With its season on the line, the Northeastern men’s basketball team staged a historic comeback and wrote the latest chapter of its thrilling season.
The Huskies erased a 24-point first-half deficit—the largest comeback in the program’s 93-year history—and edged out a gutsy, exhilarating 69-67 victory over George Mason on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Richmond, Va.
Senior guard Jonathan Lee’s driving layup with three seconds to play was the difference, and the Huskies are now one win away from the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1991.
The No. 1-seed Huskies will face the No. 3-seed James Madison Dukes in the championship game Monday night at 7 p.m., marking the Huskies’ first ever appearance in the CAA title game. The winner will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The CAA championship game will be televised on NBC Sports Network, and a campus viewing party will be held in the West Addition of the Curry Student Center. In their only match-up this season, the Huskies defeated the Dukes 66-64 on Feb. 20 at Matthews Arena.
On Sunday, Lee and senior co-captain Josh Smith each scored 14 points to lead the Huskies, while sophomores Demetrius Pollard (13) and Quincy Ford (10) also scored in double figures. But the Huskies stumbled out of the gate, taking until nearly halfway through the first half to make its first basket. Trailing 31-7, it looked like George Mason might run away with the game and put an end to the Huskies’ memorable season. But Northeastern kept its composure, closing the first half on a 12-0 run and opening the second half with an 9-0 run to set up a nail-biting finish.
In the final minutes, the Huskies’ defense forced several key turnovers, none more important than a steal underneath the George Mason basket with 33 seconds remaining and game tied at 67. On the Huskies’ final possession, Lee used a brilliant hesitation move to get by his defender and cruise in for a layup with three seconds remaining, putting the Huskies up by two. A George Mason heave from half-court clanged off the backboard, and the Northeastern players stormed the court to celebrate their epic victory.
Once again, the Huskies showed their fight and determination in pressure-packed situations. During the regular season, Northeastern came back to win six times when facing double-digit deficits, and with Sunday’s win the Huskies improved to 13-4 this season in games decided by five points or less.
“This team’s been so resilient all year long,” head coach Bill Coen said in a post-game interview. “They just keep believing in themselves, they keep playing with confidence, and they played with a ton of heart in that second half that willed us to victory.”