Cougars lose 3rd straight

Northeastern senior forward Quincy Ford forced the officials to make a call.

And at home on senior night, Ford knew he would probably get the benefit of the doubt.

Ford hit two free throws with 4.7 seconds to play to lift the Huskies past College of Charleston, 58-57, Thursday night at Matthews Arena in Boston.

With the loss, the Cougars (16-12, 8-9) fall into a tie with Northeastern (16-14, 8-9) for sixth place in the Colonial Athletic Association standings with one game to left in the regular season.

The top six teams in the CAA receive a first-round bye in next week’s conference tournament in Baltimore. The Huskies finish the season on Saturday on the road against Drexel, the ninth-place team in the CAA, while the Cougars will take on Hofstra, which can clinch the top-seed and regular season crown with a victory.

Trailing by a point, Ford, who missed the first meeting between the two teams back in January, drove to the basket and slammed into College of Charleston guard Evan Bailey, who appeared to have established defensive position just outside the paint. Bailey, however, was called for a blocking foul despite the fact that replays showed the sophomore had set his feet.

After the game, College of Charleston coach Earl Grant was diplomatic when asked about the last-second foul on Bailey.

“I was watching the ball and Quincy Ford drove it and there was a lot of contact,” Grant said. “I know Evan ended up on his back. I’m not sure if it was a charge. It was a 50-50 call, so it could have gone either way. I’m not sure if it was a block or a charge until I see the film.”

Ford then calmly sank both free throws in a crucial moment.

“You have to give Quincy Ford credit,” Grant said. “He went to the free-throw line down a point and hit both free throws. A lot of times, you win a game at the free-throw line late, so he stepped up and made both.”

Just seconds before the Ford’s two free throws, College of Charleston’s Cameron Johnson hit a running jumper from about 12 feet out to give the Cougars a 57-56 lead with 24 seconds to play.

“That’s a shot that Cam likes to take and he’s pretty effective at making it,” Grant said. “Cam wants the ball, wants to take that shot in those situations.”

After dismal shooting performance in the first half that saw the Cougars go just nine of 36 from the floor (25 percent), Charleston made five of its first seven shots from the field to open the second half.

Marquise Pointer hit back-to-back 3s as Northeastern was forced to abandon its 2-3 zone defense for the rest of the game.

“I don’t now what happened to us in the first half, we had a ton of open looks that we didn’t make,” Grant said. “Marquise hit a couple of 3s to get us going in the second half and they went away from their zone.

While the Cougars were coming alive offensively, the Huskies were counter-attacking with their pick-and-roll that led to several easy basketball, especially for Zach Stahl, who led Northeastern with 15 points.

“We defended the pick-and-roll really well in the first half and did a good job for the first eight minutes of the second half against it,” Grant said. “They found niche in our ball-screen coverage and were able to get a couple of easy baskets for about two minutes. We eventually adjusted and did a better job.”

The Cougars held a 38-30 edge in rebounding, which included 13 offensive rebounds that led to nine second-chance points. Charleston turned the ball over just five times and had seven steals.

And still lost the game, which left Grant searching for answers.

“It’s hard for me to fathom how we lost that game after all the good we did and with the energy that we played with tonight,” Grant said. “I’m really proud against of our effort. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.”

Jarrell Brantley led the Cougars with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Payton Hulsey had 12 points and nine rebounds. Johnson finished with 13 points.