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Northeastern takes care of George Mason, extending CAA lead to three games

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With preseason favorites Drexel and Delaware getting off to slow starts, it seemed as if the Colonial Athletic Association race would be one destined to involve a number of teams.

But at this point the most intriguing race may be that for second place, as Bill Coen’s Northeastern Huskies moved to 8-0 in CAA play and are three games up on the competition following their 71-51 victory over George Mason.

Quincy Ford and Joel Smith scored 15 points apiece for Northeastern (12-7, 8-0), who hasn’t lost since December 29 at UAB (that loss capped a stretch of six losses in seven games), and the Huskies limited George Mason to 33.9% shooting from the field.

Vertail Vaughns scored 13 points to lead the way offensively for the Patriots (12-8, 5-3), who remained close in the first half by scoring ten points off of seven Northeastern turnovers. The Huskies turned the tables in the second half, scoring 13 points off of seven George Mason turnovers and shooting 56.5% from the field.

After a Sherrod Wright three-pointer cut Northeastern’s lead to four (49-45) with 6:35 remaining the Huskies finished the game on a 22-6 run, closing the door on the Patriots and possibly the rest of the CAA in the process.

Entering Sunday’s contest the Huskies won five of their seven CAA games by five points or less (thanks to @defiantlydutch for that statistic), meaning that a visit from their closest competition gave Northeastern the opportunity to make a statement.

Smith (16.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.1 apg) and Jonathan Lee (13.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.4 apg) have been the experienced hands leading the way, with underclassmen Ford (13.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Reggie Spencer (10.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg) producing as well. And freshman forward Dinko Marshavelski added 11 points off the bench against George Mason.

The Huskies are balanced, they share the basketball (1st in the CAA in assists/game) and they’ve been efficient offensively, currently leading the CAA in offensive efficiency, field goal and three-point percentage.

That recipe’s been enough to put Northeastern in firm control of the CAA race, despite the fact that they’ve had issues defensively (ranking 10th in both field goal and three-point percentage defense). Their fans hope that Northeastern can turn this start into the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 1991.

Photo credit: Northeastern University (Quincy Ford)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.