Men’s basketball comes up one shot short in home opener


Seamus McAvoy

Basketball fans at Matthews Arena were treated to a thrilling season opener on Tuesday that came down to the final shot. In the end, Northeastern men’s basketball fell to the Boston University Terriers by a score of 77-74 after senior guard Vasa Pusica missed on a difficult three point attempt at the buzzer.

The Huskies have dominated the Terriers in recent years, winning seven of the last nine games between the two with both losses coming away from home.

The Terriers got off to a hot start as they took a 12-8 lead into the timeout with many of their points coming off of easy looks in transition, taking advantage of a vulnerable Northeastern fastbreak defense. Though neither team was shooting particularly well, Boston University was able to find some easier opportunities to score in the paint.

The momentum swung the other way after head coach Bill Coen made some personnel adjustments, opting for a bigger lineup by bringing sophomore forward Tomas Murphy off the bench to pair with senior center Anthony Green. The Huskies also switched to a 2-3 zone in hopes of forcing BU outside the paint. The scheme was effective and the Terriers’ offense came to a halt when standout forward Max Mahoney rested.

The Huskies’ offense was led by a brilliant performance by Pusica. Last season’s leading scorer with 17.9 points per game, Pusica scored 31 on 10-19 shooting for the Huskies and added six assists. He was particularly crucial in the first half, totaling 16 points as Northeastern took a 36-33 lead into halftime.

The Huskies didn’t lose a step coming out of halftime with junior guard Bolden Brace draining a three-pointer to extend the lead to seven and forcing BU to call a timeout less than four minutes into the second half. An and-one from Murphy put the Huskies up by double digits with 11:30 remaining, but some foul trouble between him and Green forced Coen to alternate their playing time.

“I think predominantly at the end of the game [Boston University] went to a smaller lineup with [Tyler] Scanlon at the four, so it gives us a better matchup than Tomas or Anthony guarding that guy,” said Coen after the game.

Boston University switched to a 2-3 zone late in the second half and their small-ball lineup allowed them to get another shooter onto the floor on the offensive end. Pusica and others moved the ball well despite the different look they were given, but the Huskies failed to capitalize on their open shots. They would finish the night shooting just 6-25 from three point range.

The turning point of the game came with 1:20 remaining when Jordan Guest hit a huge three for Boston University and a foul was called on Northeastern after the shot. Mahoney was sent to the line for the Terriers and split his free throws, cutting the lead to one and shifting the momentum the other way.

Pusica looked to pass first for most of the night but took over the reigns of the offense late in the game. He finished on a fantastic drive to the basket to put Northeastern up by one and was fouled on a three point attempt while down three. The Huskies were forced to intentionally foul in the last few possessions, but BU was perfect down the stretch from the free throw line and took the game 77-74.

Despite the disappointing loss, Pusica spoke optimistically about this season and the comfort level of the veteran team.

“I thought we were in much better shape than we were last year,” Pusica said. “The roles were more defined, we already knew each other. I’ve played with this team for a year, so I felt like I had a good feel for this team.”

The Huskies will look to earn their first win of the young season this Friday against Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion in Allston.