Women’s basketball takes on preseason favorites in CAA tournament


Mike Puzzanghera

No. 7 seed Northeastern Huskies head into CAA tournament tonight, facing off against JMU in their first round.

Niyati Parikh, news staff

Even before the 2020-21 basketball season commenced, the CAA’s head coaches voted to predict who would end up on top. The Northeastern women’s basketball team (7-12, 6-10 CAA) placed fourth in the poll, tied with Elon University. 

With how unpredictable the 2020-21 season was due to COVID-19, any team could have earned the top spot for the tournament. That was shown this year with the No. 1 seed being underdog Delaware (19-3, 16-2 CAA), who was projected to place in the bottom half of the poll to start the season. The other top-ranked teams, however, were much more predictable as James Madison University (13-9, 9-6 CAA), who received six first-place votes in the poll, earned the No. 2 seed and Drexel University (11-8, 8-6 CAA) earned the No. 3 slot. NU earned the No. 7 seed. 

Despite a rocky 0-5 start to the season, the Huskies ended strong, going 4-1 in their last five CAA regular conference games against Hofstra University (7-11, 5-7 CAA), Towson University (13-8, 8-6 CAA) and most importantly, JMU. Coming off a hot streak, the Huskies have added three members of their roster into the mix for the year-end CAA awards. 

Senior guard Stella Clark, sophomore forward Mide Oriyomi and freshman guard Maddie Vizza each earned awards for the season. Both Clark and Oriyomi earned their first all-conference selections on the All-CAA Second Team and Third Team, respectively. Vizza, who was most recently named the CAA Rookie of the Week for the third week in a row, made the CAA All-Rookie team. 

The first round of CAA tournament play opened up March 10 with eighth-seeded College of Charleston (6-8. 2-6 CAA) going against bottom-seeded UNCW (5-14, 2-11 CAA). This will be followed by the CAA quarterfinals March 11 as Towson faces Hofstra, Delaware faces the winner of the Charleston-UNCW game, Drexel faces Elon and the Northeastern Huskies will face the JMU Dukes. 


Journey to the ‘ship

The Huskies started the season on the wrong foot, as they went 0-5 against two non-conference opponents, UMass Lowell and the University of Maine. They also started the CAA regular season 0-3. 

The Huskies picked up their first win on the road against Hofstra Jan. 9, 54-53, splitting both home-and-home series during the season. The season took a turn for the better for NU as they won another non-conference game against Manhattan College and an unprecedented first-ever road win against JMU. This was the first time since the 2011-2012 season that Northeastern had split the series against JMU. 

Then, NU went on a four-game win streak, sweeping UNCW and keeping Hofstra at their lowest-scoring game all season with the Pride only scoring 39 points. 


Heading into CAA tournament play

Heading into the CAA tournament, the Huskies need to attack early on and stay true to themselves, finding key players such as Clark, Oriyomi, Vizza, junior guard Kendall Currence and graduate student Ayanna Dublin on the court to secure the win. 

If looking to find themselves victorious against the nearly unstoppable offense of the Dukes in their first game, NU needs to shut down the powerhouses that are freshman guard Peyton McDaniel, who was named the CAA Rookie of the Year, and sophomore guard Kiki Jefferson, who received the same accolade last year. 

Despite the loss last time around, JMU forced 17 turnovers during that game to the Huskies’ 22. However, they let Jefferson run the game, earning a game-high 20 points. In the second matchup, McDaniel earned herself 20 points but Clark one-upped her for a career-high 28 points. Currence also stepped up to give the Huskies another 18 on the scoreboard. The Huskies even kept JMU under 40% for shooting. 

In order to emerge on top today, NU will have to play stellar defense, find the hot hands of Vizza, have great leadership by Clark and Dublin in what could be their last game wearing red and black, and become a cohesive unit on the court. 

The Huskies will face JMU tonight at 6 p.m. at Elon University where the 2021 CAA tournament will take place.