Optimism was probably the last word that came to mind before this game. Leading up to the first round matchup of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan between the Northeastern Huskies and Georgetown Hoyas, most people did not expect a close game.
Even as a Northeastern student, I was resigned to my fate. Sure, Georgetown may have been upset by Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, but they wouldn’t lose this one. This Northeastern team, one that had started 1-2 against middle tier competition and was missing their top player in Quincy Ford, had no chance against the Big East powerhouse Hoyas. The quick pace of teams in the power conferences would be too much for Northeastern’s defense. At halftime, it looked as though that was the case.
The Hoyas led by just under ten points for most of the first half and took an 11 point lead into the locker room, 36-25. But Bill Coen’s team was not just going to roll over to a heavily favored Georgetown squad. After falling behind 40-26 with 17:51 remaining in the game, the Huskies reeled off 14 unanswered points in just over six minutes.
Junior transfer Scott Eatherton hit a jumper and a layup to bookend two David Walker layups, and Freshman TJ Williams then chipped in four points. Sophomore Derrico Peck then hit two of three free throws after being fouled on a three point attempt to tie the score at 40. The teams traded baskets until Georgetown pulled ahead, 54-51, with four minutes remaining, but that’s when the Husky defense took over. Northeastern stifled the Hoya attack the rest of the way, allowing just one basket and closing the game on a 12-2 run for a 63-56 win.
What does that mean for the Huskies, though? Well for one part, the frontcourt stepped up in a big way. Despite the fact that Georgetown had five players who were taller than Northeastern’s tallest man, the Huskies still managed to outrebound the Hoyas, 36-32. Junior Reggie Spencer led the way with a career high 18 points to go along with 9 rebounds. Eatherton recorded his third double-double in four games with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore point guard David Walker played the entire game and recorded 12 points. Credit also has to go to Williams and Peck, who came off the bench and played well in significant minutes due to early foul trouble for starters Eatherton and Demetrius Pollard.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Husky win was that they did it all without junior forward and preseason All-CAA pick Quincy Ford, who missed his second straight game with a back injury. He is doubtful for Friday’s matchup against Charlotte, so Northeastern will once again have to step up without their top player.
What does this mean for the rest of the tournament, though? Northeastern today will have to take on a Charlotte team that beat Kansas State, 68-61. They enter the game as three point favorites against a team that also will rely heavily on the play of its frontcourt. If the Huskies can get by the 49ers, they will have to play the winner of the Friday night game between Michigan and Florida State.
Michigan made quick work of Long Beach State, winning 85-61. Florida State pulled off a huge upset over VCU with an 85-67 blowout. If Michigan and Northeastern both win, as I am picking, it sets up a very fun final on Sunday. Quincy Ford would hopefully be back for the game, creating another scoring threat for the Huskies. Michigan would still be heavy favorites, but if Northeastern can shock one power six conference school, who’s to say that they can’t shock another one?