By James Duffy, deputy sports editor
It has been a cold winter so far for the Northeastern University (NU) women’s basketball team.
After starting December with a pair of strong wins over New Hampshire and Maine, the Huskies have dropped seven of their last eight contests, including going 1-2 in their first three Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) matchups.
Overall, their record stands at 6-8 after a 5-2 start.
Despite her team’s struggles over the past few weeks, Head Coach Kelly Cole’s confidence in her squad has not waned.
“I think we’re in a good place right now,” she said. “We just need to find the right combinations that work for us.”
A 71-60 loss to Quinnipiac on Dec. 9 started the skid for the Huskies, and it was foul trouble that cost them the game, as Quinnipiac players got to the free throw line 29 times. Though they only knocked down 15 of their free throws, those points proved crucial in a close game.
After nine days, the team returned to action on Dec. 18, hosting No. 24 Michigan State as the first part of the Winter Showdown, a series between the Spartans and the Huskies featuring men’s and women’s basketball and men’s hockey matchups at Matthews Arena.
Northeastern managed to run with the Spartans for much of the first half; but towardsthe end of the second quarter Michigan State opened up a double-digit lead they wouldn’t relinquish. They eventually cruised to a 77-51 victory.
Despite the loss in the Winter Showdown, Cole was able to draw positives from the experience as a whole.
“It was a great game for the program and the university,” she said. “It was great exposure for both teams, men and women, to get to take on top–quality teams.”
The team wrapped up the month of December with two more tough losses, falling to Canisius College, 68-57, and getting blown out by Boston College, 71-45.
With the new year came improved play for the Huskies, who opened 2016 with a hard-fought 72-71 loss to Towson on Jan. 3. Despite being down 10 late in the fourth quarter, the Huskies fought back hard and actually took a 71-69 lead with 16 seconds left.
However, the comeback was not meant to be, as Towson junior guard Dominique Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to give her team a lead that would last until time expired.
NU got themselves back into the win column by taking down Drexel in overtime in Philadelphia on Jan. 8th. Freshman guard Jess Genco converted on a clutch three–point play after being fouled while taking a jumper with three seconds left in regulation. She nailed the shot and the free throw to send the game to overtime.
In OT, the Huskies completely took over, determined to avoid a second–straight heartbreaker. They held Drexel scoreless in the extra frame and locked up a 73-65 win, their first victory in more thana month.
Four players racked up at least 10 points in the team effort, as Senior guard Kazzidy Stewart, Junior center Francesca Sally, Sophomore guard Claudia Ortiz and Senior forward Sam DeFreese all reached double digits.
The Huskies could not manage to start a winning streak, though. Despite a career day from Claudia Ortiz, who put up 27 points shooting 10 of 14 from the field, the team fell to the Hens of Delaware, 59-52.
Entering the fourth tied, Delaware dominated the quarter to win the game, coming out with a victory. Ortiz scored nine in that quarter, but the rest of the team struggled to produce.
“I like that wehave a lot of different people contributing, but it would be great if everyone could contribute at the same time,” Cole said.
Other than Ortiz, no Husky eclipsed eight points. Leading scorer Sam DeFreese was held without a bucket in the game, a testament to the team’s issues with consistency.
Nevertheless, as Cole reiterated, this is a young team with a ton of talent on the floor every night.
“We’re inches away from being 3-0 in conference, and I think the pieces are starting to fall into place,” she said after the loss to Delaware.
The Huskies will look to piece together the puzzle with two more CAA games. They will play host to the College of William and Mary on Friday night at the Cabot Center, before heading to Virginia to take on James Madison University on Sunday.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.