Pusica leads Northeastern to CAA title with 82-74 victory
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Vasa Pusica had 21 points, all on 3-pointers, and Northeastern regrouped after blowing a double-digit lead to defeat top-seeded Hofstra 82-74 and win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament on Tuesday night.
The second-seeded Huskies (23-10) won the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth for the second time in five seasons — and perhaps exorcised a bad memory from last year’s finals.
Then, Northeastern held a 17-point second half lead over College of Charleston in the finals, but wound up losing in overtime. It appeared the same thing might happen this year, too. Hofstra used a 28-12 run over the first 10 minutes after halftime to erase a 16-point deficit and tie the game 54-all.
That’s when the senior Pusica took charge. His fourth 3-pointer put the Huskies back in front. Pusica added another long-range basket three minutes later for a 66-58 lead. By the time he made his sixth 3, Northeastern led 71-60.
The Pride (26-8) could not recover despite 29 points from the nation’s second-leading scorer, Justin Wright-Foreman.
Northeastern is headed to its ninth NCAA Tournament while Hofstra, as the CAA regular-season champions, has a guaranteed spot in the NIT. The Pride were seeking their first NCAA berth since 2001 when Villanova coach Jay Wright was leading Hofstra’s program.
Bolden Brace had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Northeastern, which finished with five players scoring in double figures.
Hofstra came in on a roll with four straight wins and with the CAA’s top scorer in Wright-Foreman shooting the lights out. Wright-Foreman set a league tournament record with 42 points in a semifinal overtime win against Delaware on Monday night. But Wright-Foreman and his teammates were mostly cold in the opening half as the Pride fell behind by double-digits 13 minutes in as Huskies pushed the pace for a 19-7 run.
Northeastern hit five 3-pointers in the stretch with Pusica’s two in a row from long range getting the run going. By the time Jordan Roland hit a wide-open look from left side of the basket, the Huskies were ahead 23-12 and appeared to be cruising.
Hofstra, the CAA’s top scoring and best shooting team this season, shot just 28 percent (9 of 32) in the first period. Wright-Foreman went 3 of 12 overall before the half and made just two of seven attempts from behind the arc.
Jacquil Taylor had a game-high 15 rebounds for Hofstra.
Northeastern: The Huskies showed they can shoot, finishing 50 percent (26 of 52) from the field and 45.2 percent (14 of 31) from 3-point range. They could prove hard to handle in the NCAAs.
Hofstra: The Pride tied things in the second half behind Wright-Foreman. But it may have taken too much energy to keep things going. Hofstra will be a difficult NIT out for whichever mid-level power conference opponent they draw.
This game ends the CAA’s three-season run at the North Charleston Coliseum. Next year’s event will start a three-year stint at the more centrally located Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. Seven of the league’s 10 members are located in the state of Virginia or north.
Northeastern will await its NCAA Tournament matchup.
Hofstra is headed to the NIT as the CAA’s regular-season champion.
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