Three times at Matthews Arena on Thursday night, Hofstra had the ball with a chance to win as the clock expired. Three times, the Pride’s shots didn’t fall. But when the visitors got an opportunity to win by playing defense, they came through, stopping Northeastern on a key possession to earn a thrilling 96-92, triple-overtime victory. Continue reading
The first half of this game was weird, man.
Things went haywire 90 seconds in, when the shot clock at Harvard’s end of Matthews Arena malfunctioned. Two minutes of game time later, it was done for good; a second, portable clock was hauled out to the baseline, with the PA announcer counting down every time it reached 10. Continue reading
This year’s CAA season was a rollercoaster from the start, but in the end the preseason favorite will be dancing. Northeastern earned its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1991 with a 72-61 win over William & Mary, thanks to the Huskies’ hottest shooting performance of the season.
Northeastern struggled to an 11-21 record last year in large part became it lacked outside shooting, but there were signs this season would be different right from the start. David Walker and T.J. Williams improved their accuracy, while newcomers gave the Huskies new options. Rookie Devon Begley shot 48% from long range off the bench, including big shots in Sunday’s win over UNC Wilmington. Caleb Donnelly, a walk-on who was playing club ball two years ago, hit 54% and scored in double figures in the semifinals and finals.
But the Huskies’ biggest addition was a familiar face — forward Quincy Ford, who missed most of the 2013-14 season after having back surgery. Ford shot treys in high volume at a 36% clip this season, pairing that with an ability to drive from the perimeter and use his 6’8” length inside. Behind Ford’s 22 points (including four threes), Northeastern led wire to wire in the championship game, making 12 of 20 three-pointers for an effective field goal percentage of 73%.
William & Mary was on the wrong end of a Northeastern explosion before — a 75-64 loss in February, in which the Huskies scored 1.44 points per possession. As in that game, the Tribe made the score close with a late rally — a 16-0 run to pull within six points I the final minute — but their hole was too deep.
The Tribe, famously, has never made an NCAA tournament, a streak that will extend at least one more year. Fate seemed to be in their favor after a last-second, double-overtime victory over Hofstra in the semifinals, but luck ran out against the Huskies’ shooting. 2,000-point scorer Marcus Thornton, who had 20 points and five assists Monday, will finish his illustrious career in the NIT.
Northeastern, meanwhile, will taste the Big Dance for the first time in a generation. With an experienced lineup, a balanced offense and a tendency to get hot, the Huskies could be a sneaky upset pick in March.
— CAA Basketball (@CAABasketball) March 10, 2015
— Northeastern MBB (@GoNUmbasketball) March 10, 2015
As John showed yesterday, the CAA Tournament is up for grabs. Thanks to a balanced league with four co-champions, as well as the CAA’s neutral-site format, nobody won more than 26% of the 10,000 simulations, and six teams had at least a 10% chance of making the finals. Here’s the case for each of the top six seeds — and the others — heading into this evening’s first round. Continue reading
When it visited William & Mary last month, Northeastern shot 2-20 from beyond the arc, its worst performance of the season. Without those outside shots, the Huskies couldn’t keep up with the hosts’ high-powered offense, losing 74-58. But in Wednesday’s rematch at Matthews Arena, needing a win to stay in the hunt for the CAA title, Northeastern’s shooting rebounded with a vengeance. Continue reading
We tend to view games and seasons through the lens of our expectations. Based on prior seasons and non-conference play, we can usually guess who the main contenders in each conference will be and mark “good wins” and “bad losses” early on. But sometimes those predictions are wrong, and the story evolves throughout the season. Continue reading
Northeastern marketed Wednesday night’s game as a “white-out” for fans, and Huskies players got in on that theme with white-hot offense. Behind a blistering 1.34 points per possession, the hosts routed James Madison 82-59, taking the solo CAA lead at 6-1.
“When you’re shooting the ball well, everything looks good,” Northeastern coach Bill Coen said. “We shot the ball well to start the game, but sustained a level of teamwork and intensity throughout the game, which was probably our best overall effort so far this season.”
After missing its first two shots, Northeastern reeled off an eight-minute, 25-6 explosion that featured 10 baskets from eight different Huskies. By the time reserve center Kwesi Abakha capped the run with a layup and one, the hosts held a commanding lead that never dipped below double digits.
Though it entered Wednesday with the best per-possession defense in CAA play, James Madison was helpless to stop Northeastern in the first half. The Huskies hit eight of 13 three-pointers, committed only two turnovers, and scored 49 points on 31 possessions before halftime. Point guard T.J. Williams finished with a team-high 17 points, while David Walker added 15.
As is their custom, the Huskies picked James Madison apart with crisp ball movement. They tossed skip passes through the Dukes’ zone to cutters and spot-up shooters, assisting on 14 of their 18 baskets in the first half. Northeastern’s offense often ran through star forward Scott Eatherton on the left block or baseline; though he finished with six points, tying a season low, the senior dished out a career-best seven assists.
“What makes this team really solid and difficult to beat is their passing ability, especially from their forwards,” JMU coach Matt Brady said. “Their fours and fives are outstanding passers.”
Ron Curry gave the visitors 21 points on 12 shots, hitting all five three-point attempts (including a heat-check bomb from 26 feet). But his teammates combined to shoot 32 percent, and James Madison was 8-15 from the line. In their third game without dismissed guard Andre Nation, the Dukes still scored about a point per possession — not far off their season mark — but they were failed by their defense.
Three other thoughts from Matthews Arena:
1. Are the Dukes for real? A James Madison win would have forced a five-way tie atop the CAA at 5-2; instead, the visitors sit in fifth place, two games behind Northeastern. They are 4-0 against the bottom half of the league, but 0-3 against the top tier. While each of the top four (Northeastern, Hofstra, William & Mary, UNC Wilmington) has beaten a fellow member, the Dukes haven’t yet proven they are at the same level. They’ll get two more chances soon, facing the Pride and the Tribe before month’s end.
2. Reggie Spencer is back. After missing the last three games with a lower-body injury, Spencer returned with a vengeance Thursday. The 6-7 forward showed his usual touch with a pair of mid-range jumpers, but he also attacked the rim. On his first touch of the game, Spencer caught a pass in the middle of James Madison’s zone, took a hard dribble through the lane and made an easy layup.
Spencer finished with 13 points on 5-6 shooting. “After the injury, I learned you never know when it’s going to end, so have fun and take advantage every time you step on the court. That’s what I tried to do,” the senior said, adding that he felt close to 100%.
3. The CAA picture will clear up this week. William & Mary is in the mix at 5-2, but the Tribe have played just one other top-four team and own puzzling losses at Elon and Delaware. They can cement their status as a top Colonial contender this week, with home games against Northeastern Saturday and Hofstra Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Huskies will face four straight bottom-division teams after visiting William & Mary this weekend. If they escape Williamsburg with a win, they could hold first place for a long time — at least until a brutal seven-day stretch of Hofstra-UNCW-William & Mary, the former two on the road.
The top reason Northeastern is tied for the Colonial lead at 5-1 is a resurgent offense. In conference play last season, the Huskies ranked seventh of nine teams in offensive efficiency en route to a 7-9 record. With mostly the same personnel, the Huskies have scored 1.09 points per possession to date, second-best in the CAA behind co-leader William & Mary (and ahead of Hofstra). But as Detroit proved in an 81-69 overtime victory Monday, Northeastern’s offense can be defeated by teams that protect the paint. Continue reading
Northeastern and Hofstra lived up to their billing as CAA contenders in a delightful slugfest on Wednesday evening. Two nearly unstoppable offenses traded the lead back and forth until a late 11-0 run gave the Huskies a 91-83 victory, pulling Northeastern, Hofstra and William & Mary into a three-way tie atop the Colonial at 4-1. Continue reading
After a month away from Matthews Arena, Northeastern returned home with a 9-4 record, a top-100 KenPom rating, and a billing as CAA co-favorites with Hofstra. Despite entering Monday’s game as 11.5-point favorites, however, the Huskies couldn’t handle UNC Wilmington’s quickness and defensive pressure. The Seahawks pulled away after halftime for a 75-68 victory, snapping a four-game losing streak and moving each team to 1-1 in Colonial play. Continue reading