Men’s basketball outmatched by North Carolina, loses 82-62 in rare non-conference matchup


Sarah Olender

Tyson Walker poured in 27 points, but UNC dominated inside and outmatched the Huskies.

Eamonn Ryan, deputy sports editor

In a game where they were severely outmatched, the Northeastern men’s basketball team suffered an 82-62 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels Wednesday night at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The two are uncommon opponents, as the last time they matched up against each other was in 1991 at the NCAA tournament, where UNC won 101-66.

The storyline of the game was the inside presence of the Tar Heels (13-7, 7-5 ACC), who completely took advantage of the undersized Huskies (9-8, 8-2 CAA) on the glass and in the paint. UNC outrebounded NU 48-33 and outscored them in the paint 42-22, leaving the Huskies with no option but to take three-pointers all night long on the other end.

“Their size was the difference in the game; they were able to get position down low and dominate the backboards,” head coach Bill Coen said. “In those two things we just didn’t have the numbers to compete against.”

At the start of the game, sophomore guard Tyson Walker was hot and provided most of the offense for the Huskies, scoring 11 points in the first eight minutes of play. UNC, however, was strong defensively and pushed the ball offensively, taking a 22-13 lead with just 10 minutes to play in the first half. NU looked nervous, badly missing a couple triples and rushing contested shots.

The Huskies tried to climb back as freshman forward Coleman Stucke knocked down a trey, cutting the lead to just two with 5:26 to play in the half. However, UNC extended their lead to 38-28 with 1:30 left thanks to offensive rebounds and strong inside play from their forwards.

Stucke finished with 12 points, all four of his baskets coming from behind the arc Wednesday evening.

With just eight seconds remaining in the first, NU turned the ball over two times, once off a shot clock violation and then off an inbound pass, gifting UNC chances to increase their lead. Luckily, the Tar Heels only capitalized on one of them and went into the half up 41-30.

The main issue for the Huskies turned out to be the scoring of players not named Tyson Walker. At the half, he had netted 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting and played so well ACC Network Extra color commentator — former North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough — compared Walker to Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker. The rest of the Huskies, however, shot just 4-for-22 and seemingly could not find a way to generate offense.

“[Walker] can compete with most every guard in the country,” Coen said. “He’s a guy that all of our players borrow their confidence from. When he has the ball in his hands, some really great things happen.”

The second half was all UNC, as they got off to an impressive start, extending the lead to 65-45 within the first nine minutes. The Huskies could not contain the Tar Heels’ potency on both defense and the fast break, giving up the ball and getting beat down the floor as UNC was able to get easy looks at the rim. 

“That’s kind of the ‘wear-down effect’: the constant pressure, challenging you each and every step on the floor and then pushing the tempo,” Coen said. “They can bring in fresh body after fresh body and that’s the wear-down effect and it showed in the second half.”

The Huskies were hurt in the second half by the lack of production from Walker, who was so effective in the first but only scored six points after the break. UNC managed to keep the ball away from him, often bringing double teams and forcing turnovers, limiting his ability to find open shots. 

Without Walker’s offense and the ease at which the Tar Heels found the bottom of the net, they coasted home to a win in this unusual matchup of CAA and ACC teams.

Without the inside presence of redshirt sophomore forward Chris Doherty, who has been recovering from an ankle injury he suffered against James Madison, the Tar Heels were able to work their way inside. UNC’s forwards, senior Garrison Brooks, sophomore Armando Bacot and freshman Day’Ron Sharpe went up against the smaller bodies of NU and won almost every time, gathering 29 rebounds between the three of them and scoring 35 points. 

The opportunity for both teams appeared after numerous cancellations. The Huskies had their Feb. 20 and 21 weekend series with UNC Wilmington cancelled while UNC had numerous ACC matchups that could not be played due to COVID-19 protocol at the other schools. So when the Tar Heels sent out a tweet earlier this week looking to find a game, NU responded and organized Wednesday’s matchup.

“Our athletic director and associate athletic director had some connections [at UNC], started making some phone calls and it quickly escalated to a real possibility,” Coen said. “We only really had one day of practice and trying to prep for a program of this caliber was a little bit of a challenge, but it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

The Huskies are currently scheduled to play next at William & Mary Feb. 27 and 28, but with the numerous changes and cancellations that this season has presented, that may be subject to change.