Putting the Game Away
The Pack could have easily had a situation similar to its game against NC Central, where it led by double figures in the second half but allowed an inferior team to come back. But the Pack came out in the second half and put any fears of a comeback to rest, going on a 16-5 run to essentially put the game away. The run gave the Pack a 21-point advantage and the team never allowed Northeastern to get closer than 15.
It was the kind of easy, low pressure game the Pack needed after a long string of close, down-to-the-wire games. Instead of beating a team on a 90-foot pass and buzzer-beating shot, the Pack closed out Northeastern with fans cheering on Staats Battle and Kendall Smith.
On the Ball Defense
While Northeastern struggles from the field in general, the Pack was especially good on Thursday night at challenging shots and forcing misses. The Huskies hit just 4-of-18 from behind the arch (22 percent) and 45 percent of its 2-pointers. The 59 points allowed by the Pack was the second lowest of the season, behind Princeton's 58-point display.
Gottfried praised the defense after the game, specifically pointing to their ability to guard the ball screens. He also pointed to CJ Williams' defensive consistence and called him a 'calming presence' on the court for the Pack.
The senior transfer continues to build confidence over the last few games, a great sign for a team that desperately needs him to contribute positive minutes in ACC play. Johnson added nine points, all from behind the arc, and just one turnover in 17 minutes of play. With Johnson playing well, the Pack can get ease the ball-handling and minutes burden for Lorenzo Brown. Gottfried said after the game that he would be content with a seven-man, potentially eight-man rotation that looks like it will consistent of the starters, Johnson, Painter and de Thaey.
The Huskies entered the game as one of the most turnover-prone teams in the nation. But the Pack only managed to force 10 turnovers against Northeastern, while turning the ball over themselves 10 times. As long as the Pack can force a team to shoot poorly, the lack of turnovers won't be a major concern. But in those games where a team gets hot from the field the Pack could use a few defensive possessions without a shot. It's nitpicking in what was probably the Pack's most complete game in a month, but its something the team does need to improve on.
Player Of The Game
Richard Howell posted his second double-double of the season and his 14 points and 12 rebounds against Northeastern were good enough to earn the honors. Howell took advantage of his size and strength against the Huskies, making 6-of-10 from the field. It was a balanced scoring attack for the Pack overall on Thursday night, with four players in double digits and no one over 16 points. CJ Leslie had 16 points and eight boards while CJ Williams and Brown combined for 30 points, 15 assists and six turnovers.
Gottfried on rotations:
"We've got that group of 7-8 guys right now who are playing really good basketball. In '95 when we won a national championship at UCLA, we played seven. I would like to play eight or nine, but right now that group of seven is playing pretty good for our team."