BOSTON — After his team’s 81-71 win Friday night at Harvard, Northeastern head coach Bill Coen could not stress enough how his team’s energy level determined the outcome. He knew that would be the case going in.
“[We] were more focused on the team and our energy, our connectivity,” he said, comparing this win to the team’s opening night loss to Boston University — a game where the Huskies coughed up a double-digit lead down the stretch.
It proved to be a tough test against a veteran Harvard team with three upperclassmen in the starting lineup. The back end of both teams’ Boston tours certainly lived up to the hype.
While Harvard may be the favorite in the Ivy League, this game was a mere warmup for the Charleston Classic next week and a first-round game with Alabama. After that, Northeastern heads to Davidson and Bucknell to cap a frightening road swing. They needed something, or someone, to wake up the offense in the second half — the Huskies needed a “microwave.”
The Huskies’ inability to get open shots from the perimeter is what led to the second half collapse in game one. Friday night, however, all they needed was redshirt junior Jordan Roland to have an eye on the rim and his feet behind the arc to have a chance. The former George Washington guard shot 7-10 from distance along with 10-11 from the free throw line, running circles around a Crimson defense that was chasing him all night.
“He’s got that mindset,” Coen said. “Once he sees the ball in a basket, he can get on a roll. He’s like a microwave that way.”
Yes, a microwave.
Northeastern’s game plan to spread the floor and wait for open shots was the deciding factor down the stretch, leading to the Huskies’ third win in the last four meetings with the Crimson.
Harvard may have been without key players Seth Towns and Bryce Aiken, but head coach Tommy Amaker wasn’t making any excuses following the loss.
“We should’ve played better to give ourselves a chance to win, and we just did not do that,” he said, adding that some of the newcomers will need time to adjust in elevated roles and learn to “get out of their own way” on the defensive end.
Towns and Aiken remain out indefinitely with injury, and the team has games at UMass, Rhode Island, and Saint Mary’s coming up.
There’s no doubt that the game would’ve had an entirely different dynamic with Towns and Aiken on the floor, however a matchup with a veteran Huskies squad will only build the remaining players’ confidence heading into the grunt of their non-conference slate and beyond.
Amaker knows that all too well how critical this game was, not just because of what’s to come but for some city bragging rights.
Defensive intensity is always top of mind for Harvard, however after Friday, it’s clearly priority number one. The ‘Lets Go Huskies!’ chant ringing through Lavietes Pavilion as the buzzer sounded won’t be forgotten by this Harvard team anytime soon. Mid-major hoops runs deep in Boston. If that’s not enough motivation heading onto the road, I don’t know what is.