Editor’s Note: The 2012-2013 season is a season of transition for OBW as we move towards becoming a multi-mid-major site. While our focus remains on the America East, we will cover non-league games from time to time in anticipation of our site expansion next season.
Tight Quarters: Northeastern point guard Jonathan Lee drives through a swarm of UNC Asheville defenders on Tuesday. Lee was playing in his first game of the season, after missing the Huskies’ first eight games due to a preseason foot injury. In his season debut, the 6’2″ senior scored 19 points and dished out five assists, but the Huskies fell 79-73 (Photo by Sam Perkins)
(Boston, MA) — Too little, too late.
Trailing 71-57 with 3:52 remaining 3:52 remaining in Tuesday’s matinee against UNC Asheville, the Northeastern Huskies came alive. Powered by frenetic energy and anchored by reserves – most notably walk-on forward Chris Avenant – Northeastern unleashed a five-man defensive furry, using a frenetic trap-and-press defense in the back-court to defect passes and force turnovers, keying a 9-0 run.
Northeastern’s chopped a 14-point deficit with less than four minutes remaining to just five with 1:16 left. Guard Joel Smith capped the run with a left-corner 3, bringing the boisterous crowd of 2,134 – made up almost entirely of Boston area public school students – to their feat, as the volume at Matthews arena reached a deafening level.
But the Huskies had already dug themselves into too deep a hole, and their valiant comeback effort came up just short. Northeastern got as close as four in the final minute – fighting tooth-and-nail until the final buzzer – but two huge rejections from 6’10” Ashville reserve center D.J. Cunningham on a crucial possession with under a minute remaining slammed the door shut, and Ashville hit eight free-throws to close out the game and survive with a 79-73 win.
“Quite simply, I thought UNC-Asheville was just a notch tougher than we were today,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.
Senior Jeremy Atkinson, a 6’4” 220 pound tank of an undersized-forward, led the way for Ashville, scoring 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while pulling down a game-high nine rebounds and adding four assists. Power Forward Jon Nwannunu scored 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting in just 18 minutes, shooting guard Keith Hornsby (the son of Grammy-award winning musician Bruce Hornsby) scored 15, and forward Will Weeks added 14 on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting. Cunningham added 5 blocks, eight rebounds, and seven points in 26 minutes off the bench for the Bulldogs.
Ashville shot 54.5 percent from the floor (30-of-55), and played bully-ball in the post, scoring 46 points in the paint (compared to 32 by the Huskies), and turned 14 offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points (Northeastern scored just 8).
“It seems like they got to the loose balls and offensive rebounds. I know we gave up a ton of points on second-chance points, and I thought their physicality, particularly around the rim, earned them the victory.”
Tuesday afternoon marked the return of senior point guard Jonathan Lee, who began the season ranked second all-time in school history in both career free-throw percentage and career three-point percentage. Playing in his first game of the season after suffering a preseason foot injury, the 6’2” Lee scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting while dishing out five assists, but appeared to still be getting his legs under him.
“Obviously, Jon’s a good player. I think he played a good game, but for us to be a really good basketball team; he needs to play great games for us,” said Coen. “He only had a week or so of practice in live scrimmage situations, so his timing is still not where he would like it to be. His mind is willing, but his body is a little bit out of synch. He’ll get back to that rhythm.” (more…)