ST. THOMAS — Northeastern wasn’t looked at as being a contender in its first trip to the Paradise Jam men’s college basketball tournament.
Yet that’s where the Huskies find themselves, advancing to the Paradise Jam semifinals with a 71-55 victory over Duquesne on Friday night at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.
Shaquille Walters scored a career-high 21 points to lead three players in double figures for Northeastern (2-2), now on a two-game winning streak after losing its first two games to begin the 2021-2022 season.
Vito Cubrilo added 11 points and Chris Doherty 10 points for the Huskies, who used solid shooting to overcome their own turnover and rebounding problems.
Amir Spears led the Dukes — now 1-3 after losing their third straight game — with 15 points, with Tre Williams adding 11 points.
This was another game that was over early, as Northeastern opened the first half with 10 unanswered points for a double-digit lead, and Duquesne never mounted a sustained rally after that.
The Dukes did manage to cut that double-digit margin down to single digits nine times in Friday’s game, the last at 53-45 on Kevin Easley Jr.’s 3-pointer with 7 minutes, 44 seconds left in the second half.
But like each time, the Huskies responded — this time with an 11-2 run over the next three minutes, with Chris Doherty’s dunk giving Northeastern a 64-47 lead with 3:11 remaining.
Shaquille Walters, Northeastern: The 6-foot-6 redshirt senior bested his previous career scoring high of 20, set against Hofstra on Jan. 7. He made 7 of 10 from the field (including a 3 for 3 effort on 3-pointers) and 4 for 7 on free throws. He also had five rebounds — but made a team-high six turnovers.
Amir Spears, Duquesne: Nicknamed “Primo,” the 6-3 freshman had his problems shooting, just like his teammates. He only made 4 of 13 from the field (and 0 for 3 on 3-pointers), but also made a team-best 7 of 9 free throws.
• After shooting an average of 40.5% in its first three games, Northeastern shot a season-best 60% from the field Friday, making 27 of 45 shots, including 7 of 16 from 3-point range. That, and 10 for 15 on free throws, helped the Huskies make up for some shortcomings in other areas.
• Meanwhile, Duquesne saw its season-long shooting woes continue. Averaging 37.6% through their first three games, the Dukes shot a season-low 31.1% (19 of 61), including 4 of 21 on 3-pointers. They did make 13 of 19 free throws.
• Northeastern had problems both with rebounding and hanging onto the ball. The Huskies had a season-low 30 rebounds (to 35 for Duquesne) and had 19 turnovers. The Dukes also finished with a 17-3 advantage in offensive rebounds.
• However, the rebounding and turnovers didn’t lead to many points for Duquesne. The Dukes only had 11 second-chance points off the 17 offensive boards (Northeastern had five points off its three boards), and the Huskies actually scored more off its turnover chances (15 points) than Duquesne (13 points).
Northeastern will look to keep on a winning track, taking on Southern Illinois in Sunday’s second semifinal game at 9 p.m. Meanwhile, Duquesne will try to snap its losing streak against Colorado in today’s second consolation round game at 6:45 p.m.