BOSTON – Returning to their home court in Matthews Arena following a tough loss to R.J. Hunter and the Georgia State Panthers, the Northeastern Huskies looked to get back on track and keep a solid hold of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association with a win over the Drexel Dragons, Saturday night.
In hopes of extending their lead over the rest of their conference foes, the Huskies stormed out of the gates with a 10-0 run. However, Drexel charged back, behind forward Dartaye Ruffin’s 12 points. The game was knotted up at 24 at halftime and remained close in the beginning of the second half.
In fact, the Huskies and Dragons exchanged leads seven times in the beginning of the second period until Northeastern grabbed a 39-37 lead with 12:07 remaining in the contest, which the Huskies never squandered. Northeastern went on to defeat Drexel, 59-52.
Northeastern (14-8, 9-1) may have won this game on the defensive end of the floor. The Huskies limited Drexel’s dynamic guard duo of Damion Lee and Frantz Massenat and forced 14 Dragons turnovers.
“We’re going to struggle if at least one of [Massenat or Lee] doesn’t play exceptionally” head coach Bruiser Flint said following the game. “One of those guys has to play well and actually shoot the ball decently.”
Lee, a 6-6 sophomore guard, scored 59 points over his last two games but was held to just seven points against the Huskies. Massenat scored just 10 points on 3-11 shooting from the field. Unfortunately for Drexel (9-13, 5-5), Ruffin was also unable to compete during the late minutes of the game due to muscle cramping.
Northeastern, however, did not struggle on the offensive end. Behind big games from their senior captains Joel Smith and Jon Lee, the Huskies rolled to 35 second half points. Lee, a 6-2 guard from Flint, Mich. scored his 1,000th career point in the contest. The mohawked guard joined his co-captain and best friend, Smith, in the school’s 1,000-point club and became the 32nd player in school history to do so.
“It’s a great honor and very exciting,” Lee said of his accomplishment. “But we knew we needed to come out here and take care of business. Coach always says good teams never lose two games in a row and we did that tonight.”
The Huskies also were superb from the free throw line as well. As a team, Northeastern shot 21-23 from the charity stripe — a whopping 91 percent. With each game, Coen’s club keeps showing how mentally poised and focused they are and they have remained focused on just taking the season one game at a time.
“The season goes so fast,” Coen said. “All you have to do is lose one game and your lead [on first place] completely goes away. We knew nobody was going to go undefeated in the league and we’re just focused on winning each task at hand.”
Another sub plot in this game was Flint and the traveled Drexel fans’ displeasure with the officiating. Flint was seen at half court several minutes following the half time buzzer complaining to officials and was also very verbal with the officiating crew during the waning moments of the contest.
“I knew it was going to be a tough and physical game,” Flint explained. “I was getting on the refs because in a game like that, we’re going to bump them when they drive and they’re going to bump us right back.”
But, even amidst all the frustration, Flint said he is still confident in his team. The coach mentioned after the game that he still thinks Drexel can win three games and the conference tournament in March.
Next, the Huskies will take their first-place act on the road to Hofstra on Wednesday and Drexel will host Old Dominion on Thursday.