LIU Brooklyn 70 St. Francis Brooklyn 79

LIU Brooklyn's season comes to an end in the NEC tournament quarterfinals in a 79-70 loss to St. Francis Brooklyn Wednesday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn’s season comes to an end in the NEC tournament quarterfinals in a 79-70 loss to St. Francis Brooklyn Wednesday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

It was a rare round three of the Battle of Brooklyn and it was going to be an uphill battle for LIU Brooklyn who came into the NEC tournament limping on a four-game losing streak. LIU as the number eight-seed had already lost twice to their top-seeded rivals from St. Francis Brooklyn and needed a near-flawless effort to get the upset inside the standing-room only, sold-out, raucous Pope Center crowd. The Blackbirds were game but the Terriers with their talent and their experience was just the better team and defeated LIU 79-70 to end the Blackbirds’ 2014-15 season.

After a terrific start by LIU to get off to a 10-2 lead, the Terriers put it into overdrive on both ends of the court and went on a 33-12 run in the final 16 minutes of the first half to take a commanding 35-22 lead into the locker room.

The Blackbirds though would try to save their season with a 20-9 run in the first nine minutes of the second half to get within two of the Terriers and put the pressure on the top seed. But the regular season champs would respond with a critical 9-2 run to kill LIU’s momentum and regain theirs and for all intents and purposes put away the Blackbirds for the season.

St. Francis Brooklyn point guard Brent Jones led all scorers with a career-high 31 points. (Photo: Bob Dea)

St. Francis Brooklyn point guard Brent Jones led all scorers with a career-high 31 points. (Photo: Bob Dea)

It was no surprise that St. Francis Brooklyn’s All-NEC first team seniors led the way for the Terriers. Brent Jones was the star of the game as he led all scorers with a career-high 31 points to go along with five assists. He showed tremendous leadership and ball handling against the youthful Blackbirds. NEC Player of the Year Jalen Cannon finished with his 19th double-double of the season with 15 points and 15 rebounds. It was a relatively quiet night for Cannon offensively but he made a pair of key baskets in that pivotal 9-2 run that put the game away for them.

The Terriers continue their march in trying to win their first-ever NEC championship and get to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Congratulations to St. Francis Brooklyn.

For LIU to have a chance against the Terriers, they needed to protect the basketball, not allow St. Francis Brooklyn to dominant the offensive glass and made their threes. They struggled again with the turnovers which hurt them especially when the Terriers made their run. They committed 15 turnovers, which is actually an improvement from the way they had been turning the ball over down the stretch of the season, but those turnovers led to 21 Terrier points. The Terriers were +3 in offensive rebounds although they were just +1 in overall rebounds for the game. LIU made 6 of 14 threes which was actually pretty good but just not enough.

Once again, it was the turnovers when the Terriers went to a press in the backcourt that help do LIU in. They turned the ball over three times in that pivotal Terriers second half run and it went from a two-point deficit to a nine-point deficit in 81 seconds.

LIU did shoot the ball fairly well at 46% from the floor but in latter part of the second half, they just couldn’t get a big stop when they needed it. Credit the Terriers for making big shots and making most of the free throws in the final two minutes.

Landon Atterberry had his best game of the season in his final LIU game. Photo: Bob Dea)

Landon Atterberry had his best game of the season in his final LIU game. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Two LIU players who deserves a ton of credit for the way they played were Landon Atterberry and Glenn Feidanga. Atterberry in his final game for LIU, saved his best for last, with a season-high 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting with two three-pointers to lead LIU. Feidanga also played great on both ends, drawing a couple of key charges and playing good man-to-man defense on Amdy Fall who had a very quiet night. Feidanga finished with six points.

Gerrell Martin in his final LIU game had a rough one. He ends his LIU career with just five points on 1 of 6 shooting and he did not attempt a three all night. It was not the way he wanted to end his college career.

The Iceland freshmen pair of Elvar Friðriksson and Martin Hermannsson each finished their first LIU season with eight points apiece. Friðriksson had 7 assists and 5 rebounds as well. Nura Zanna also scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds. Iverson Fleming had himself a good night with nine points and a couple of steals. Joel Hernandez did not play for LIU. No reason is known for his absence.

The loss ends LIU’s season at 12-17 with a 8-10 NEC record. LIU finished the season on a five-game losing streak which put a cap on a wildly up and down season for a LIU team that had the tenth youngest team in the country this season.

Iverson Fleming had a nice game off the bench for LIU to close out season. Photo: Bob Dea)

Iverson Fleming had a nice game off the bench for LIU to close out season. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Even though this LIU team was young and inconsistent, they did help improve LIU’s record by three wins and four wins in the NEC over last season and got them back into the NEC tournament after missing out a year ago. This is a good stepping stone season for them and something to build on as they team now heads into the long offseason. I’ll have more on LIU’s future next week.

The future at LIU is bright although it didn’t end the way they probably would have like with this losing streak but there were many positives to take away from it and there are things and individuals who will need to improve if LIU is to get back into contender status next season.

For now, the long wait for next season begins. As always, we’ll see what transpires in the coming weeks after the season. Hopefully, it all stays quiet and LIU will return everyone next season with a couple of key additions.

Since I’m a Brooklyn boy, born and raised, I wish the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers all the luck the rest of the NEC tournament and hope they get make it through and the represent the NEC in the NCAA tournament in a couple of weeks. Congratulations to them. Hopefully next season, LIU will be realistically back in the hunt for a conference title and take this season as a growing year.

LIU Brooklyn 73 Sacred Heart 84

LIU Brooklyn limps into the NEC tournament with their fourth consecutive loss, losing to Sacred Heart Saturday afternoon. (Photo: Bob Dea)

There was not much to it for LIU Brooklyn entering Saturday’s game against Sacred Heart at the William H. Pitt Center. An LIU win and they would avoid being the eight-seed. An LIU loss and they would have to face the cross-Fulton Street rival St. Francis Brooklyn for a third time. It was a neck and neck battle for 33 minutes but the last seven was owned by the home team Pioneers and it resulted in LIU’s fourth straight loss with a 84-73 defeat to Sacred Heart.

With the loss, LIU Brooklyn will stay in Brooklyn and won’t have to take any long bus trips to their NEC quarterfinal game but they will have to face the Terriers who finished the NEC regular season 15-3 and with the number one seed.

Martin Hermannsson led LIU with a team-high 16 points but it wasn't enough. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Martin Hermannsson led LIU with a team-high 16 points but it wasn’t enough. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Both teams came at each other from the outset and the game went back and forth. The lead changed hands nine times before a 17-7 Sacred Heart run with under seven minutes remaining gave the Pioneers the lead they would not relinquish. SHU senior Phil Gaetano buried the Blackbirds with two straight threes in the run that help put them away.

“We had good energy to start the second half.” said LIU head coach Jack Perri after the game. “But immediately Martin (Hermannsson) got his third foul and that played a part, he was rolling a little bit. That happens and we started changing the way we play offense. We got back to where we were trying to do too much individually.”

Once again, LIU turned the ball over way too much. They committed 21 turnovers, 13 of those in the second half. The 21 turnovers were converted into 24 Sacred Heart points. LIU have now averaged more than 20 turnovers per game in their current four game losing streak. It is one of several major problems the Blackbirds have as they enter the NEC tournament.

LIU also committed 22 personal fouls and sent the Pioneers to the free throw line 26 times while LIU went to the line just 17 times. The Pioneers also grabbed 14 steals.

“That is now back-to-back we’ve given up fourteen steals.” said Perri. “That is something that is one, unheard of and two, you are not going to win many games if you allow that to happen.”

Elvar Friðriksson scored 14 points for LIU Brooklyn in the loss. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Elvar Friðriksson scored 14 points for LIU Brooklyn in the loss. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU shot the ball much better than they have over the last few games. They finished with a 41% field goal percentage and made ten three-pointers. The defense though overall struggled as the 84 points allowed will attest. Sacred Heart shot 44% from the field and scored 1.1 points per possession.

LIU finish the regular season without scoring over 1.0 points per possession in their last four games. In the last ten games, LIU scored above 1.0 ppp just twice. “Our defense has been ahead of our offense this year.” said Perri. “We have had that in quite a while (here).”

Sacred Heart with the win finish the regular season at .500 in the NEC and earn the six-seed in next week’s NEC tournament. They will face three-seeded Robert Morris on Wednesday. SHU freshman Cane Broome came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points on 7 of 13 shooting. He should be All-NEC Rookie team which will be named this coming week.

Along with Broome, five SHU players in total finished in double figures. Tevin Falzon, who played great, finished with 16 points. Senior Phil Gaetano on senior day finished with a double-double 15 points and 10 assists. Sophomore De’Von Barnett also finished with a double-double 11 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Evan Kelley scored 10 points.

Four LIU players finished in double figures led by Martin Hermannsson 16 points on 5 of 7 shooting before he fouled out for just the second time this season. Elvar Friðriksson finished with 14 points. It was the first loss LIU suffered this season when he scores at least 14 points. LIU had been a perfect 6-0 before this game when that happened. Senior Gerrell Martin scored 12 points but was just 4 of 12 shooting and 0 of 6 from three. Trevin Woods finished with 10 points, all in the first half.

Sacred Heart's Cane Broome scored a game-high 21 points to help led the Pioneers to victory. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Sacred Heart’s Cane Broome scored a game-high 21 points to help led the Pioneers to victory. (Photo: Bob Dea)

If there is another concern going into the NEC tournament, it is the play of freshman Nura Zanna. The big man really struggled in this game, going 0 for 6 and finished the game scoreless. He committed four turnovers and only grabbed four rebounds. He has not looked good in this four-game losing streak with the exception of the St. Francis Brooklyn game Thursday night. LIU needs for Zanna to find his offensive game if they want any chance of winning at St. Francis Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The streaky regular season for LIU has come to an end. It is crazy what a roller coaster of a season they have played. They started off the season losing six straight, then won four straight, then lost three straight, won two of three, lost a pair in a row, won six of seven and then lost the final four straight. We expected LIU to be inconsistent with a young team but even this kind of up and down play was been hard to fathom.

LIU now prepares themselves for the third installment of the Battle of Brooklyn for the 2014-15 season. LIU and St. Francis Brooklyn will meet for the sixth time in the NEC tournament but for the first time since 1996 NEC tournament. LIU is 4-1 all-time against St. Francis Brooklyn in the NEC tournament with their one loss coming in their only game played at the Pope Center back in 1990-91. LIU is 0-2 versus the top-seeded Terriers this season.

LIU head coach Jack Perri will need to figure out how to get things turned back around as his team enters the postseason.

LIU head coach Jack Perri will need to figure out how to get things turned back around as his team enters the postseason. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Even though the Blackbirds are limping into the NEC tournament, they did accomplish what was a major team goal for this young team which was to just get into the NEC tournament and get a taste for it. There isn’t much bigger games than playing your neighborhood rival for the third time in the pressure of postseason college basketball so they going to get first-hand what NEC tournament basketball is all about as the learning process of this season continues.

“This was one of our goals, to get into the playoffs.” said Perri. “Now, we can’t be satisfied with that. We now play St. Francis (Brooklyn) who we just played so you know exactly what you’re preparing for. We don’t have to travel. Ok, we get to sleep in our own beds and walk to the game, that is certainly a positive. I think our guys should have confidence going into this game that they can beat this team. They got to play with unbelievable focus and sense of urgency like we did (on Thursday). We got to eliminate turnovers, we got to be smarter with our fouls. After regrouping, we got to get back at it. There is not going to be any pressure on us, nobody thinks we can do it. We should be playing loose and should be playing aggressive that way.”

Good thing for LIU is they won’t have to travel very far as they prepare for Wednesday and see if they muster up enough will and determination to make some NEC tournament history and become the first eight-seed to ever knocked off a one-seed in the current playoff format. It is going to an extremely difficult task but not an impossible one. The postseason is a different animal and strange things always seem to happen in the NEC tournament. It should be a fun, loud time at the Pope Center Wednesday night and I’ll be there to witness it.

St. Francis Brooklyn 74 LIU Brooklyn 69 (Overtime)

Gerrell Martin flying for one-hand slam in the first half vs St. Francis Brooklyn Thursday night at the Steinberg Wellness Center. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Gerrell Martin skying for a one-hand slam in the first half vs St. Francis Brooklyn Thursday night at the Steinberg Wellness Center. (Photo: Bob Dea)

It wasn’t “the” Battle of Brooklyn game but it was another great installment in the St. Francis Brooklyn-LIU Brooklyn rivalry as the Terriers stormed back from a three-point deficit in the final 39 seconds of regulation to force overtime and defeated the Blackbirds for the second time this season in a wild 74-69 game on LIU’s senior night at the Steinberg Wellness Center on Thursday night.

LIU Brooklyns senior class L to R): Chris Carter, Landon Atterberry and Gerrell Martin. Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn’s senior class (L to R): Chris Carter, Landon Atterberry and Gerrell Martin. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The Blackbirds who were coming off a pair of miserable performances last week came out of the gate looking re-energized and playing with purpose and intensity, stormed out in front to take a ten-point lead midway through the first half. It was looking like a night LIU would be getting back into the win column.

“It’s a big week for us.” said LIU head coach Jack Perri after the game. “I think our guys really responded (from the Wagner game). They needed to. Our guys did a really good job competing.”

St. Francis Brooklyn (21-9, 15-2 in the NEC) had nothing to gain standings-wise as they had already clinched home court throughout the NEC tournament by virtue of being regular season champions with two games to spear.

Coming in to the game, it was hard to tell if the Terriers would play the game like they needed it or decide to rest up some of the starters and get the reserves a little more playing time and start getting ready for the NEC tournament next week. SFBK head coach Glenn Briaca decided on the latter.

The Terriers’ three big players in seniors Jalen Cannon, Brent Jones and junior Amdy Fall all played over 30 minutes and all were big part in helping get the Terriers this win. Cannon scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and in the process became St. Francis Brooklyn’s all-time career leading scorer with 1,666 points in his great career. Cannon also played a game-high 41 minutes.

St. Francis Brooklyns  Jalen Cannon became the schools all-time career leading scorer with 26 points against LIU Thursday night. Photo: Bob Dea

St. Francis Brooklyn’s Jalen Cannon became the school’s all-time career leading scorer with 26 points against LIU Thursday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

“I’m just so happy for Jalen.” said Braica after the win. “I’ve had the amount of points he needed (to get the SFBK record) on my phone for about a month and a half. He is a great kid.”

Jones scored 12 points in 36 minutes and scored five big points down the stretch in regulation. Fall was pretty quiet until overtime in which he came up huge defensively with three big blocks in the closing minutes. He scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked six shots in 31 minutes to help get the Terriers their 21st win of the season.

“It’s a typical LIU-St. Francis game, when you come to these games anything can happen.” said Braica. “These games are great. They’re not pretty but they’re great.”

Meanwhile, it was another rough loss for the Blackbirds who have now lost three straight and are in danger of falling to the eight-seed for next week’s NEC tournament and possibly face this same Terriers team back at the Pope Center for the third time this season.

It looked like LIU’s defense in the second half which held the Terriers to a poor 23% shooting was going to be enough to get them by even though their own offense wasn’t that much better. LIU shot 32% for the game (18 of 56 shots) and made just 4 of 19 threes but it looked like it might be just enough until a wild closing minute of regulation saw a three-point LIU lead turn into a three-point SFBK lead which turned into an overtime game after Martin Hermannsson calmly sunk three free-throws after begin fouled on a three-point attempt with four seconds left.

LIU had a chance to win it in regulation after Brent Jones turned the ball over off his leg dribbling the ball in LIU’s front court. LIU senior Gerrell Martin looked to play the hero but his three at the horn fell way short and the game went to overtime. From there, Fall and Cannon took over for the Terriers, as one by one a LIU player kept fouling out and they couldn’t get a key basket to fall.

Redshirt freshman Nura Zanna just missed a double-double with 12 points and 9 rebounds in the loss to the Terriers. Photo: Bob Dea)

Redshirt freshman Nura Zanna just missed a double-double with 12 points and 9 rebounds in the loss to the Terriers. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU committed a season-high 27 turnovers. Once again, LIU was getting pressure from a press defense that the Terriers utilized. In this recent three-game losing streak, LIU has averaged 20 turnovers per game and that is with their opponents going to a press and giving the LIU guards a ton of difficulty. LIU also committed 35 fouls in this game, sending the Terriers to the free throw line 54 times.

“The reality is we fouled too much and we turned the ball over against the press.” said Perri. “It wasn’t a press that we should turn the ball over against. It’s unfortunate. We got to pick each other up and stick together and go from here and try and get one on the road against Sacred Heart.”

Gerrell Martin in likely his final home game of his LIU career finished with a team-high 12 points. Redshirt freshman Nura Zanna also scored 12 for LIU and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds before fouling out in overtime. Four other Blackbirds finished with seven points including senior Landon Atterberry who got his first start since January 5th for senior night. Glenn Feidanga scored eight.

“I give credit to my teammate, they competed like coach said.” said Martin. “We prepared right for the last two days. We just got to fine tune some things. I don’t think it was effort at all. Everybody stepped up. We just got to get back into that practice mode, we don’t have a lot of time because we play Sacred Heart Saturday and just found how we can eliminate some turnovers we had today.”

The LIU loss coupled with SFU’s win, Wagner’s loss to RMU, and Sacred Heart’s win put LIU in a three-way tie for sixth with Sacred Heart and Wagner at 8-9 in the NEC standings. Due to tiebreakers, Wagner would get the six-seed while LIU is currently the seven-seed and Sacred Heart is the eight-seed. On Saturday, LIU heads to Sacred Heart and the winner will be no worse than a seven-seed.

LIU can still get to a five-seed if they win against Sacred Heart and SFU loses at RMU and Wagner loses at Mount St. Mary’s. If LIU loses at Sacred Heart, LIU gets the eight-seed and a third game against St. Francis Brooklyn on Wednesday in the NEC quarterfinals. The winner of Saturday’s LIU-Sacred Heart game avoids playing the Terriers.

It was a playoff like atmosphere on Thursday and it was likely be the same on Saturday as that game will have big stakes in avoiding having to face the mighty Terriers in their tiny but loud gym. LIU will need to quickly put this loss and this losing streak in the rear-view mirror and get ready for another heated game on Saturday because for intents and purposes, their playoffs have begun.

Wagner 60 LIU Brooklyn 47

LIU Brooklyn return home was a disaster as Wagner crushed the Blackbirds Saturday afternoon. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn return home was a disaster as Wagner crushed the Blackbirds Saturday afternoon. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The week started with plenty of hope and optimism and a chance for the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds to earn themselves a top four spot for the upcoming NEC Tournament. The week turned out to be a giant disappointment.

Two games. Two blowout losses.

The second loss of the week was a embarrassing, thorough beating at the hands of Wagner who come in with a sub-.500 NEC record and demolished LIU in every capacity in a 60-47 loss that likely took away all hope of LIU hosting a game in a little less than two weeks from now.

Inexplicably, in a game that LIU desperately needed to get and in a winnable game at home and against an opponent in Wagner who is a good young team on the rise but won’t not mistaken for world-beaters anytime soon, came out as flat, unenergetic and uninspired as I have seen this LIU team play all season long.

LIU were dominated from the opening tip and looked like a team that would have rather stayed in the dorms on a miserable snowy day in Brooklyn then play in a meaningful game inside their own home gym with plenty of fan support who came out to watch them just lay an egg. LIU head coach Jack Perri took notice.

“We got what we deserved.” said an agitated Perri after the game. “It is interesting, with such a young group, you try and warn them. We try and warn them yesterday, the way they were handling practice. Tried to warn them again at shoot around, tried to warn them before the game and they got what they deserved. So, (it’s a) young group. We’ll see how they respond.”

Sophomore Iverson Fleming going up for one of his nine shots. He finished with seven points. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The Blackbirds shot a season-low 22% from the field. The only other time they shot under 30% from the field this season was in the season opener at St. John’s.

Some of the credit has to go to Wagner’s defense who held LIU to a season-low 0.72 points per possession but LIU missed countless in-close baskets. LIU shot 23% (8 for 35) on their two-point attempts. They couldn’t buy a basket all game long. LIU made just twelve field goals the entire game and had just four assists.

Also, LIU were turning the ball over like a hot potato in the first half. They committed 13 first half turnovers alone. They also were dominated on the glass 46 to 37 and they gave up 12 of Wagner’s 18 offensive rebounds in the first half.

“We haven’t played like this all year and we got what we deserved. A beating.” Perri said.

LIU looked like a tired team in which the all the travel and mental wear of the last week and a half on the road, had really taken its toll. Not a single LIU player finished in double figures for LIU. It broke an eleven-year streak of have at least one double-digit scorer. The last time LIU didn’t have a double-digit scorer was way back on January 10, 2004 against Robert Morris, a streak of 348 games that was snapped.

The Blackbirds have been a streaky team all season long. They just came off their hottest streak of the season. The concern now after these two blowout losses this week, are LIU about to end the season on a down turn with a tough final week coming up.

“It is a tough stretch.” said Perri of LIU’s final month of the season. “I do think there is some fatigue involved. The (Pennsylvania) trip and then the Mount and then we get home at two in the morning on Friday and they had to go to class on Friday. I think there a little bit of fatigue. I’m concerned by what I just witnessed and now we’re going to see what some of these freshmen and what some of these sophomores have in their shirt. How are they going to respond? That is what I just said in the locker room, we are going to see what (they’re) made of. Everybody just saw it, they saw it. So we’ll see.”

Wagner's Marcus Burton finished with a game-high 20 points in Saturday's win. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Wagner’s Marcus Burton finished with a game-high 20 points in Saturday’s win. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Wagner got an excellent game once again from senior Marcus Burton who finished with a game-high 20 points. Junior Steadman Allen finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Wagner are now at .500 in the NEC at 8-8 and more importantly, take the season series from LIU in winning both meetings. LIU is now 0-6 against Wagner in regular season play since Perri took over as head coach. Their only win against Wagner in the last three seasons was in the 2013 NEC tournament semifinals in which LIU upset Wagner on the road.

Glenn Feidanga was LIU’s leading scorer with eight points. Iverson Fleming scored seven. Elvar Friðriksson and Trevin Woods both finished with six points apiece. No Blackbird shot 50% from the field. LIU only made 4 three-point field goals in 19 attempts.

With the pair of losses this week, LIU is now 8-8 in NEC play with two games remaining. One bit of bad news came with Robert Morris defeating Bryant on the road on Saturday. With the RMU win, they put themselves back in a three-way tie for second place in the NEC standing along with Bryant and Mount St. Mary’s at 10-6.

Sophomore Glenn Feidanga led all LIU scorers with eight points in loss to Wagner. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The only way LIU now can get a top four spot (the four-seed in all likelihood) is if LIU wins both of their final two games next week AND Robert Morris losses their final two games which are at home against Wagner and SFU AND Wagner losses in the season finale at Mount St. Mary’s. So the hope of LIU hosting a NEC quarterfinal game is very slim at this point.

A couple of positives from Saturday’s NEC results is that St. Francis Brooklyn beat Saint Francis U. and clinched the top-seed in the NEC tournament and will host every game they play (Congrats to the Terriers). SFU falls to a three-way tie with LIU and Wagner at 8-8.

At the moment, based on NEC tiebreaker rules, (not official, just my interpretation of the NEC tiebreaker rules) Wagner gets the five-seed due to superior winning percentage between the three teams involved in the tie (3-1 vs LIU and SFU). LIU would get the six-seed due to beating SFU twice head-to-head and SFU would get the seven-seed. Also, Sacred Heart lost to CCSU on the road, so they are still a game behind this group and hold the eighth-seed.

Things will likely be juggled in NEC’s final week but LIU’s best-case scenario is looking like probably getting a 5-seed. LIU should try and avoid a quarterfinal matchup with St. Francis Brooklyn and Mount St. Mary’s and look to try and take their chances against Bryant or Robert Morris.

The Blackbirds have to regroup and re-energized themselves and find a way to get two wins next week. St. Francis Brooklyn having clinched everything could likely scale back minutes on their starters and play more of their bench and get themselves ready for their postseason run which could be in LIU’s favor. Games between the Brooklyn teams are always fierce and it is a NEC-TV game so who knows what St. Francis Brooklyn plans on doing.

LIU needs to get their head back in the game and get back to work hard in practice and try to close the season strong and go into postseason play with some momentum and not limp in with a losing streak into an unfavorable matchup.

LIU Brooklyn 65 Mount St. Mary’s 82

In what many felt would be a tight affair between two teams trying to make the charge into a top four position in the NEC standings, it turned into a laughter for the home team as Mount St. Mary’s absolutely dominated LIU Brooklyn to snap the Blackbirds’ four-game winning streak with a 82-65 blowout victory on Thursday night. The final score wasn’t indicative of how bad LIU were outplayed especially in the second half.

LIU Brooklyn was able to get off to a good start and led by as much as five past the midway point of the first half. From that point on though, it was all Mount St. Mary’s. The Mount went on a 17-2 run to take control of the game and really never look back as they pretty much cruised in the second half, scoring 44 second half points.

Three players who really hurt LIU in this game were Bryon Ashe, Gregory Graves and Andrew Smeathers. Ashe had a tremendous game, scoring a game-high 22 points on 7 of 17 shooting. Graves scored 18 on just six shots, going five of six from the field and Smeathers hit some daggers threes off the bench in the second half to finish with 15 points.

LIU for the second game in a row against the Mount, just couldn’t handle the Mount Mayhem press. LIU committed seventeen turnovers which led to 28 points for the Mount. LIU were only able to score nine points from the Mount’s ten turnovers.

The Mount was also able to build a nice halftime cushion by getting to the free throw line 16 times and hitting on 15 of those. Mount finished 27 of 32 from the charity stripe.

The Blackbirds also didn’t get much from three-fifths of their starting lineup as Joel Hernandez, Gerrell Martin and Nura Zanna combined for just six points on 2 of 12 from the field. Hernandez got into foul trouble in the first half which hurt him the rest of the game. Zanna and Martin were nearly invisible. Neither one of those two guys made a field goal in this game although Zanna did grab nine rebounds to lead LIU in that department.

LIU shot just 30% in the second half and were 0 for 9 from three. They finished the game shooting 37% and were just 3 of 19 on threes in the game.

Elvar Friðriksson had a good first half with nine points and made of couple of threes to keep LIU in striking distance. LIU had no one really step up in the second half as Mount started pouring it on and led by as much as 27 before LIU cut it down during extended garbage time.

Friðriksson finished with 11 points. Hermannsson also finished with 11 but was just 1 of 6 from the field as he did his damage from the free throw line where he was 9 of 10. Jamil Hood took advantage of playing in mostly second half garbage time and scored a career-high 11 points in nine minutes. Trevin Woods finished with eight points and Trevon Woods finished with seven points in their return after missing the SFU game on Saturday due to a family emergency. Freshman walk-on Mark Parisi got into a game for the first time this season and recorded a rebound in his three minutes.

LIU Brooklyn’s second loss to the Mount this season gives the Mountaineers the tiebreaker against one another. Now LIU doesn’t have any tiebreaker advantage against Bryant and Mount St. Mary’s who both swept LIU in their two meetings this season.

This loss along with Bryant’s win one-point win over Wagner virtually eliminated LIU from getting a two-seed as with Bryant having a two-game advantage with three games to play. Mount moves into a tie for third with Robert Morris at 9-6 but RMU owns the tiebreaker against them so RMU currently still owns the three-seed while Mount has the four-seed.

Saint Francis U. loss on the road to Central Connecticut on Thursday so LIU is currently in the fifth-seed slot due to owning the tiebreaker over them. Sacred Heart defeated Robert Morris so they are now a game back of LIU along with Wagner.

Even though the road trip ended is a disappointing fashion, LIU did go 2-1 on the three-game trip which still puts LIU in good shape of earning a top four seed for the NEC tournament in a couple of weeks. LIU now heads home for a couple of big games.

Saturday’s game against Wagner at the Steinberg Wellness Center now becomes a near must-win situation if they want to get a NEC quarterfinal home game. A loss to Wagner would put them in a tie with each other and would give Wagner the tiebreaker by winning both games of the series this season. Plus Sacred Heart is getting hot and charging hard.

The Blackbirds might have been due for a bad game after being so hot of late but now they got to refocused and get back up from the mat. Now is time to get back to work at practice on Friday and finish out strong. They have to try and get a win on Saturday or else this late charge will be for naught and they could end up with a bottom seed and have to go on the road to face a team they will likely want to avoid playing in the first round. The room for error now is almost down to none if a top four is in their sight.

LIU Brooklyn 79 Saint Francis U. 74 (Overtime)

How sweep it is! LIU Brooklyn make it a very happy Valentine’s day as they go out to Western Pennsylvania and as big underdog (according to kenpom.com) and first beats Robert Morris on Thursday and then gets another huge road victory in defeating Saint Francis U. 79-74 in overtime to get their fourth straight victory and sixth win in their last seven games. They sweep both Western Pennsylvania games for the first time since the 2002-03 season which was former head coach Jim Ferry’s first season at the helm.

It wasn’t without a scare as SFU came back from 11 points down about midway through the second half to eventually tied the game with five minutes left in the second half. They would eventually force overtime after a Ronnie Drinnon went one of two from free throw line and last second buzzer-beater by Malik Harmon was well off the mark.

SFU twice took two-point leads in the overtime period but LIU used a 7-0 run to regain the lead that they would not relinquish and made their free throws when it really counts to get the five-point win.

The Blackbirds led at the half by one, 32-31 even though they looked very disjointed on both ends. LIU did make 56% of their shots in the first half and held SFU to 44% shooting in the half but wasn’t playing with a lot of flow to their game.

“I don’t think we played really well and we were still up by one (at the half).” said LIU head coach Jack Perri. “We wanted to get back to doing a better job rebounding the ball. We didn’t get to the foul line in the first half. We settled for some jump shots in that first half. We didn’t handle the ball well, they had eight steals on us in the first half. We shot well and that kind of kept going in the second half.”

LIU had to play shorthanded as neither Trevin Woods or Trevon Woods were available or even at the game as they had to attended to a family emergency. That meant some more playing time for other players off the LIU bench. Landon Atterberry was a big recipient of the addition minutes and he played well in his 22 minutes as he lead the team in scoring with 15 points before he fouled out.

In fact, LIU finished with five players scoring in double digits led by Atterberry. Martin Hermannson finished with 13 points. Joel Hernandez, who had another strong game for the Blackbirds finished with 11 points before fouling out of the game late in the second half. Elvar Friðriksson also scored 11 points and dished out four assists. Friðriksson got hurt late in the overtime and was seen grabbing on his ankle/leg. Reports are is that he got kneed in the calf and that he should be alright which is very good news.

Another key component to the win was the play of sophomore Iverson Fleming who got his first start of the season in place of Gerrell Martin and was huge late in the game. He hit a three with 1:07 remaining in overtime to put LIU up four and then sunk two free throws to ice the game.

“Our guys hung in there, they have been a resilient group. They really did a good job, guys stepped up.” said Perri. “Iverson Fleming, wow, he made some huge plays, he made a huge three and made those two free throws down the stretch. I was really happy with that and really happy we got some stops late.”

SFU got another double-double from Earl Brown who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds on SFU senior day. Greg Brown and Ronnie Drinnon both finished with 12 points. Dominique Major finished with 11. SFU falls to 8-6 in the NEC and now LIU holds the tiebreaker over both Robert Morris and Saint Francis U. if it comes to that at the end of the season by virtue of sweeping both season series.

LIU is now 8-6 and just one game under .500 for the season at 12-13. With more NEC results pending, LIU will likely finish the day with SFU and Mount St. Mary’s in fourth-place with identical records. The win for LIU clinches an NEC tournament spot no matter how the final four games fares for them. Their first goal of the season has been achieved. LIU is also one game back of Bryant and Robert Morris who are tied for second place.

Even though, LIU is riding this hot streak, Perri wants his young team to stay level-headed as they head into the final two weeks of the regular season.

“We got to keep our heads basically. We really talked about, just keep getting better.” said Perri. “Again, we’re so young. (I’ve told my team) don’t worry about the standings. We’ll see where he at (at season’s end). Everybody plays 18 (games), everybody plays the same amount of teams. We got four (games) left, let’s take the next one and see how that goes. Really work on preparation this week and prepare the best we can and hopefully we can continue to play as well as we’ve been playing.”

The Blackbirds will next head into one more tough road environment as they head to Knott Arena in Emmitsburg, Maryland to close out their three-game road trip. With two wins out of two games on this trip, LIU is now in position to possibly snag a first-round home game for the NEC tournament.

This has been quite a turnaround for this young Blackbirds team who were once 2-5 in the NEC and looking like they were in danger of missing out of another NEC tournament to now putting themselves in position to get a top four spot for the NEC tournament has been truly remarkable. Head coach Jack Perri now has to be in the conversation for NEC Coach of the Year at this point.

Still, there are four games remaining and still some tough games left to play. LIU has a ton to play for down the stretch. A unlikely first-round home game is in their sight. Who would have thought that a month ago? These young Blackbirds hopefully are not done soaring just yet, there are still bigger heights to reach and with this newfound confidence they have right now, whose to tell them they can’t reach get there.

LIU Brooklyn 63 Robert Morris 62

All smiles for Gerrell Martin and Elvar Friðriksson after another come-from-behind win, this time on the road against RMU Thursday night. (Photo: Justin Berl)

All smiles for Gerrell Martin and Elvar Friðriksson after another come-from-behind win, this time on the road against RMU Thursday night. (Photo: Justin Berl)

LIU Brooklyn had found their winning ways back in the friendly confines of the Steinberg Wellness Center in Brooklyn and got to .500 in the NEC. Now, the Blackbirds had to start a tough three-game road trip out to Western Pennsylvania and Maryland and it began with a doozy as they start with out at Robert Morris. It didn’t look like it would be LIU Brooklyn game at the start but the Blackbirds used the same formula they have now used for three straight games. Another come-from-behind victory.

They had a tremendous second half especially on the defensive end and leave the Sewall Center for the first time since 2010-11 with a win after defeating the Colonials 63-62 on Thursday night. LIU swept the regular season series from RMU for the first since the 1997-98 season.

The start of this game played nearly identical to the start of the game they played against RMU last week at home. RMU got off to a good start and got up to a eight-point lead (14-6) over four minutes in.

LIU’s cold shooting would continue as RMU seemed like they couldn’t miss in particular freshman Marcquise Reed who was red-hot in the first half. RMU would go on a 12-0 run in a span of three minutes and get their largest lead of the game of fifteen (31-16). This was starting to look eerily similar to LIU’s last game versus SFU where they would down 15 (with almost an eerily identical score, 30-15) in the first half.

LIU though once again would chip away and creep back in the game. They would go on an important 9-3 run right before the half but a Reed layup with 36 seconds left put LIU down double-digit, 40-30 at the break. The thing you could see as I was watching on NEC Front Row and the RMU announcers made note of it as well, RMU was looking gassed. They were winded.

RMU is not as deep with just nine available players due to senior David Appolon being out with a shoulder injury. Plus senior Lucky Jones had to leave the game briefly in the first half after rolling up his injured ankle.

RMU shot the lights out in the first half by hitting 17 of their 26 shots from the floor (65.4%) while LIU could just muster 12 of 34 shooting (35.3%). LIU was fortunate they did get nine offensive rebounds that they were able to make good on or else the RMU would have probably been insurmountable.

The second half was a different story, offensively and most importantly defensively for the Blackbirds. LIU would use a 19-4 run after the under 16 minute media timeout to go from 12 to up three, all 19 of those points scored by either Trevin Woods, Nura Zanna and Martin Hermannsson.

The Colonials fought back to regain the lead and go up four with nearly five minutes left to go. LIU would close with a 7-2 run with some spectacular defensive play in the last five minutes.

On one possession, LIU played what I thought was their best defensive possession all year as a team in forcing RMU to a shot clock violation. Elvar Friðriksson, who is slowly becoming known for his strong defensively play, had a tremendous second half defensively along with Joel Hernandez, who each took turns guarding Marcquise Reed and both did a great job holding him to just two points in the second half.

Martin Hermannsson scored 13 points for LIU in the win vs RMU. (Photo: Justin Berl)

Martin Hermannsson scored 13 points for LIU in the win vs RMU. (Photo: Justin Berl)

LIU though nearly gave the game away. After a tremendous steal by Hernandez on Reed with RMU down one with the ball with 12 seconds left, Martin Hermannsson would eventually get fouled and tried to make it a three-point game at the free throw line. Hermannsson, an 85% free throw shooter coming into the game and who was 6 for 6 from the line in the game, shockingly missed both free throws and gave RMU a final chance for the win.

Once again, Joel Hernandez locked up with Marcquise Reed one-on-one and again Hernandez was able to force Reed to a tough attempt as Reed was hoping to get the foul call and none would come. RMU would not even get off one final attempt with 0.7 second left and LIU would leave with the victory.

The Blackbirds held RMU to 7 of 29 shooting in the second half (24%) while they shot 10 of 19 from the floor (52.6%). LIU held RMU to 0.936 points per possession (62 points/66 possessions), it is LIU’s third straight game in which they held their opponent to under a point per possession defensively and ninth time in conference play.

RMU got 14 points from Marcquise Reed although like I mentioned earlier, two of those came in the second half. After hitting 5 of 6 in the first half, Reed was 1 of 5 in the second. Lucky Jones was just 4 of 13 from the field for 12 points. Aaron Tate had a good game for RMU with 12 points although eight of those points came in the first four minutes of the game. Elijah Minnie scored nine and Kavon Stewart once again had a quiet night with just four points on 1 of 5 shooting with six assists but five turnovers. RMU falls to 8-5 in the NEC and falls into a tie for third-place in the NEC standings.

It was another strong team effort for LIU. Nura Zanna has a strong game. He led LIU with 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks and only committed two fouls in 26 minutes. Trevin Woods tied a season-high with 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting along with five rebounds and a block. Martin Hermannsson scored 12 on five shots along with five assists and five rebounds. Joel Hernandez only scored two points but grabbed 7 boards and played outstanding defense. Same goes for Elvar Friðriksson who finished with just four points. Iverson Fleming had four points and four assists off the bench and Trevon Woods scored six on a pair of threes.

Underclassmen scored 57 of LIU’s 63 points in this game. Senior Gerrell Martin only scored six and senior Landon Atterberry did not score. In fact, they played just 20 minutes total (8 in the second half) as LIU head coach Jack Perri rode the hot hands of the underclassmen. In a week where the maturity of this team was being applauded (by yours truly), this was most poised and most mature this team had looked this season especially since it was coming on the road against a team LIU has a hard time beating and in a gym LIU has a hard time winning at.

This was a tremendous game and outstanding effort by this team as a whole and now they got the big win out of the way early. Now, they head over to Saint Francis U. on Saturday with a three-game winning streak and winners of five of their last six games.

LIU is 7-6 in the NEC and 11-13 overall. At 7-6, LIU is now tied with Mount St. Mary’s, who was also upset by Sacred Heart at home, for fifth place in the NEC standings. LIU is now one game behind of SFU and RMU for third place and with a win on Saturday versus SFU, would hold tiebreakers against both teams. They are also just two games behind Bryant for second-place but Bryant holds the tiebreaker over LIU with their season sweep over the Blackbirds.

We’ll see if LIU can keep this winning streak going come Valentine’s Day. It could be a lovely weekend if they can get another 2-0 week and improbable one at that and creep closer to a top-four spot and earn a home playoff game in the first round. First things first, just keep the winning streak going.

Box Score

(Ed. Note: Thanks to Justin Berl for use of his photographs from the game. You can follow him on Twitter @JustinBerlPhoto and check out his work on his website www.justinberlphotography.com