BOSTON — After successful showings in respective early season tournaments last weekend, the Northeastern Huskies and Harvard Crimson returned to the Commonwealth on Wednesday evening. The two Boston area schools renewed somewhat of a cross-town rivalry since the two schools last met on Dec. 10, 2010.
Both programs have undergone transformations since that last clash. The Crimson are coming off their third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and a Great Alaska Shootout tournament victory. Northeastern has now morphed from a guard-oriented offense to a post-dominant scheme on the heels of their first CAA Championship and an upset win over Georgetown in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Both teams looked to start the game off strong in the paint. Harvard found Kyle Casey on the right block their first three possessions of the game.
"I think our offense just kind of found me and I took my shots and knocked them down," the senior forward said. "Coach always says if you do the right things and run the offense hard, it’s amazing how it finds you. My teammates found me in open spots and I think I was pretty efficient tonight in getting to the basket and hitting from midrange." Casey scored 17 points and grabbed 3 rebounds before fouling out.
Junior guard Wesley Saunders also paced the Crimson with 17 points while also adding 3 rebounds and 2 assists. It was Saunders' cool, collected and consistent play that helped Harvard frequently string together runs that crushed the Huskies.
"It’s something that we work on in practice, just playing situations and trying to simulate teams getting a lead on us or making runs," Saunders said. "I think it’s something that comes natural to us, to keep staying composed when it gets tough."
The Crimson (8-1) escaped Matthews Arena with a 72-64 victory. After Northeastern (2-6) cut Harvard’s lead to 46-41 with 11:42 remaining at the Under-12 media timeout, the Crimson stormed out with a 7-2 run and the Huskies were never able to get the game back within 6 points.
The matchup was Northeastern’s first on their official home floor after playing their only other home game in the Cabot Center, the Huskies’ practice floor and home court for the women’s team. Northeastern’s loss is another to a team on their loaded non-conference schedule with NCAA hopes, something head coach Bill Coen planned.
"We’ve been playing teams that are essentially NCAA [Tournament] teams. That’s your measuring stick. We’re not there yet, but we’re not far," head coach Bill Coen said. "I’ve got a great group of kids in that locker room that are frustrated, but they understand it’s a process."
If Northeastern does see a CAA championship and an NCAA berth on their horizon, they’ll have to improve their productivity from behind the three-point line to compliment Scott Eatherton and Reggie Spencer down low—Eatherton posted his sixth double-double on the young season against Harvard. And unfortunately, the Huskies will need to do so without preseason All-CAA second team selection Quincy Ford, who will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing back surgery later this week.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Northeastern anytime soon as they will turn around to welcome the UAB Blazers to Matthews on Saturday. Harvard will return to action against Boston University the same night.