
After an away game against James Madison University on Sunday, the Huskies return to Solomon Court to face University of Delaware on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.