By Charlie Wolfson, news staff
The Northeastern University (NU) women’s basketball team’s frustrating conference season pressed on last week. A 76-65 home loss against Elon University on Jan. 27 and a 74-51 setback at Drexel University on Jan. 29 left NU with a 3-6 record in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play and a 7-14 mark overall.
The meeting with Elon presented a litmus test for the team—with so many erratic ups and downs this season, a showdown with the Phoenix, who sit at the top of the CAA standings, may have revealed how NU really measures up. Despite hanging tough throughout the first half and into the second, NU just couldn’t keep up with Elon’s size and finishing ability.
Despite the fact that Elon is currently the top team in the CAA, the Huskies weren’t fazed by any increased anticipation or excitement.
“I don’t think there was anything extra,” sophomore guard Jess Genco said. “In this conference, every team has a loss. We try to come into each game the same way and focus on what we need to.”
The first half saw NU hold their own, though they never led. In a return to form seen in most of the Huskies’ wins this season, they drained five three pointers in the first half: One each from junior guard Claudia Ortiz, senior center Francesca Sally and Genco, and two from junior forward Maureen Taggart. These shots were crucial in NU keeping the game close; they often came just as it seemed that Elon would grab the game by the throat.
The Northeastern bench – players and coaches alike – appeared to be upset with the referees during the first half. With their team trailing by less than 10 points, a kicked-ball violation and an offensive foul on Ortiz seemed to send the group into a particularly exasperated state.
“Officials are going to be officials,” said head coach Kelly Cole. “We’re rarely happy with them. I think they did miss a couple crucial calls when we were trying to make a run in the first half.”
Genco declined to comment on the officials in that game.
Of all the things that went wrong for Northeastern against the Phoenix, rebounding may have been the most costly. They were outrebounded 40-28, giving up 15 offensive boards in the process.
“The way they spread the floor makes it really tough to box out,” said Cole. “With their four out one in set, as soon as they shoot from the perimeter they all crash and it’s hard to box out everyone.”
Northeastern’s missteps started to catch up with them during the third quarter, as Elon pulled away. The Phoenix led by double digits for most of the fourth quarter, their lead never dipping below eight.
Against Drexel, there was a phenomenon that is all too familiar to this Northeastern team: Opponents shooting a high percentage. After recent games in which opponents shot percentages into the 40-50 percent range, Cole chalked it up to the other team having a brilliant shooting day, more or less absolving her own defense of being at fault. After Drexel made 54.7 percent of their field goal attempts, Cole said she had a tough time deciphering the cause.
“I wish I had an answer for that.” she said. “I thought we did a good job on them most of the time. The goal was to make them uncomfortable. For the most part, early on, we didn’t do that. As the game went on, we did a better job of putting pressure on. We came in slow footed and cautious, and they led out of the gates.”
Genco thought that the issue on defense was at least partially on the mental side of things.
“Drexel is a good team, they’ve got good movement.” she said. “Our biggest issue was communicating with each other. When a team moves around like Drexel did, you have to communicate well on defense so nobody gets open.”
Genco shot 3-10 from three point range on the day. A common factor in most of NU’s CAA losses has been an absence of long range production from Genco, something that Cole has previously stated is a result of fatigue (Genco has played every minute in most of NU’s games this year). Genco, after the Drexel game, disagreed with her coach on the cause of her shooting struggles.
“I don’t think it’s fatigue,” she said. “I think that you hit lulls throughout a season, but shooters are going to keep shooting and I’m no exception. I’m not going to stop shooting. The training staff does a great job of helping us recover after each game.”
Genco also said she doesn’t think that fatigue has had an adverse effect on her game whatsoever.
A positive to be taken out of these two defeats is that NU improved in the turnover column, something that has plagued them throughout the season. They committed 13 and 15 turnovers against Elon and Drexel, respectively, which was a marked change from recent CAA losses. Cole and Genco were both pleased with the team’s performance in this area.
“We’re working in practice on how to read the defenses that we face,” said Genco. “We’re just trying to make the easy pass and not force anything.”
NU’s next game is at home on Friday against the College of William & Mary, followed by a home game on Sunday against James Madison University.
Photo by Mary Incera