Jan. 11, 2012; Hempstead, NY, USA; Northeastern Huskies head coach Bill Coen on the sidelines during the second half against the Hofstra Pride at David S. Mack Sports Complex. Northeastern won, 64-62. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Three Point Stance: Previewing the Charlotte 49ers/Northeastern Huskies Puerto Rico Tip-Off semi

After a victory over the Kansas State Wildcats yesterday in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off’s opening round, it’s on to the semifinals for the Charlotte 49ers as they get set to take on the Northeastern Huskies–yes, the same Northeastern Huskies that they beat in the Great Alaska Shootout final last year. We were able to get in touch with Brandon Challener, play-by-play voice of the Huskies on WRBB radio, and asked him three questions on what he saw out of Northeastern yesterday, and what the team needs to do to maintain success, in this edition of the “Three Point Stance.”

1. What were the keys to victory for the Huskies in their come-from-behind win over Georgetown?
First, the team defense. Only allowing 6 made shots on 23% shooting in the second half was huge, guys were rotating and helping down low on GTown’s biggest players. They have 5 guys taller than 6’8″ whereas Eatherton is the only one on Northeastern that tall, but their size didn’t seem to matter. It felt as if guys like Derrico Peck and Davey Walker were all over the court getting their hands up creating tough passes and forcing turnovers, the biggest being that sweet Peck jam. You could just tell the Hoyas were getting frustrated and they seemed to shut down instead of picking up their game.

Second, Reggie Spencer and Scott Eatherton down low were beasts. I’ve been calling Northeastern games for all of Spencer’s career, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him work as hard as he did today. You could tell he was confident early on when he was taking midrange jumpers. Regardless, both guys understood they needed to battle down low and use their quickness to get by guys like Joshua Smith and it worked. NU won the rebounding battle with Spencer and Eatherton combining for 19 boards, Spencer even had 6 offensive boards. Watching the game it just felt like they wanted it more than any of the GTown big men. They’re dominance opened up lanes for TJ Williams and Davey Walker.

Honestly I could keep going but I figured two was enough.

2. Early on, transfer Scott Eatherton has impressed (14.0 ppg, three double-doubles in first four games).  How important to the team is his emergence if they’re to be successful in CAA play moving forward?
I think his continued improvement will be huge for Northeastern, the last big man I can remember at Northeastern that contributed even close to the level of Eatherton was 5 years ago with Nkem Ojougboh, and even he wasn’t as dominant. This is the first time in a while Northeastern goes through their frontcourt before their backcourt on offense. Additionally, the Huskies have always been a pretty bad rebounding team but by adding him they can win rebounding battles even against teams like the Hoyas. This means guys like Demetrius Pollard, T.J. Williams and Walker can put up shots they might be less willing to take because they know that even if they miss he’ll be there to give them second chances. Coupled with the fact that it allows Spencer and Qunicy Ford (when healthy) to move to their more natural positions at the 3 and 4 creating more matchup problems for opposing defenses. Eatherton’s individual production has been monstorous, and his overall effect on the team cannot be overstated.

3. This team lost its top two scorers over the offseason. Besides Eatherton, who will need to step in and take over games for this team to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991?
The guy I’m really looking for to continue improving is sophomore point guard Davey Walker. He played all 40 minutes today, and after in the press conference Coach Coen talked about how he has the potential to be one of the better players to pass through the program. He doesn’t always stand out in the box score, but he controls both facets of the game. He’s usually at the top of the 3-2 zone Coen likes to run and runs the point. He has become much more aggressive on the offensive end. He’s without a doubt the most athletic player on the team and when he gets in the lane he can finish with the best of them. Last year, he was very timid in creating his own shot and seemed much more willing to pass it up to try and set up someone else, but this year he’s gaining in confidence, as evidence by that nasty posterization of CCSU which will be huge in how the team works offensively. Plus his long arms make him a terror defensively, he gets in passing lanes and can come out of nowhere to get some unbelievable blocks. I think if he can develop at the rate he is going right now, Northeastern can get some very impressive wins.

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