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.