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February 10, 2008 Columns No Comments



Huskies Win Fourth Straight, Continue Defensive Improvement

by Phil Kasiecki

BOSTON – Sometimes a little adjustment in focus is what it takes to change a team’s fortunes. Certainly, it’s not so simple that it happens automatically, but a simple change and all the actions that such entails can be all that is really needed.

Enter the Northeastern Huskies, a team that has won four straight following Saturday’s 51-42 win over William & Mary. More important than the wins is that they are a reflection of a team that has made good adjustments in that time.

Northeastern needs to keep the score down, relatively speaking, to win games. They aren’t going to win often if the game is in the 80s or 90s, but they don’t need it to stay in the 40s, either. But lately, they have taken that to a different level, holding the last four opponents below 32 percent from the field. It’s a marked contrast to the prior two games, losses at UNC Wilmington and at home against Hofstra where both teams shot well against them. (The Seahawks shot 60 percent from the field for the game.)

“We went back, and I thought the quickest way for us to improve was for us to focus on our defense,” said head coach Bill Coen, who added that since two losses, practices have largely focused on improving at the defensive end.

“He’s challenged us all in practice and has challenged everyone to pick up the defense and give an all-around defensive team effort,” said Matt Janning, who struggled shooting but had 10 points and four steals against the Tribe.

The Huskies also cleared another hurdle recently that seems to be having a lasting effect. Last week, the Huskies ran off two straight on the road at Delaware and Drexel. For a team that has had some struggles away from home, getting those two was a real positive. They came home and took two more to reach 7-6 in CAA play, making for a four-way tie for fourth place.

Prior to last week, the Huskies had not won a CAA road game this season. They’ve been close a few times, most notably the heart-breaker they lost to the Tribe last month in Williamsburg, when they led by 12 at the half and never trailed until the final minute and a half. Although the CAA is a tough conference as it is, there’s certainly some value to picking up a couple of road wins aside from the obvious.

“I do think that for a young team, it’s important for them to experience that and believe in that,” said Coen. “That gave us the higher confidence level we’re playing with now.”

The Huskies must now go back on the road for four of their final six games of the regular season, including their BracketBusters game an hour west at Holy Cross. This time around, they’ll leave Boston in a better place than a couple of weeks ago. They are more confident and have improved their defense, two key areas for any team trying to win games.

Other Notable Games

Louisville 59, Georgetown 51: Georgetown looked like the class of the Big East, but Louisville took this game over in the second half for the win. Could the Big East regular season play out similarly? Right now it looks like it could since Georgetown has looked shaky at times.

Tennessee 47, LSU 45: LSU’s first game in the post-John Brady era ends with a turnover and breakaway layup that wins the game for Tennessee.

Purdue 72, Wisconsin 67: The young Boilermakers continue to just win, but this one was big. They lead the Big Ten with this win on the home court of another team that’s been better than advertised. It was a good time to get their first win in Madison since 1996.

Notre Dame 86, Marquette 83: The Fighting Irish will remain at least in second place in the Big East with this win.

Connecticut 80, Georgia Tech 68: Hasheem Thabeet’s big game keeps the Huskies rolling.

Villanova 72, Seton Hall 70: A much-needed win for the Wildcats, who had been free-falling.

Washington State 74, USC 50: The Cougars had been struggling mightily, but came back with a vengeance in this one.

Texas A&M 77, Missouri 69: See Washington State, then add in that the Aggies had already won a couple of games recently after a slow start in Big 12 play.

Kansas 100, Baylor 90: The Bears were able to hang with the Jayhawks for a while, but were a little short.

Arkansas 75, Mississippi 69: The Razorbacks take full advantage of their three-game home swing, with this being the third win in those three and their fourth straight overall.

Maryland 84, North Carolina State 70: The Terrapins keep rolling, while the Wolfpack remains a tough team to figure out.

St. John’s 64, Providence 62: Not a loss the Friars needed at all, even if it was on the road.

Kentucky 62, Alabama 52: The Wildcats continue to play well. They still have a ways to go to be in the NCAA Tournament discussion, but every win helps a little.

Drake 73, Evansville 65: 21 straight wins for the Bulldogs, who sport a 13-0 Missouri Valley record.

George Washington 57, Dayton 54: This wasn’t one the Flyers could afford to lose much, as they drop to 4-5 in the Atlantic 10. They are still without freshman Chris Wright. Rob Diggs (29 points, 11 rebounds) had a huge game to lead the winners.

Charlotte 87, St. Bonaventure 83: Quietly, the 49ers continue a nice season as they improve to 5-3 in the Atlantic 10.

Old Dominion 72, George Mason 64: Not a good loss for the Patriots, who are now two games behind VCU in the CAA standings.

Davidson 81, College of Charleston 56: With this win, Davidson goes to 15-0 in Southern Conference play.

Utah State 78, San Jose State 73: With this win, the Aggies are 8-1 in the WAC and have a two-game lead in the loss column over three teams.

Oral Roberts 88, IPFW 56: The Golden Eagles are in cruise control in the Summit League with a 12-0 mark.

Cornell 87, Penn 74: Could this be the passing of the torch? The Big Red go to 6-0 in Ivy League play and have a two-game lead over everyone else.

Brown 71, Harvard 51: The Bears sweep the weekend with two blowout wins to keep pace with Cornell.

Eastern Kentucky 80, Southeast Missouri State 69 (OT): Two teams going in opposite directions, with the Colonels having won five straight and seven of eight after this win. SEMO has lost three straight and nine of ten.

Robert Morris 88, Long Island 72: The Colonials are the hot team right now with seven straight wins, trying to keep pace with Sacred Heart in the Northeast.

Maine 75, New Hampshire 72 (OT): Once again, New Hampshire refuses to quit, as they were down by 17 at halftime and forced overtime against the Black Bears, themselves a young team.

     

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