Northeastern was 46 seconds away from clinching the regular season CAA title. Jonathan Lee had put his all into getting his team there. But in the end, without Joel Smith by his side, Delaware proved to be too much in overtime as they tackled the Huskies just short of the finish line.
With two seconds left on the shot clock, it looked like Northeastern was going to have the CAA regular season title wrapped up before Valentine's Day.
And then Jarvis Threatt shot the ball.
It was quite appropriate that one of the Blue Hens' big three hit the game-winning shot, actually. In fact, 55 of Delaware's 76 points came from Devon Saddler, Jamelle Hagins, or Threatt. Hagins was a key player in the game, exuding absolutely unconscious efficiency -- 17 points on 85 percent scoring efficiency -- and snagging 9 rebounds as he returned to his early season form.
Hagins made light of an early injury to the Huskies' Dinko Marshavelski, who only played four minutes, and Threatt and Saddler capitalized on the absence of Joel Smith.
Smith, who led the Huskies early on in the year and remains the team's leading scorer, suited up for the game but never entered. He turned his ankle in the final minutes of the Hens' win against William & Mary, and his presence -- and 17 points per game -- were severely missed.
And yet, even with those drawbacks on the offensive end, the Huskies held leads in the final forty seconds of both regulation and overtime. Jonathan Lee assisted a Zach Stahl layup with 34 seconds remaining in regulation and scored five points in less than two minutes during OT.
But each time Northeastern grabbed what seemed to be a potentially decisive lead, the Blue Hens came storming back. Lee gave it his all in the absence of his two teammates but was ultimately overwhelmed by the three-headed attack on the other side of the ball.
Even after the Huskies held a five-point lead with as little as 1:37 left in the game, the Delaware offense refused to be held down. They kept attacking, getting in the lanes and getting to the line as well as finding ways to turn the drives into kick-outs. And on the Hens' final possession of the game, when it seemed that they had run out of luck?
Jarvis Threatt didn't want to hear any of that.
Now Northeastern heads to North Carolina, still in pursuit of that elusive regular-season title. It still looks good, especially with Old Dominion as the last team on their schedule. But under Jim Corrigan, that's no longer a guaranteed win.
So the Huskies will hope for the return of Joel Smith and keep their focus.
But nothing's guaranteed in college hoops.