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.
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.
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.
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.