WASHINGTON – Senior Northeastern guard Jordan Roland hadn’t played his best basketball throughout the CAA Conference Tournament. He came in averaging 22 points per game, but was held to eight in Northeastern’s upset win over Towson Sunday. Monday, he missed his first four shots against Elon.
But when the Huskies needed him most, as Elon drew within seven points in the closing minutes, Roland drained back-to-back threes to extend their edge to 63-50 with 1:33 to play. The sequence effectively sealed a 68-60 win that propelled Northeastern into its third straight CAA championship game.
Roland scored 10 of the final 12 points for the Huskies to lead all scorers with 21 points. His teammate and fellow senior guard Bolden Brace went 4-for-6 from beyond the 3-point line and finished with 16 points.
“We got a little lax in the second half in terms of our execution,” said 14th-year Huskies head coach Bill Coen. “You could feel the momentum start to swing a little bit. But fortunately, [Roland and Brace] stepped up and made some huge shots to stem the tide.”
Elon was led by graduate transfer Marcus Sheffield II, who scored 20 to end his career.
Northeastern fired on all cylinders in the first four minutes. It jumped to a 9-0 lead by the first media timeout. Redshirt junior Maxime Boursiquot scored four early points and forced two steals in the first half.
Second chance opportunities were key for Northeastern early as it grabbed four offensive rebounds in the opening 7 1/2 minutes. Back-to-back threes by Brace and freshman guard Tyson Walker stretched the Huskies’ lead to 15-5 and prompted a timeout from Elon’s first-year head coach, Mike Schrage.
Northeastern pushed the lead to 26-10 with 7:15 left in the first half, which prompted Elon to employ a 1-3-1 zone to throw off their opponents. But that didn’t work, either. The Huskies went on a 7-0 scoring run in just under two minutes and pushed their advantage to 35-15 with four minutes to go in the half.
Elon fought back gradually through the second half. The Huskies went on a seven-minute scoring drought. But the Phoenix weren’t opportunistic enough as it scored just eight points during that span.
But Elon made history by reaching the CAA semifinals for the first time in school history. It entered the tournament with an 11-20 record, seeded seventh.
“A lot of teams get sick of each other, it’s a long season,” said Schrage. “I didn’t sense it one bit from these guys ever…it’s a launching pad. We believe in elevating this program to amazing heights.”
Elon fans gave their team a standing ovation after the final horn.
Northeastern moved on to the title game scheduled Tuesday, where the team it beat last season in the title game, Hofstra, waits again. The Huskies bested Hofstra 82-74 a year ago, but lost twice to the Pride during the regular season by a combined six points.
“Our core group of guys never lost belief in themselves and that’s hard to do when you go through a season like we went through,” said Coen. “We just couldn’t catch a break. But this team came to practice each and every day with a positive attitude. I always say when you take that approach, somewhere along the line, your fortunes are going to turn.”