By Matthew MacCormack, news staff
After one of the most successful seasons in program history in 2014-15, the Northeastern University (NU) men’s basketball team kept the momentum by defeating two Boston rivals in its first pair of games this season.
The Huskies (2-0) took down Boston University (BU) in an overtime thriller on Friday before routing Wentworth Institute of Technology in the home opener on Tuesday in the Cabot Center. Senior guard David Walker leads the team in scoring with 17 points per game over the first two contests.
Like most of the recent games between Northeastern and BU, Friday night’s matchup was a back-and-forth affair. The game, which featured five ties and twelve lead changes in regulation, ended only after Husky senior guard Caleb Donnelly nailed a corner three with 16 seconds left in overtime to put NU up 87-84. BU failed to equalize in the final seconds.
“[Caleb] has made big shot after big shot,” Head Coach Bill Coen said after the game. “[BU] made a ton of big plays. We were just fortunate to make one more big play than them down the stretch.”
Senior forward Zach Stahl (17 points, six rebounds) set the tone for the Huskies early, notching 11 of NU’s first 21 points. Northeastern jumped out to a 27-16 lead after redshirt senior Quincy Ford knocked down a 3-pointer near the midpoint of the first half, but a 12-0 run from BU evened things out. NU’s lead dwindled to 40-37 after the first frame.
Terriers guard Cheddi Mosely helped BU take control of the game in the second half, as the junior drilled two clutch threes and converted a pair of free throws to give BU a 57-56 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Ford tallied 10 of his 13 points in the final six minutes of regulation, helping the Huskies stay alive. NU had the ball with 23 seconds left, and the score tied at 77, but failed to convert on a set play on their final possession of regulation. For the third-straight BU-NU matchup at Case Gymnasium, the game went to overtime.
In overtime, Walker took over. The senior scored seven of his 27 points in the extra period, burying a three and converting back-to-back layups.
“[David’s] the guy that’s going to have to step it up in big, big moments,” Coen said. “As a coaching staff, we couldn’t be more pleased with his effort.”
BU didn’t let the game slip away. Senior guard John Papale (12 points) hit his fourth 3-pointer to knot the game at 84 with 39 seconds.
On the ensuing possession, Ford swung the ball to Donnelly, who buried the eventual game-winning triple with 16 seconds to go. Papale’s score-tying attempt missed the mark at the buzzer.
“I got to the corner, and I saw that the man on the weak side just leaked in, so I just tried to get [Ford’s] attention,” Donnelly said. “Just being able to see that one going in was awesome.”
After a nail-biter in Allston, NU returned home to a packed Cabot Center on Tuesday to face off against its Huntington Avenue neighbor, Wentworth. The Leopards, a Division III opponent, looked overmatched from the opening tip.
NU put together a 27-2 run in the first half and led the Leopards 54-18 after the opening 20 minutes. All 12 Huskies played at least four minutes in the first half, and all but two scored in the frame.
Although Wentworth made up some of the deficit in the second half, the game was never in doubt. Junior guard Jimmy Marshall and sophomore guard Devon Begley each notched a career-high 14 points in the game, while freshmen Brandon Kamga and Sajon Ford got their first minutes of the season at guard and forward, respectively.
“We could play everybody on our roster, get them some minutes and get some videotape that we can go back and do some teaching with,” Coen said. “We came out with some energy and extended the floor, took advantage of our length and athleticism and did what we were supposed to.”
Coen used the game to test different defensive tactics, including 2-3 and 3-2 zone defenses, as well as a full-court press. The added onus on defense seemed to work, as the Huskies forced 24 turnovers – well above last season’s average of 16.5.
Up next for Northeastern is the three-game Men Against Breast Cancer Challenge in Oxford, Ohio. The Huskies will play Florida Atlantic University, Lipscomb University and Miami University of Ohio on consecutive days over the weekend.
“We plan on winning all three games while we’re there,” Begley said.
Photo by Brian Bae.