LIU Brooklyn was hoping to steal a game out of this opening week of NEC play. Trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Unfortunately for the Blackbirds, not having their top three scorers this week just couldn’t be overcome as they dropped their second-straight NEC game to start the 2012-13 campaign, 82-74 to Quinnipiac at the TD Bank Sports Center Saturday afternoon.
Let’s look at the historic perspective of this 0-2 NEC start. This is the first time since the 2006-07 season that LIU has started 0-2 in the NEC. The last time the Blackbirds lost two straight NEC games was back in January of the 2009-10 season. So this is territory that LIU hasn’t been at in a while. LIU has now lost five-straight games, something they haven’t done since losing six in a row back in December through January of the 2009-10 season.
LIU were coming into a tough spot against Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac who haven’t been playing well at all of late and have struggled mightily at home before this game were licking their chops to play a under-manned and somewhat under-sized LIU Brooklyn team in their beautiful campus arena. By the way, if you have never been up to TD Bank Sports Center then you missed a great opportunity to go on Saturday because it is a great facility. I’m glad I got my chance to visit it before Quinnipiac moves on to the MAAC next season.
Quinnipiac as we all know are a great rebounding team and they showed it why again on Saturday with a dominated rebounding performance. Quinnipiac out-rebounded LIU Brooklyn 41 to 27 in which 18 of those came on the offensive end. Even with the lack of size and being somewhat over-matched, LIU head coach Jack Perri liked the effort his eight guys showed on the glass. “I thought our guys competed as well as they could, being under-manned and stuff like that. And to see that, I thought our guys showed some toughness today in some ways surprised me a little bit.”
Once again, LIU played very well for the first 17 minutes just like they did against Sacred Heart two days earlier. With LIU up 26-20 with 3:37 left in the first half, Quinnipiac came out of the under-four minute media timeout and went on a 10-0 run that got them going. Quinnipiac closed out the half on a 12-5 run which took them from down six to up one at the half. For the second-straight game, LIU let their opponent close out the first half on a nice run before the half which swung the momentum.
In the second half, LIU hung in there with Quinnipiac and got it within one or two on multiple occasions but couldn’t get a critical stop of the defensive end that would allow them to get a chance at the lead. Then eventually, with E.J. Reed and Kenny Onyechi getting their fourth foul each, 22 seconds apart late in the game, Quinnipiac muscled up even more on glass and pulled away from LIU to win by eight.
D.J. Griggs who played well in the Sacred Heart game got his first collegiate start along with fellow freshman E.J. Reed in place of suspended started C.J. Garner and Jamal Olasewere who served their second and final game of their two-game suspension. Once again, it was player off the bench who step up big and gave LIU one of his best scoring outputs since his sophomore season. That player being Kenny Onyechi. Onyechi scored 16 points on 5 of 8 shooting and what was most encouraging, he did playing a season-high 28 minutes, shattering his previous season-high of 16. “That is the best that Kenny played.” said Perri of Onyechi outstanding performance.”That was good to get him back playing the way he is capable of playing. That was great. I haven’t seen that out of him even in practice so that was good.”
Once again Jason Brickman had a great game. He once again missed a double-double by one assist with his 16-point, 9-assist game. He would shoot 7 for 10 as he was finally able to penetrate and get to the goal and convert. Something LIU hasn’t had much of without Olasewere and Garner around. Perri had great praise for his point guard who stepped up offensively, “He is awesome. He was tremendous on both ends. That is the thing that I liked. In some of the other games early on he struggled defensively but he made a conscience effort especially in these two games to really defend. I was not disappointed with his defensive effort. I thought he did a good job in both games. Hopefully he can sustain that with getting these guys back.”
E.J. Reed continue his good play with a career-high 15 points on 5 for 10 shooting. These last two games has helped accelerate the growth process of Reed. He played 29 minutes in this game and 34 minutes against Sacred Heart. Jack Perri commented on how much he is going to have to be counted even when Olasewere and Garner coming back to the lineup. “This kid is a player.” said Perri of Reed. “He is a good player. I think you are seeing that and getting this experience is great for him. He is going to have to play a lot of minutes even when Jamal (Olasewere) comes back. We’re not as deep in the front court. I’m hoping he can continue to show the things that he’s shown so far.” Brandon Thompson chipped in 13. Booker Hucks was brought back down to Earth by the big Quinnipiac front line as he was held scoreless on 0 of 5 shooting and had four fouls in fifteen minutes.
For Quinnipiac, Ike Azotam had a great game scoring 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Dave Johnson and Evan Conti had 15 a piece. Conti grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Zaid Hearst had eight points and eight rebounds. Ousame Drame scored 10 off the bench on 4 of 5 shooting. For the game, Quinnipiac shot 50.8% (30-59) and scored 1.237 points per possession (82 points in 66 possessions), their highest points per possession output of the season. LIU scored 1.08 points per possession (74 points in 69 posessions). LIU shot 47.1% from the field.
So now LIU can finally begin to move forward and put behind the suspensions that has been hovering over this team since the season began. LIU has to look at this now as almost a fresh start. There is sixteen NEC games left to go so there is plenty of time to make up this two-game deficit. It all starts in a major way with a battle against the 2-0 Wagner Seahawks back at the Wellness Center on Thursday. Olasewere, Garner and Troy Joseph will be back and available. Coach Perri knows the challenge that lies ahead for his team and for his two returning starters. “It is going to be tough. Just because we get these guys back it doesn’t mean it is going to be easy all of a sudden. I think there is going to be an adjustment period getting them back now. Jamal and C.J.have to be careful with the way they approach this next game against Wagner, they have to be smart and be patient but understand our philosophy and how we play and do a good job with that and don’t try and do everything themselves.” Hopefully now that is all in the rear-view mirror, LIU can start becoming the team that we were expecting them to be understandably without the help of Julian Boyd. Yet, if anything this team showed they don’t give up easy even when the odds were stacked against them. They also had guys took advantage of opportunities and made the most of it and now will be counted on in the remaining 16 games to fight and defend the two-time NEC championship they worked hard to earn and will fight like hell to defend once more. Finally, the time in now.