Buies Creek, NC- In February in the CAA, every game matters that much more. The CAA is a competitive league with great coaching where you have to be prepared to win. Any team can win on any given night. After a Thursday night home loss to Northeastern, Campbell Head Coach Kevin McGeehan spoke to the talent and depth of the league:
"Every team we face in this league is awesome. There is nobody that is an easy game."
In this game alone, there were a combined 29 years of head coaching experience at the Division I level. Regardless of the team's records, we were in for a good one in Buies Creek.
Northeastern got out in transition early on, taking advantage of the speed and athleticism they have at guard to put Campbell's defense on its heels. This gave the Huskies strong control of the game for the better part of the first fifteen minutes. Campbell's focus was to neutralize Chris Doherty, Northeastern's leading scorer and rebounder, who did not play in the 59-55 loss at Stony Brook on February 3rd. Campbell did an excellent job of keeping a body on him and making it hard for him to get the ball. He did not score until the 10:25 mark of the first half, a layup that would provide his only 2 points in the entire game.
Northeastern did a great job of preventing Anthony Dell'Orso from getting to his spots in the first half. This was a major reason for the Huskies' 42-29 halftime lead. He finished the half with just eight points, but as we have seen all year, Dell'Orso is never completely out of a game offensively. In the final five minutes of the first half, the Camels showed a sense of purpose proving that this game was far from over.
In the first 3:45 of the second half, Northeastern extended its lead to its highest point of the game, twenty. At the 16:15 mark, Masai Troutman was assessed a technical after an animated celebration following a second-chance layup. This led to guys from both sides exchanging some words, with Chris Doherty and Jasin Sinani having to be separated by the officials. This felt to me like a moment that could fuel a wake-up call for the Camels. I asked Jasin about this incident and these were his comments:
"I knew the team had no energy. I tried taking it by myself. It was a little chippy. I felt like he grabbed my arm a little after the play so a couple words were exchanged there. When he stepped up to me, I knew I wanted to give a little energy to our team. I wanted to show I wasn't going to back down and stand up for us."
Boy, did that give the Camels the energy they needed. The game felt like it was in Northeastern's hands until 9:36 remaining in the game with the Huskies lead at twenty. The Camels proceeded to go on a 16-0 run in less than five minutes to make it a four-point deficit for Campbell. Coach McGeehan was asked what fueled the comeback in the second half:
"Desperation. We played so poorly for the first 27 minutes, just flat and not enough energy. We had some careless turnovers in the first half. We tried zone there in the second half in the beginning and that wasn't the answer. The man-to-man at the end of the first half was the spark and probably should have stuck with that but wanted to see if the zone would help us."
Mason Grant was a bright spot for the Camels defensively, provided a spark the team needed to slow down Northeastern and get the Camels back into the game in the second half. I asked Coach McGeehan about Grant's impact and these were his thoughts:
"He was doing a good job at the top of the press. Obviously, he is super athletic and that really helps. I was pleased with the contribution he made. The turnover and the defensive out-of-bounds play was bad but that's part of it, ups and downs but he provided a spark and was an energy giver that helped us tonight."
Despite the all-around Campbell effort, the Camels' 16-0 run wasn't enough. In the final five minutes, Northeastern pulled away thanks some sharpshooting from Luka Sakota, who had 19 second-half points. Coach McGeehan felt Sakota was the difference in the game:
"[Luka] Sakota was back today and he played really well and made a bunch of threes. That really was the difference in the game, his shotmaking."
I was impressed with the versatility and speed on both ends by Northeastern guard Harold Woods. He finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals and is a player that head coach Bill Coen can rely on in these tough CAA games down the stretch. A 9-15 record for the Huskies means nothing when they are capable of controlling a game early on and hitting contested three-pointers like they did against Campbell. With wins over Hofstra and Towson already, this is a team to watch that could spoil the season of a contender in the CAA.
Both teams return to action this Saturday, February 10th. Northeastern will host Monmouth at 1 pm EST, while Campbell hosts Stony Brook at 2 pm EST. Both games will be available to watch on FloHoops. Follow along on X (@TrevorEverette) for more content and read my work for House of College Hoops and House Enterprise here.