Record: 8-5, (2-0 NEC, T-1st); Last game: Win at home vs Fairleigh Dickinson, 68-55
KenPom Rank/RPI: 176/99
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Wellness Center, Brooklyn, NY
History between teams: 93rd meeting. LIU Brooklyn leads all-time series 54-38. LIU has won the last four meetings and seven of the last eight.
Who to watch for on Wagner:
#23 Jonathon Williams – 6’6″ – G/F – Sr. – 15.2 ppg/7.5 rpg/53.1 FG%/83.7 FT% – Scored career-high 33 pts vs Coppin State, scored 10 pts vs Monmouth in his last game. Missed Wagner’s last game vs Fairleigh Dickinson.
#24 Latif Rivers– 6’1″ – G – Jr. – 9.5 ppg/3.0 rpg/40.0 FG%/81.8 FT% – Scored season-high 15 pts vs Penn, scored 8 pts vs Fairleigh Dickinson in last game.
#15 Kenneth Ortiz– 6’0″ – G – Jr. – 11.4 ppg/4.0 rpg/39.1 FG%/69.6 FT% – Scored career-high 23 pts vs Penn, scored 22 pts vs Fairleigh Dickinson in last game.
Matchups to watch:
A great matchup always to watch when Wagner and LIU meet up is the battle of the two point guards. Kenneth Ortiz vs Jason Brickman. They are two of the best point guards in the NEC. Ortiz has been hot of late, scoring over 20 points in two out of their last three games. Brickman has a double-double and was one assist shy of two more double-doubles in his last three games.
Wagner vs LIU Brooklyn. This rivalry has intensified since the Hurleys arrived at Wagner at the start of the 2010-11 season. Even though, LIU has beaten Wagner in all four meetings since that time, the battles between the two school on the court have been intense. All you have to do is go back to that January 21st game at Wagner last year, the last time these two teams meet to see how tough a game these teams play against one another. Fast forward twelve months. The Hurleys are gone so in steps in Bashir Mason who was an assistant for the Dan Hurley during that time. Gone also is Jim Ferry for LIU. New year, new teams, new coaches.
This season’s Wagner team has their fair share of difficulties on the offensive end. Yet, they are 8-5 and 2-0 in the NEC because of their great defensive play. People like myself thought they would be an explosive offensive team this season with players like Jonathan Williams, Latif Rivers, Mario Moody and a veteran point guard in Kenneth Ortiz. Add that with the additions of Dwaun Anderson and Eric Fanning, this team had the making for a juggernaut offensive team. But that hasn’t panned out as of yet. First of all, Latif Rivers was out for all but four of their games. Rivers was the top returning scorer from last season. Jonathan Williams is now hampered by a hip injury and has missed two of their last games although he should be able to go for the Seahawks in this game. Williams is currently Wagner’s leading scorer at 15.4 points per game. Dwaun Anderson has been a disappointment for Wagner. He came to Wagner with a lot of fanfare as a former Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan and transferred from Michigan State to attend Wagner, his minutes has been severely reduced as of late. Anderson is only playing 5.3 minutes a game in his last three games. He was averaging 19.8 mpg in his first ten games. He is only averaging 2.9 ppg this season. Fellow freshman Eric Fanning (5.2 ppg) has been a lot more consistent and has seen his playing time stay consistent as well at 15.4 mpg.
One player who has stepped up for Bashir Mason’s squad has been Kenneth Ortiz. Ortiz, who was last season’s NEC Defensive Player of the Year, has been playing terrific on both ends of the floor. Ortiz is averaging a career-high 11.4 ppg and is third on the team in rebounds grabbing four boards per game as 6’0″ point guard. If you are not careful with him, he has the potential to drop a triple-double on you. Right now, he has been punishing teams on the offensive end with 23 and 22-point games in two of his last three. Of course, he is still one of the best defensive player in the NEC. He is in the top 10 in steals and is among the top 10 guards in the NEC in rebounds.
Wagner has a roster full of talented players. With guys like Mario Moody, Marcus Burton, Orlando Parker, Naofall Folahan, and Josh Thompson, Wagner has one of the deepest teams in the NEC. Only two players (Ortiz & Thompson) play over 30 minutes a game. The rest of the playing time is spread out among this deep team. (Late note: silive.com is reporting Marcus Burton is doubtful for the game with an ankle injury.)
Wagner’s offense and defense couldn’t be anymore different. Wagner is dead-last in the NEC in scoring offense (59.2 ppg) yet they are first in the league in scoring defense (60.0 ppg). They have an offensive points per possession of 0.85 which is an NEC-worst but they also have a 0.85 defensive point per possession which an NEC-best. They get at you at one end of the floor but are pretty bad at the other end. Wagner is a not a great shooting team as they are also dead-last in the NEC in effective field goal percentage. Then, they don’t allow teams to shoot great against them as teams are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 37.5%. They are best blocking team in the NEC (5.7 bpg) and fifth in the NEC in turnovers forced (15.0 per game).
For LIU Brooklyn, the key to winning could likely be getting to 70 points first. Wagner has not gotten to 70 points in anyone of their losses this season. LIU need to play their game and play fast and win the possession battle. If LIU can get this game into the high 70’s or low 80’s in possessions, their chances of winning increases dramatically. Wagner won’t likely be able to keep up offensively. Wagner has done a good job keeping the game to their pace. They have only allowed their opponent to go over 70 possessions four times and they were able to win two of those. Two games that they gave up over 80 possessions though have gone for losses.
Jamal Olasewere and C.J. Garner return back to the starting lineup after serving their two-game NEC suspensions. With these guys returning, LIU gets back a combined 30 ppg. It will be important for these guys not and try to do too much. It was something that was definitely hurting Olasewere before his suspension. These guys just need to play their games.
Jason Brickman was been wonderful of late. He is averaging 12.3 ppg and 9.7 asp in his last three games. He has picked up his play on both ends after going through a bit of slow stretch. The 5’10” point guard is now second on the all-time LIU Brooklyn assists list with 545. He is 65 assists shy of breaking the LIU record of 610 held by Robert Cole who played at LIU from 1979 to 1983. He is now 8th on the NEC all-time assists list after passing former Blackbird Jaytornah Wisseh and Quinnipiac’s Rob Monroe in his last game. He is still 259 assist shy of the NEC record held by Marist’s Drafton Davis.
It will interesting to see how Kenny Onyechi comes out after playing his best game of the season on Saturday vs Quinnipiac (16 points in 28 minutes, both season-highs). E.J. Reed will get his first taste of this rivalry, it will be important for Reed to just continue playing the way he has the last few games. It looks like he is getting a better grasp of Jack Perri’s offense and doesn’t look overwhelmed as he did earlier on. The increased minutes had definitely boasted his confidence. Something to watch out for, sophomore Gerrell Martin broke his nose in practice on Tuesday but he practiced with a mask on Wednesday and he is probable to play Thursday night.
LIU Brooklyn has their 31-game Wellness Center winning streak on the line. The Blackbirds have not lost a NEC home game since losing a 88-84 triple-OT game to St. Francis Brooklyn back on February 6, 2010.
Ken Pomeroy’s Game Projection:
Ken Pomeroy on his website has LIU Brooklyn beating Wagner by a projected score of 69-67 with a 56% probability of a LIU Brooklyn win.
The Blackbirds return back to the Barclays Center for the men’s portion of the women’s-men’s doubleheader against Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday, January 12. Tip is scheduled for 2:30pm. Women’s game is scheduled to tip at noon.