The double technical is an odd act of indecisiveness. It splits the difference in situations where an altercation is in the air but the instigator is unclear.
They’re usually buzzkills, not jump starts, but when Northeastern was looking for signs of life in the second half against Towson Thursday night at Matthews Arena, the whistle that Huskies center Anthony Green drew after getting chest to chest with Tigers forward Justin Gorham ended up being the smelling salts NU needed.
Gorham had a team-high 11 points at the time, and Northeastern had just started to shake off a sluggish first half, taking a 36-34 lead three minutes into second half.
Gorham, who finished with 28 points, tried to make a power dribble and lay the ball up along the baseline, but Green swatted it away. Gorham gathered the rebound and tried to go back up, but Green was still there, a brick wall.
The second time, Green smacked Gorham’s shot into the cheerleaders, turned, and stared Gorham down. Gorham didn’t shy away.
“Since we came out for the second half, we knew we had to pick it up,” Green said. “So I just decided to give everything I’ve got. To go get both of them is a big momentum play. Then I got the tech, that got everyone going.”
The technicals were inevitable. But from that moment, Northeastern seized momentum.
“That got me going,” said guard Shawn Occeus, who led the Huskies with 24 points. “Especially seeing the crowd hyped up, coaches hyped up, just everyone happy for each other. That sequence really turned it on for us, like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s do this.’ ’’
The Huskies walked away with an 80-75 win in their final home game of the season. They improved their record to 20-9 (13-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association).
Northeastern stretched its lead to as many as 10 points in the second half, and when Towson (18-12, 8-9) trimmed it to 4 with less than two minutes to play, the Huskies has answers.
With 1:35 remaining and the shot clock down to four seconds, point guard Vasa Pusica was stuck under the rim looking for a shot. He heaved a pass to the corner to Bolden Grace, who caught it and flung it in midair to Occeus, who calmly drilled a 3-pointer from the wing as the shot clock expired that pushed the lead to 76-69 and ostensibly iced the victory.
“It took, like, forever,” Occeus said. “But I’m glad it went in. That’s just the teamwork we have and the chemistry we’ve built over the year.”
Occeus’s 24 points came on 8-of-12 shooting, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Pusica finished with 17 points and seven assists.
The Huskies remained a game out of first place in the conference with Charleston running over Elon, 79-58, but have themselves set up well going into Saturday’s season finale against Elon, and then the CAA tournament next week.
“It’s building our confidence knowing we have a chance,” said the Huskies’ lone senior, Devon Begley. “That’s what we’re playing for, that’s why we’re here is to win a championship, and you don’t want to settle for anything less.”
Despite getting 12 points from Occeus in the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers, and building a 20-9 lead with 11:04 left, the Huskies watched the Tigers chip away one turnover at a time.
The Huskies went into the locker room trailing, 31-30, and could thank their 12 first-half giveaways for the deficit. The Tigers scored 14 of their 31 first-half points off turnovers. Towson guards Mike Morsell and Eddie Keith II each had two steals in the half.
From the time Gorham knocked down a jumper with 8:37 left to when Keith hit another at 3:10, the Tigers went on a 19-3 run that gave them a 30-25 lead.
The Huskies were able to keep their offense afloat with second-chance opportunities, turning five first-half offensive rebounds into 6 points.
But Northeastern clamped down on defense in the second half, blocking three shots, coming up with two steals, grabbing 14 rebounds, and forcing 21 misses on 37 shots.
Without looking past Elon on Saturday, the Huskies have their eyes on possibly making it to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years.
“We’re at that magical time of the year,” said coach Bill Coen. “It’s one-and-done time, elimination basketball, where you have to have a certain mind-set and a certain approach. You can’t be too tight, you can’t be too loose, you’ve got to be dialed in and focused. You’ve got to have fun, you’ve got to embrace it, you’ve got to enjoy it, because in my opinion, it’s the best time of the year and we’re right around the corner from it.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.