Men’s basketball falls short in conference tourney

Men’s basketball falls short in conference tourney

By Matthew MacCormack, news staff

Bill Coen sat at the center of the podium at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, leaning slightly toward the microphone situated just a few inches in front of him.

Sure, the coach was focused on calculating answers to every question thrown his way. But hanging over every response was the reality: The Huskies’ 2015-16 season was over.

Northeastern University (NU) had trailed the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) Seahawks by 10 points with 1:14 remaining in their Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) semifinal bout on March 6. A late flurry allowed the Huskies to bring the game within a point, 70-69, with 14 seconds to go, but the comeback effort fell short.

“We just told each other, this is it. The last five minutes, the last three minutes, we needed stops and rebounds,” senior forward Quincy Ford said. “Unfortunately, we were one or two possessions away.”

NU ultimately fell to UNCW 73-70, ending any hope of a second-straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The Huskies had stymied Towson University, 71-60, in the CAA quarterfinals the day before, booking a trip to the semis for the fourth-straight season. Nonetheless, the season was over, along with the college careers of the team’s four seniors.

After winning the CAA tournament and giving a scare to No. 3 seed Notre Dame in last year’s national bracket, the Huskies fell short.

Coen’s squad finished 18-15 and a midseason stretch saw the Huskies lose seven of eight games.

But in the end, the Huskies were among the top four teams in the conference after being projected to finish third in the media preseason poll.

In the March 5 matchup with Towson, sixth-seeded NU pulled off an upset over No. 3 Towson.

Ford scored 11-straight points over a seven-minute stretch in the second half that sealed the game for Northeastern. The Huskies trailed, 32-29, at the half, but Ford (20 points, seven rebounds) and senior guard David Walker (18 points, six assists) willed NU to victory in the second frame.

The next day’s matchup was more daunting; second-seeded UNCW went on to win the tournament and book a bout with Duke in the NCAA tournament.

“We put ourselves in a hole in the second half,” NU head coach Bill Coen said. “I thought we got kind of stifled a little bit on offense, and UNCW really kind of turned it on and got some easy baskets and separated themselves from us. But I was very proud of our guys. They didn’t give up, they battled right to the end and we came within a couple seconds of really making it interesting.”

Ford and Walker walked off the court as two of the best players in program history. Walker’s 1,631 career points rank eighth all-time, and Ford is one spot behind with a career tally of 1,617.

Stahl and Donnelly also enjoyed successful careers. Stahl reached the 1,000-point milestone late in the season, and Donnelly rose from a star on the club basketball team to play big minutes for a Division I basketball club.

Next year, the Huskies will look to Williams and freshman center Jeremy Miller as focal points. Juniors Kwesi Abakah and Jimmy Marshall and sophomore Devon Begley may have the opportunity to start next season.

A strong freshman class that included Miller, forwards Anthony Green and Sajon Ford (Quincy’s younger brother) and guards Donnell Gresham Jr. and Brandon Kamga should have the chance to step up.

Walker, who owns the program record for minutes played, had some advice for the returning players.

“Work hard this offseason,” said the senior guard. “That’s where champions are made.”

Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics


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