GAME NOTES: In the first semifinal of the Great Alaska Shootout the Northeastern Huskies are paired with the Belmont Bruins at Sullivan Arena.
Northeastern edged out UC Riverside in the first round of the tournament with a 61-52 win. The win helped the Huskies bounce back from their first loss of the season, a 66-55 setback at home against Vermont. The Huskies' first two wins came by a total of just two points with victories over Boston University (65-64) and Princeton (67-66).
As for Belmont, the Bruins have yet to lose this season and enter play with a perfect 4-0 ledger. That includes a 74-60 win over host Alaska-Anchorage in the first round of the tournament. All but one of Belmont's wins have been by double digits with the other win coming on the road against last season's NIT champion Stanford (70-62).
These two team's will await the results of Friday's action to determine who they will take on in the tournament's final round on Saturday.
This is the first meeting between these programs.
The Huskies almost let a 21-point lead in the second half against UC Riverside slip away but held on to win. The Huskies connected on only 17-of-41 attempts from the floor but hit eight triples and outscored the Highlanders by a massive 19-3 edge in points from the free throw line. Quincy Ford paced the team with 14 points as one of two players in double figures.
Close games have been the norm for Northeastern as its scoring differential this season is set at 0.0, scoring and allowing 62.0 points per game. Northeastern is not a strong rebounding team and collects just 29.0 boards a game. Even with the rebounding issues, the Huskies have a great deal of skill in the frontcourt Ford, a 6-foot-8 forward is scoring 14.8 points per game while bringing in a team-leading 7.0 rebounds a contest. Meanwhile, Reggie Spencer (12.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is also scoring and rebounding effectively. Joel Smith (15.5 ppg. 3.8 apg) is hitting on 43.9 percent of his shots and is the lead option on the perimeter.
After initially trailing after the first possession of the game, the Bruins quickly captured the lead and from there never trailed again going on to lead by as many as 19 points against Alaska-Anchorage. The Bruins hit on 44.3 percent of its field goal attempts and forced 20 turnovers by the Seawolves. Trevor Noack was the top scoring option in the game with 15 points.
Belmont is scoring well and playing solid defense during its hot start. The Bruins are putting in 80.2 points per game and shooting 46.1 percent from the floor. On the other end the Bruins are giving up just 57.8 points a game, while slowing teams to a 35.1 percent success rate on field goal attempts. Ian Clark (16.5 ppg) is the leading scorer while shooting an even 50.0 percent from the floor. Kerron Johnson (13.8 ppg) and J.J.Mann (12.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg) team with Clark in what is a very productive backcourt. Noack (12.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is also scoring in double figures and is a pillar on the inside. Blake Jenkins (88 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is another starter making solid contributions, while no other player on the team plays more than 18 minutes a game.
Through four games, Belmont is playing at a very high level and has yet to flinch. Northeastern has been winning but by the skin of its teeth. The Bruins should yet again be able to get in the win column against an inconsistent Huskies' squad.