Men’s basketball leaves Charleston unsatisfied, but picks up signature win


Seamus McAvoy

The Northeastern men’s basketball team faced their toughest competition of the young season earlier this November when they travelled to Charleston, South Carolina to participate in the Gildan Charleston Classic. The team got off to a promising start with a win over Alabama, but came up short in losses to Virginia Tech and Davidson.

The Huskies’ first tournament action came Nov. 15 as they faced the Alabama Crimson Tide. Despite losing leading scorer Collin Sexton to the NBA draft, Alabama returned many contributors this season including sophomore guard John Petty who entered the evening averaging 15.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

Northeastern began the afternoon hot from the field and built an 8-0 lead in under four minutes, forcing Alabama coach Avery Johnson to call an early timeout. The Tide tightened up defensively but the Huskies still took a 33-22 lead into halftime.

Senior guard Vasa Pusica dominated the second half, scoring 15 of his 20 total points after the break. Pusica also added five assists and three steals, contributing to a well-rounded effort by the Huskies. Northeastern never let the Tide within seven points and closed strongly with a 16-point victory over the Tide, 68-52.

Junior guard Bolden Brace and senior forward Jeremy Miller supplemented Pusica’s performance with solid contributions of their own, adding 11 combined points and helping the Huskies shoot 52.4% from the field. The win was their first ever over a team from the Southeastern Conference.

“Enjoy this one, and understand how you got here,” said head coach Bill Coen as he addressed the team after the game. “Everybody did their job … We stepped up and made shots, the right guy was the open guy.”

The Huskies had an even greater challenge in store the following morning against 16th-ranked Virginia Tech, as Northeastern hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 2015. The Hokies are led by standout guard Justin Robinson, who was named to the Wooden Award Watch List prior to this season.

The Huskies extended their hot shooting from the previous game into this matchup and connected on eight 3-pointers in just under 15 minutes to give them a 24-23 lead, but a talented Hokies roster answered with a dominant 23-2 run to end the half. The closest the game got from that point on was when a 3-pointer from sophomore forward Tomas Murphy cut the lead to 16 with 15 minutes left, but Tech’s stout defense held off an unlikely comeback effort.

The Hokies cruised to an 88-60 victory over Northeastern, and although the Huskies connected  on a season-high 13 3-pointers on 50% shooting, a lack of 2-point scoring hurt the overall offensive effort. Murphy led the Huskies in scoring with 11 on 5-6 shooting and junior guard Jordan Roland added 10 on 3-5.

Following the loss to Virginia Tech, Northeastern’s next action came on Sunday, Nov. 18 against the Davidson Wildcats, when the programs competed in the third-place game in the Gildan Charleston Classic.

Though Northeastern’s strong shooting numbers faltered later, the Huskies once again started the game well. Brace led the way,netting 12 points, with seven coming in the final 12 minutes of the first half. A buzzer-beating layup in traffic for Pusica tied the game at 28-28 as the first half ended.

Continuing the story from the previous outing, Northeastern was susceptible to a big run by the Wildcats. After briefly keeping it close, the Huskies were outscored 15-3 in just three minutes with Davidson at one point extending their lead to 17. Redshirt freshman forward Jason Strong added nine quick points late in the second half thanks to a trio of 3-pointers to make things interesting, but Davidson handled the comeback efforts and comfortably took the game 71-59.

The Huskies left Charleston feeling unsatisfied after the first meeting between Northeastern and Davidson. They had an opportunity to get their revenge against the Wildcats shortly after on Saturday, Nov. 24, but fell once again by a score of 78-69, this time without Pusica who picked up a wrist injury against Alabama. Pusica managed to play through the injury for the remainder of the tournament, but further examination revealed a fracture that will likely keep him out of action for 4-6 weeks.

The Huskies nonetheless demonstrated in Charleston that they could hang with one of the stronger mid-major teams in Davidson and give Power-5 conference teams trouble evidenced by their commanding victory over Alabama.

The Huskies take on Bucknell on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at Sojka Pavilion, standing at 2-4.