The Northeastern Huskies lost their chance to earn an NCAA Tournament appearance, and presumably a 15-seed, when they fell to the James Madison Dukes in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship game. But they were rewarded for winning the CAA regular season championship with an automatic bid to the NIT.
And, the Huskies felt ready for that opportunity.
“We try not to lose two in a row so we’ll really practice hard and the NIT is just another opportunity, any postseason is a blessing for any team so we’re going to prepare,” senior captain Jonathan Lee said following the team’s loss to JMU. “We’re going to attack it and do our best to win.”
Northeastern did just that in their opening round contest against Alabama, entering halftime down just 28-23 to their No. 1 seed opponent, on Tuesday night. But, after the Huskies cut the Crimson Tide’s lead to just one point in the early moments of the second half, Bama rolled off a 20-0 run and left head coach Bill Coen’s club in their tracks.
The Huskies were held without a field goal for the following 9:05 after making it a 28-27 contest. Northeastern’s offense grew stagnant and created very few quality looks. The absence of Lee’s co-senior captain, Joel Smith, may have been a key factor in the team’s faulty execution on the offensive end.
Following the game, the team released the following statement regarding Smith’s DNP:
“Joel was medically unavailable tonight due to an injury suffered during the CAA tournament. Consistent with department policy regarding injury information, that’s as much as I’m able to share. He’ll continue to work with the medical team and training room staff to recover from the injury.”
The Huskies saw the CAA championship game fall out of their grasp when Smith fouled out with 7:46 remaining in the second half.
Clearly Smith, the team’s leading scorer and 1st Team All-CAA selection, was extremely valuable to the Huskies’ offensive production this year.