NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (March 11, 2019) – Senior Vasa Pusica hit a driving layup with 36.9 seconds to play and later knocked down two crucial free throws as No. 2 Northeastern edged No. 3 Charleston, 70-67, in the semifinals of the 2019 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship, presented by Jersey Mike’s Subs.
The Huskies (22-10), who avenged an 83-76 overtime loss to the Cougars in last year’s championship game, return to the finals for the third time in five years at 7 p.m. on Tuesday against top-seeded Hofstra. Charleston, which had reached the CAA championship game for the past two seasons, dropped to 24-9 with the loss.
Junior Shawn Occeus hit 4-of-7 from 3-point range and scored a team-high 17 points for Northeastern, while Pusica tallied 11 of his 13 points in the second half and also dished out seven assists.
Senior Jarrell Brantley recorded his team-high 13th double-double and paced Charleston with team-highs of 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Guard Brevin Galloway scored 12 points and backcourt mate Grant Riller was limited to 10 points, which were his fewest since late November.
The game featured 17 lead changes and was throughout as neither team was able to lead by more than nine points. The Cougars went on a 12-2 run and took a 29-20 lead on a Nick Harris layup with 6:04 left in the first half. However, the Huskies rallied and went to halftime on top, 35-33, following an Occeus jumper with 45 seconds to play in the half.
The two teams exchanged the lead for most of the second half. A three-pointer by Jordan Roland gave Northeastern its biggest advantage, 60-54, with 6:34 remaining, but the Cougars clawed back and went on top, 63-61, after a Zep Jasper trey with 4:07 to go.
Trailing by one, Pusica’s layup with 36.9 seconds remaining put NU ahead 66-65 and he added two free throws with 17 seconds left. A foul on a 3-point attempt with three seconds remaining sent Charleston’s Marquise Pointer to the free throw line, where he made 2-of-3. NU’s Donnell Gresham sealed the victory by converting two free throws.
Charleston shot 50% from the floor to Northeastern’s 45.5%, but the Huskies had a commanding 35-24 rebound advantage, including 12-2 on the offensive glass.