By Matt MacCormack, news staff
After spending most of last year near the top of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) standings, the Northeastern men’s basketball team finds itself in unfamiliar territory. Back-to-back home losses have the Huskies at the seventh spot in the polls with a 4-4 conference record.
The week began with a bang, as NU (12-9) was overpowered by Hofstra University in a thrilling triple overtime battle, 96-92. Doubling the pain was the loss of redshirt senior Quincy Ford, who left the game late with an apparent neck injury and didn’t return for the next bout with Towson University. NU faded down the stretch of its second bout, going nearly ten minutes without hitting a shot and allowing the Tigers to snatch a 79-72 upset road win over the Ford-less Huskies on Saturday afternoon.
“Without Quincy, we’re a little shorthanded,” head coach Bill Coen said after the Towson loss. “Guys had to shift roles in a very short time.”
Thursday’s matchup was the most highly-anticipated game of the conference slate. Hofstra (14-6) was picked as the preseason CAA favorite by many, and Pride senior point guard Juan’ya Green entered the game as the conference’s best distributor (6.6 assists per game) and the fourth-leading scorer (17.2 points per contest).
The Huskies went down early, trailing 42-32 at half. But they clawed back, with senior guard David Walker (18 points, 13 assists) tying the game with a layup with 19 seconds left in regulation.
Two tit-for-tat overtime periods couldn’t separate the two squads, and the decisive moment came in the third extra period.
After junior guard T.J. Williams collected an offensive rebound, the Huskies trailed, 93-92, with ten seconds left. The officials stopped play to review a potential shot-clock violation as Walker made a move toward the basket. The timeout stopped the play, and NU failed to inbound the ball once action resumed. A five-second violation and turnover effectively ended the game.
“We had a different lineup on the floor in a late game situation and guys were out of spots. We probably should’ve got a timeout in that instance and that’s a failure of execution on my part,” Coen said.
Moments later, Ford dove for a loose ball, and came up injured. Coen said the forward is day-to-day.
In the end, Green proved too much for the Huskies to handle. The veteran guard teamed with emerging 6’9” sophomore center Rokas Gustys (23 points, 20 rebounds) for a deadly pick-and-roll combo for which the Huskies had no answer.
“[Gustys] is the beneficiary of playing with such a terrific guard [Green],” Coen said. “He’s got great hands and he finishes really well around the hoop.”
The effects of Thursday’s marathon took a toll on the Huskies when the Towson Tigers (14-7) hit the floor on Saturday afternoon. Towson entered the game with the top-ranked scoring defense in the CAA, and the Huskies offense sputtered: Coen’s squad shot just 28 percent in the first half and allowed Towson to score 28 points off 16 turnovers.
“I thought that’s where our fatigue kind of showed,” Coen said. “We threw some lazy half-court passes which led to immediate scores and their defense is so stingy you don’t want to give them easy baskets either off turnovers or off the backboard.”
With Ford sidelined, Walker took over. The senior tallied a career-high 32 points (13-14 free throws), but only Williams (15 points) joined him in double figures.
A messy first-half left the Huskies with a 25-19 deficit. NU’s score was its lowest first-half output this season.
Coming out of the half, the Huskies looked much more aggressive, and NU even took a brief 30-29 lead after Williams hit two free throws with 17:25 to play. After trading baskets for several minutes, Towson pieced together a 16-0 run that stretched until the four-minute mark.
Sophomore guard Mike Morsell (15 points) and junior forward John Davis (20 points, 11 rebounds) keyed the run, as Northeastern went nine minutes without a field goal.
A silver lining in the loss was the emergence of Williams, who entered the starting lineup after dealing with injury and inconsistency early in the season.
“His explosion seems to be back,” Coen said of his junior guard. “He got to the basket today against their physical defense and we need that from T.J.”
Next up, the Huskies will look to get on track with a Thursday night game at The College of Charleston.
Photo by Alesia Garret.