Basketball, Sports

BU set to renew rivalry with NU

Sometimes things just aren’t what they used to be.

Northeastern University used to be in the same conference as Boston University. The Terriers and Huskies used to play twice (sometimes more) a year and exchanged blows as if both were championship fighters.

Then Northeastern left America East.

The ‘Battle for Boston’ prior to NU’s departure ended with BU leading the all-time series, 69-64. Following a season when the teams didn’t face one another for the first time in 62 years (2005-06), they have battled in each of the last two campaigns, with Northeastern winning both in convincing fashion.

‘I think it’s terrific,’ Northeastern coach Bill Coen said of the renewal of the rivalry. ‘[BU] coach [Dennis] Wolff and I have a good relationship and will continue to play the game because I think it has so much meaning for our fans, our alums and our students.’

This season, both clubs have their strongest rosters since NU bolted from America East, but neither that – nor Coen’s comments – prove the rivalry on the court is what it once was.

‘One of the biggest challenges for me is, for too many of them, they just think it’s the next game,’ Wolff said of his players. ‘I don’t know if that’s a generational thing or not. But I do think there’s not as much rivalry because of the conference switch.’

Rivalry recognition or not, BU (2-1) will face what is arguably its toughest opponent thus far tonight at Matthews Arena at 8 p.m. And to avoid a result similar to the previous two seasons, the Terriers will need to perform better than they have in each of their first three contests.

Northeastern (3-1) began the season in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Michigan and has been excellent against formidable opponents in its first four games: IUPUI (Win, 73-60), the University of Michigan (Loss, 76-56), Providence College (Win, 70-66) and the College of the Holy Cross (Win, 61-49).

The Huskies’ biggest threat is junior captain Matt Janning, who’s averaging 19.5 points per game and presents a sharp-shooting threat with NBA range on the perimeter.

‘My biggest worry is Janning, but the biggest challenge to us is to fight in the post,’ Wolff said. ‘We had too many guys who spent way too much time on the floor last year and we can’t have that this year.’

Even if BU locks down Janning, NU’s post players – 6-foot-8 senior Eugene Spates and 6-foot-8 junior Manny Adako – are performing well thus far, averaging 11.5 and 8.8 points per game, respectively. That could spell trouble for the Terrier frontcourt, especially given that one of BU’s best interior defenders, junior Scott Brittain, hasn’t fully recovered from a concussion he suffered at the start of the season.

In last year’s game, junior Nkem Ojougboh (who hauled in 11 boards in the Huskies’ 65-58 victory at Case Gymnasium) helped the Huskies outrebound the Terriers, 42-25.

‘When I watched last year’s game, I realized I did a bad coaching job,’ Wolff said. ‘We were not running the right stuff for the personnel we had.

‘I don’t know why I didn’t change that sooner, but I didn’t. Hopefully we’ve corrected some of that, but we have to be way more in the fight on the boards.’

Surprisingly enough, the Huskies have been outrebounded in each of their four games – the most disturbing of which was an 11-rebound deficit to an undersized St. Peter’s College team. Wolff made it clear in practice Monday that if the Terriers aren’t physical tonight, they could be in trouble.

Still, no matter the skill level of the teams, Coen sees the rivalry as an exclusive entity.

‘When you play such a rivalry game such as BU-Northeastern, all those things go out the window,’ Coen said. ‘Both teams are going to be excited to play and both teams are going to give a tremendous effort. The team that executes the best that night is going to have the advantage.’

News & notes: Both BU’s John Holland and NU’s Janning were named their respective conference’s Player of the Week. ‘hellip; The game will be televised on NESN and played as part of a doubleheader with both schools’ women’s teams taking the floor at 5 p.m. ‘hellip; For more about Tuesday’s game, visit

Website | More Articles

This is an account occasionally used by the Daily Free Press editors to post archived posts from previous iterations of the site or otherwise for special circumstance publications. See authorship info on the byline at the top of the page.

Comments are closed.