WASHINGTON, D.C.—A miserable season didn’t have to end badly for the Huskies. They started strong Sunday, then nearly surrendered all they had built before advancing with a 72-62 win over third-seeded Towson in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
No. 6 Northeastern (16-15, 10-9 in the CAA) advances to the conference semifinal on Monday against No. 7 seed Elon, a 68-63 upset winner over No. 2 William & Mary. Having failed to earn an opening-round bye, Elon (12-20, 8-11) will be facing its third game in as many nights. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m. EDT; the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
The defending champion Huskies could not have imagined a better scenario as they close in on a third straight CAA championship game—as well as a second successive bid to March Madness.
They took charge around an early show of force from undersized center Max Boursiquot (16 points overall on 7 of 10 shooting) and an inspired return from injury by freshman Tyson Walker, who generated 13 points and four assists in 29 explosive minutes. Shaquille Walters, who had asserted himself over the preceding two games in Walker’s absence, added 14 points for the Huskies, who shot 52.9 percent from the field.
Senior guard Bolden Brace (15 points on eight shots to go with a team-leading eight rebounds) contributed a steadying all-around performance.
Coming off a disappointing season in which they went 1-11 when tied or trailing with 10 minutes left, it was crucial for the Huskies to take advantage early. That they did through Boursiquot, a 6-foot-5-inch redshirt junior who attacked like a 7-footer in the opening minutes. While the Tigers were focused on defending Northeastern’s wealth of options at the three-point line, Boursiquot was rolling into the unoccupied paint for three straight baskets and 12 first-half points overall on just seven attempts.
“We knew Towson was going to blitz on ball screens,” said Boursiquot, who in Northeastern’s two regular-season games against Towson had grown used to leaking through for 26 points on 15 shots.
Walker hadn’t played since suffering a left shoulder injury Feb. 22, and in his first touch coming off the bench he committed a breakaway turnover for Towson (19-13, 12-7). But he quickly made up for that stumble with a couple of breathtaking drives, bursting through traffic like a noisy scooterist among pedestrians. His timing and pace were extraordinary for a freshman making his tournament debut after a painful injury.
“I turn the ball over every game,” said Walker. “It’s normal. I just told myself to tighten up, and I did.”
The Huskies advanced with little help from the CAA’s leading scorer, Jordan Roland, who ranked seventh nationally with 22.7 points per game this season. Foul trouble and a couple of first-half airballs had limited Roland to two points when he was forced to the bench early in the second half. But Walker wouldn’t let them dwell on such bad news, not while he was pulling up off the dribble for a buzzer-beating three that extended Northeastern’s advantage to 42-28 with 16 minutes left.
Roland (3 of 10) finished with eight points—a performance that the senior is unlikely to repeat in the semifinal.
Trailing by 16 with 14:42 remaining, Towson used an unlikely zone to stifle Northeastern’s ball movement and attacked for second chances that reminded the Huskies of their haunting regular-season collapses. Their lead was down to 60-56 with three minutes left, but all of their key performers made meaningful contributions down the stretch—none bigger than Brace’s reverse layup on a feed from Walters to make it 64-57 with 1:42 remaining. The result was sealed seconds later with a triumphant dunk by Walters trailing Walker on the break.
“So many teams coming into the tournament felt they had a chance to win,” said Northeastern coach Bill Coen.
His team was among them. And now there are only four of them left.
“We’re just really, really excited to still be playing basketball in March,” Coen said. “It’s the greatest month of the year.”