BOSTON – One reason Northeastern is a hard team to project this season is the frontcourt. The Huskies were beaten badly on the backboards last season, and the group got something of an overhaul with the freshmen they have. The backcourt was fine, but the frontcourt was sure to have a different look and, since it’s a young group, some growing pains. If first impressions are worth anything, though, the Huskies may be a team we can project more favorably, because they more than held their own in Northeastern’s 82-74 win at Boston University on Friday.
The one statistic that will leap out at you is rebounding. Northeastern out-rebounded Boston University 52-32, and it wasn’t just the raw numbers that tell the story. The Huskies rebounded 19 of 39 available misses of their shots, and 33 of 45 available Terrier misses. They had a 22-11 edge in second-chance points. Two players, include one of the freshmen, had double-doubles with points and rebounds.
One of the holdovers, Kauri Black, had 12 points and eight rebounds before fouling out. But he only played 19 minutes due to his foul trouble, and after he was big in the first half the junior forward was a non-factor after intermission.
“We need him available to us at the end of basketball games. We can’t have him DQ’d,” head coach Bill Coen said of Black. “He’s just got to be a little more disciplined on those fouls. But those reach-in fouls, he’s got to stay away from it if we’re going to be as good a basketball team as we want to be.”
The other frontcourt holdover, Ryan Pierson, was a CAA All-Rookie selection last season. On Friday, he played 12 non-descript minutes. That’s where the freshmen come in.
Quincy Ford had seven points, four boards and two assists. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but he was able to match up with BU’s frontcourt, especially since the Terriers play a four-out, one-in offense and their post players aren’t their best scoring threats. Reggie Spencer put forth the best numbers, posting 16 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out, and five of those rebounds were at the offensive end. He scored 12 of those points after intermission, helping out immensely with Black’s struggles.
“We were very fortunate to convince Reggie to come to Boston all the way from Alabama,” said Coen while talking about how Spencer could help the team. “He’s got a huge heart, and I think for a first college game that was pretty impressive.”
Spencer is the one who could be the difference-maker, and was on Friday. Coen said that rebounding was an issue they had to address in recruiting, and last season proved it as only two CAA teams were out-rebounded by a bigger margin than the Huskies. That it was an issue in the first place was a little surprising considering one of his assistants is Antonio Reynolds-Dean, who was an excellent rebounder at Rhode Island when Coen was an assistant there. Reynolds-Dean sought to find a player who could help on the glass, a player who was similar to how he was, when out recruiting last year. One state away from where he grew up, it appears he found that player, as Reynolds-Dean grew up in Atlanta and Spencer comes to Northeastern by way of Hillcrest in Alabama, the same school that former Indiana forward D.J. White attended.
“(Rebounding) has been a point of emphasis for us,” Coen said. “You have to do the job on the backboards. Reggie made a huge difference in that regard.”
The Husky guards will be fine, as Jonathan Lee capably ran the show and Joel Smith had a double-double with a team-high 20 points and 12 boards after a slow start. The wing also looks to be better as they get back the ultra-competitive Alwayne Bigby, who had seven points and eight boards (including a big stickback with 30 seconds left in overtime that made it a two-possession game, and gain Niagara transfer Kashief Edwards, who will be a scrappy hustle player. Between the two of them, the Huskies don’t figure to get great scoring, but they’ll play within the flow of the offense and compete every second they are on the floor. That position is better than it has been in recent years, where at times it has been a weak spot.
Northeastern next takes on UMass on Monday night in Amherst. The Minutemen have some size up front, but now the Huskies look much better equipped to handle it. The last time these two teams metat the Mullins Center, which was in December 2004, the Huskies won (they played two years later in the Colonial Classic in Pittsburgh). They will have a shot to do it again this time around.
The frontcourt is where Northeastern’s biggest concerns were from a personnel standpoint. If Friday’s game is any indication, there is a little less concern there right now for the Huskies.