No. 1 Michigan State’s trip to Boston to take on Northeastern wasn’t expected to be an easy one, as the Huskies are an experienced and talented group that picked up a win at No. 15 Miami earlier this season. And that’s how things played out at the start, with Bill Coen’s team dominating the boards and controlling the tempo.
But after a sloppy first ten minutes Tom Izzo’s team played at the level one would expect of the nation’s best team, going on to win 78-58 in a game shown on NBCSN.
At one point in the first half Northeastern had more offensive rebounds (nine) than Michigan State had total rebounds (five), with Zach Stahl and Kwesi Akabah proving particularly difficult for the Spartans to keep off the glass. But once Michigan State’s front court managed to complete defensive possessions with a rebound the Spartans were able to get out in the open floor and increase the game’s tempo, turning a tight game into a comfortable victory by game’s end.
Denzel Valentine accounted for 17 points, five rebounds and six assists, and by game’s end Michigan State finished with more second chance points than Northeastern (14-13). Add in 14 points off of 12 Northeastern turnovers, and Michigan State moved one win (12-0) closer to producing the best start in program history. Offensively the Spartans shot nearly 56 percent from the field and had three players reach double figures, with Bryn Forbes (12 points) and Tum Tum Nairn (11) joining Valentine.
Also of note for Michigan State was the return of forward Gavin Schilling, who missed the first 11 games due to injury. Schilling played just 11 minutes, producing four points and three rebounds, but he was the team’s best big man during their summer trip to Italy and his return gives the Spartans another option to call upon inside. That will be key for them moving forward, as he’ll join a rotation that includes fellow veteran Matt Costello and freshmen Deyonta Davis and Kenny Goins.
Michigan State’s first-shot defense was very good Saturday afternoon, as Northeastern shot just 37.3 percent from the field with David Walker scoring 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting. But the game didn’t change in their favor until the Spartans got back to cleaning up the defensive glass as they had in the 11 games prior, and that attention to detail will be key as Michigan State plays games of even greater magnitude later in the season.
Monday’s CAA tournament title game will match two teams desperately looking to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. While William & Mary’s drought has been much-publicized, as they’ve never played in the NCAA tournament, Northeastern’s looking to end a drought of more than two decades. Sunday evening Bill Coen’s Huskies beat UNCW 78-71 to advance to the title game, and a win over the Tribe would result in their first NCAA tournament trip since 1991.
Forward Scott Eatherton, a first team all-CAA selection, led the way with 21 points while also grabbing five rebounds and blocking three shots. Just as important for Northeastern was the 33 points they received from reserves, as Devon Begley, Caleb Donnelly and Reggie Spencer scored 11 points apiece. Starting guard David Walker also scored 11 points for Northeastern, and he also contributed eight rebounds and five assists.
UNCW’s Jordan Talley led three Seahawks in double figures with 18 points, with fellow guards Craig Ponder (17 points, five rebounds, three assists) and Addison Spruill (12 points, four rebounds) being the other double-digit scorers. Monday’s title game begins at 7:00 p.m. and can be seen on NBCSN.
After falling in the CAA tournament title game a season ago, William & Mary will make its second consecutive appearance in the game Monday night. Their path to the CAA final wasn’t an easy one either, as they needed a Daniel Dixon three-pointer with eight tenths of a second remaining in double overtime to beat Hofstra 92-91 on Sunday.
CAA Player of the Year Marcus Thornton, who assisted on Dixon’s game-winning three, scored a CAA tournament single-game record 37 points to lead the way for the Tribe with Omar Prewitt adding 33 points. Juan’ya Green, the CAA Newcomer of the Year, led Hofstra with 26 points to go along with seven assists and four steals. Dion Nesmith added 21 points and Brian Bernardi 17 for the Pride, who drop to 20-13 on the season.
William & Mary will play either UNCW or Northeastern in Monday’s title game, which can be seen on NBCSN at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
After winning six straight games to rebound from a slow start to conference play, Drexel has lost three straight games with the most recent being an 83-73 overtime loss at Northeastern on Saturday. And what makes matters even worse for head coach Bruiser Flint is the fact that he also lost his leading scorer in that game.
Damion Lee, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, suffered a broken right hand in Saturday’s defeat. The news was announced by the school Sunday afternoon. Lee, who’s averaging 21.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, plays just over 38 minutes per game for the Dragons.
Against Northeastern, Lee played all 45 minutes and tallied 30 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Lee is an incredibly important player for a team that in conference games is ranked ninth (out of ten teams) in scoring offense and dead last in field goal percentage. Without Lee, Drexel’s hopes of getting hot in next month’s conference tournament take a significant hit.
The College of Charleston was scheduled to play a game at James Madison Saturday afternoon, but thanks to a winter storm the game has been pushed back to Sunday afternoon. According to the announcement from James Madison, tipoff is scheduled for Noon Sunday.
This is an important game for the Dukes (10-5 CAA, 17-11 overall), who entered Saturday tied atop the CAA standings in the loss column with UNCW (11-5), Northeastern and William & Mary (10-5). After losing consecutive games to William & Mary and UNCW, Matt Brady’s team has won four straight entering Sunday’s game.
The Dukes won the first meeting of the season between the two teams, beating the Cougars 61-50 January 5. Ron Curry scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Yohanny Dalembert added 14 and three blocked shots. Charleston shot 37 percent from the field and 6-for-25 from beyond the arc in that home defeat.
Towson outlasted Charleston 53-50 on Sunday afternoon as the Tigers won an ugly CAA game. The Tigers only shot 33 percent (19-for-57) from the field and turned the ball over 15 times, but they outrebounded the Cougars 51-35.
Timajh Parker-Rivera paced Towson with 12 points and chipped in eight rebounds while Charleston was led by 13 points from Joe Chealey.