Men’s Basketball: NU tops VCU, moves into first

By Andrew Parente, News Staff

Continuing to build on its best conference start in 22 years, the men’s basketball team came up with yet another marquee win this season Tuesday night in Richmond, Va.
The Huskies defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 68-63, in front of 6,841 fans at the Siegel Center.
‘ With the win, Northeastern now stands alone on top of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) at 9-1, and improves to 14-6 overall. VCU drops to 15-6 and 8-2 in the CAA. The loss was also the first for VCU this season at home.
The Huskies will not face the Rams again in the regular season, meaning that NU holds the important tiebreaker should the teams finish with the same record at the end of conference play.
‘I just thought tonight was a terrific college basketball game. Both teams competed start to finish,’ said head coach Bill Coen. ‘It was a highly contested game and all you would expect between two teams fighting for first place in this terrific basketball league.’
The teams went back and forth in the beginning of the first half and NU trailed by just one with 12 minutes to play. From that point, the Huskies went on a 12-0 run to open up an 11 point lead during the next three minutes.
Senior forward Chris Alvarez got it started when he connected on a pair of free throws. Then, junior center Nkem Ojougboh added two more from the charity stripe.
On the Rams’ following possession, junior guard Baptiste Bataille came up with a steal and found senior forward Matt Smith, who converted on a three to give the Huskies a 15-9 lead.
Junior guard Matt Janning then rattled off five straight points on two free throws and a three-point shot to cap off the run. Janning converted on another three after Rams guard and All-CAA player Eric Maynor came up with a jumper of his own to spark a 10-2 run.
That run gave the Huskies their biggest lead of 17 points in the half, using the three ball to gain the advantage.
Senior forward Eugene Spates hit from three and Smith connected on another to aid the run. Smith finished with eight points in the game.
‘We were able to make some three’s tonight,’ Coen said. ‘We shot a great percentage from three and that gave us a little cushion, particularly in the first half.’
But the Rams weren’t about to surrender to the Huskies and went on a 17-4 run of their own to close out the first half.
Maynor converted on a three with 11 seconds to bring the game to 34-30 in favor of NU at the half. The reigning CAA player of the year finished with a game-high 30 points.
‘We were victimized by the best player in this league, Eric Maynor,’ Coen said. ‘He’s a terrific player, we did all we could do to try and contain him and I think if the game was two minutes longer he would have found a way to win it.’
The Huskies were unaffected by the Rams’ strong finish in the first half and came out firing in the second. NU went on a 15-3 run to go back up by 16 points.
Spates recorded a three to open the half and junior forward Manny Adako came up with six straight Husky points to add to the lead. Spates and sophomore guard Chaisson Allen then connected on back-to-back threes to give NU a 49-33 lead with 15 minutes to play.
After Ojougboh finished a dunk off a pass from Alvarez to put the Huskies up 11 with 9:38 to play, Maynor took control of the game for VCU and scored 14 of the next 18 Ram points.
With 6:34 to go, Maynor connected on a jumper to cut the Huskies’ lead to just six, 52-46.
However, NU used the three ball again, and after Spates’ fourth three-pointer of the night, the Huskies led by 11, 56-45, with 5:52 to play.
Maynor continued his strong night and got the NU lead down to just four after hitting a lay-up and getting fouled in the process. After the lay-up a scrum ensued under the basket and resulted in a pair of technical fouls, one on each team.
‘I don’t really know what happened,’ Janning said. ‘All of a sudden I just looked up and there were all five guys from each team standing over me and it was just a scramble to get everybody back together.’
Coen went on to say the scrum was simply a matter of two teams in the heat of battle.
‘I think it was just two teams competing,’ Coen said. ‘There’s a lot of emotion out there and both teams have a lot of pride. Certainly it was all done in the nature of competition; we have a tremendous amount of respect for their program and it was all just about competition.’

From that point, the game turned into a battle of free-throws as it went back-and-forth between a one-possession and two-possession game. With 40 secon ds to play, NU came up with its biggest defensive stand of the contest.
Down four, Maynor missed a three but VCU came up with the offensive rebound but the put-back was swatted away by Ojougboh. Then Alvarez got a hand on a three-point attempt from guard Brandon Rozzell and forced it out of bounds.
Maynor then came up short on another three with a chance to tie the game with six seconds left and Allen converted on the final two free throw attempts to end the game.
The loss for the Rams marked only the second time they have lost at home in the CAA in the past three years.
Coen pointed to his team’s schedule preparation as something that helped lead the team to the win.
‘One of the purposes in our non-conference schedule is to play in some tough arenas because we knew that the CAA championship is going to come through VCU,’ Coen said. ‘We were going to have to face these teams in venues such as ODU, here [VCU] and George Mason. When you play at Memphis, Assembly Hall in Indiana or Providence, those experiences helped us tonight in a hostile environment.’
For the game, Janning finished with 11 points while Adako and Spates were also in double figures with 12. The Huskies were also 9-of-15 from three-point range and shot 47.5 percent from the field.
Northeastern will return home to battle Delaware (9-13, 3-7 CAA) Saturday at Matthews Arena at 1 p.m.

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