NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – It was hard-fought and heart-pounding, and the back-and-forth action was shake-your-head unbelievable at times. Northeastern battled Charleston in a thriller Tuesday night for the Colonial Athletic Association championship, but ultimately fell 83-76 in overtime.
After the game, head coach Bill Coen said he couldn’t imagine a tougher loss than this one, but praised his players for their outstanding effort, positive energy, and commitment.
“I couldn’t be more proud of their effort, their togetherness, their toughness,” Coen said in his postgame press conference. “It was an unbelievable environment in there. They battled from start to finish.”
Junior guard Vasa Pusica scored 30 points and sophomore Shawn Occeus added 19 points to lead the Huskies’ scoring. Northeastern hit 15 3-pointers in the game, often coming at key moments to stave of Charleston’s runs. The Huskies led throughout much of the game, but 15 second-half turnovers contributed to a furious Charleston rally to tie the game in the closing seconds and force overtime.
After the game, Pusica was named to the CAA All-Tournament Team.
The CAA championship essentially amounted to a road game for the Huskies, who played Charleston at the North Charleston Coliseum—about 10 miles away from the Cougars’ campus. While Charleston fans vastly outnumbered Northeastern’s, there was plenty of Husky pride in the building. The Northeastern Pep Band, the cheer team, and Northeastern faithful in attendance cheered on the Huskies all the way to the final buzzer. Coen thanked the fans who traveled down the CAA tournament from Boston, and those who supported the team all year long.
Northeastern was picked to finish sixth in the conference in a preseason poll. But the team defied that prediction, finishing with a 14-4 conference record and earning a No. 2 seed in the CAA tournament. As Coen put it, “they wouldn’t allow other people to put labels on them.” The Huskies ended the regular season with a seven-game winning streak, earned a share of the CAA regular season title, and won two CAA tournament games to reach the championship. Coen, for his part, was named CAA Coach of the Year.