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Men’s hoops primed for a big season

Last season, the men’s basketball team won its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title and came within one game of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

“Getting that close and coming up short, it fuels you and makes you that much more hungry,” said junior Quincy Ford.

Ford described himself as “a quiet kid at heart,” but it’s clearly evident in his voice that he and his teammates are chomping at the bit to get this season underway. Gone are last season’s senior co-captains Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee, along with their leadership and sharp perimeter shooting. Now, Ford is one of eight returning Huskies who plan to share the load, from offensive production to on-court leadership.

Versatile sophomore guard David Walker is one of several Huskies will get the opportunity to emerge make a key impact this season.

Versatile sophomore guard David Walker is one of several Huskies will get the opportunity to emerge make a key impact this season.

That group includes powerful junior rebounder Reggie Spencer, sharpshooting sophomore guard Demetrius Pollard, and versatile sophomores David Walker and Zach Stahl. Northeastern also welcomes junior transfer Scott Eatherton to its frontcourt. Overall, this blend of talent will allow eighth-year head coach Bill Coen to take advantage of matchups and provide opportunities for all players to contribute.

This season, the 6-foot-8-inch Ford will shift from power forward to small forward. To complement his size and quickness, Ford has been hard at work developing his low-post game. “It’s going to be a big help to my game,” said Ford, who averaged 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game a season ago. “I’m getting more comfortable and more decisive with every practice.”

Coen noted several key points of emphasis, including limiting turnovers, improving team defense and rebounding, and making consistent—and successful—trips to the foul line.

Northeastern opens its season on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. against crosstown rival Boston University. The game will be played at TD Garden in Boston as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader. The Huskies have defeated the Terriers in each of the last three season openers; last season, Pollard’s buzzer-beating three-pointer at Matthews Arena sent fans into a frenzy.

Those late-game heroics set the tone for a season chock full of late-game suspense and excitement—23 of the Huskies’ 33 season games were decided by seven points or fewer. While the steady dose of drama certainly kept fans on the edge of their seats, Ford said those tight games provided the returning players with invaluable experience handling pressure-packed, late-game scenarios.

“There’s a lot that goes into those games—free throws, fouls, who’s going to take the last shot,” Ford said. “I was in several of those situations, and there’s a feeling you get, a rush.” Then he paused, chuckled softly, and said, “This year, we don’t want it to be close.”

Following Sunday’s opener against BU, the Huskies will travel to Stony Brook on Wednesday, Nov. 13, and then return for their home opener against Central Connecticut on Saturday, Nov. 16. The Huskies will then head south to participate in the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 21-24, with Northeastern slated to take on Georgetown in its first game. The tournament’s elite eight-team field also includes Michigan, Florida State, Kansas State, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Northeastern’s presence in the tournament aligns Coen’s emphasis on scheduling competitive non-conference matchups, particularly in tournaments outside the region in places such as Cancun, Alaska, Florida, and California. Later this season, the Huskies will also compete in the Tulane Classic in New Orleans.

The team kicks off Colonial Athletic Association play on Jan. 8 with a home matchup against the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Throughout the season, Northeastern will make at least nine television appearances, while home games will be streamed for free in high definition at GoNU.com/xstream.

Single-game tickets for both men’s and women’s basketball home games are on sale now at GoNU.com/tickets.