Now, it is all gone. The last remaining achievement that has carried over from LIU’s two-straight NEC championship winning seasons is now done. Wagner took it to LIU Brooklyn in a less-likely fashion, offensively, and beat LIU 86-75 at the Wellness Center on Thursday night. The loss snapped a 31-game Wellness Center winning streak that had lasted 764 days (last loss at Wellness Center came on December 8, 2011 to Iona). LIU hadn’t lost a conference home game in 1070 days (last NEC loss at Wellness Center came on February 6, 2010 to St. Francis Brooklyn). The loss continues LIU losing streak up to six. A mark they haven’t hit since the 2009-10 season. The loss put LIU at 5-10 for the season and 0-3 in the Northeast Conference. LIU currently sits in last place in the NEC standings after previously 0-2 Robert Morris and Monmouth both got wins Thursday night.
“We got outplayed. We are not very good.” said a seemingly frustrated LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri after the loss. When asked if the team’s frustration had finally boiled over since LIU got hit with two technical fouls in the second half, one on the LIU bench to Jack Perri and the other to senior Jamal Olasewere whose technical foul fouled him out of the game with 6:43 left to play and LIU only down nine at the time at 65-56, Perri answered, “I felt we lost our poise. We talk about that before every game. We have some temperamental guys and they haven’t had a whole lot of adversity over the last two years, they have a lot to deal with this year.”
Wagner had motivation and momentum on their side. They were coming in with a four-game win streak. They missed out on postseason play entirely last season and then were overlooked and picked third in the NEC preseason poll. Even after the 6-5 non-conference season, Wagner wasn’t getting a full dose of respect as people starting looking at Robert Morris and even upstart Bryant ahead of them to be the new kings of the NEC. Wagner also had lost seven of eight to LIU including four straight under former Wagner head coach Dan Hurley’s watch. Wagner first-year head coach Bashir Mason and his team wanted to make a statement against the two-time defending NEC champs on their home floor and they did so on both ends Thursday night. After the game, Mason as has been his way all season long, played it low-key. “Our defense and rebounding, (it’s the) same mindset going into every game. We wanted to limit those guys, their transition baskets, make them play in the half court and our guys executed it.” There was no boasting from Mason or his players. It is not the way Mason and their team go about their business even after a big road win against a rival who has gotten the best of them over the last few years. By the way, Wagner played this game without starter Jonathon Williams (hip) and reserve man Marcus Burton (ankle) who were both out nursing injuries.
LIU Brooklyn, once again, pretty much since this currently losing streak began, lost a lead they had going into the later stages of the first half. This “lack of focus” as Perri has described to be a couple of games ago has usually been hitting around the under-four minute media timeout but in this game it came at the under-eight minute media timeout. With LIU up 25-20 with 8 minutes left to go in the first half, Wagner would go on a 22-6 run to finish the half and take control of the game. The run nearly coincided with Olasewere picking up his second personal foul. With Olasewere out, LIU went from up 1 to down 5 before Perri put him back in the game with the two fouls but by that point, the momentum had already switched hands. “Jamal got his second foul and again we talked about him not doing that. Again, it was a silly second foul.” said Perri. “But he is struggling controlling himself and he made the second foul and we didn’t step up. We’ve been very consistently inconsistent the last four minutes of every half. If you go back, it is really bad and it was no different in this game. That was obviously the turning point, those last five minutes. We didn’t defend and we didn’t execute on offense either. You’re not going to win too many games if you do that.”
Wagner played their best offensive game so far this season in this game. They scored 85 points in 73 possession for a 1.18 points per possession average. This from a team who scored over 70 points just once this season and had a NEC-worst 0.85 offensive ppp average going into the game. The Seahawks were able to shoot 59% from the field including 8 of 9 from three-point range which is a new NEC record for three-point field goal percentage in a game (90%). Latif Rivers lead Wagner with 20 points in 27 minutes. He was 4 for 4 from three. Mario Moody chipped in 19 points and 9 rebounds. The player LIU had no answer for, especially in the second half was Kenneth Ortiz. Ortiz, who in the past had been victimized by Jason Brickman in their one-on-one matchup, definitely came motivated to play and showed why he should be mention as one of the top point guards in the NEC. Ortiz finished with his second double-double of the season (19 points, 11 assists). Ortiz right now is playing at an All-NEC first team level. “As the years go by, I just get better on my game.” said Ortiz after his dazzling performance. “That’s one thing Coach taught me about, making more plays for the team and I just let the game come to me and I just been scoring lately.” Rivers, Moody and Ortiz combined for 58 of Wagner’s 86 points which equates to 67% of the Wagner’s scoring output.
LIU Brooklyn was led by Jamal Olasewere’s 16 points and 9 rebounds in 26 minutes in his return from his two-game suspension. Olasewere was just 5 for 14 from the floor. C.J. Garner scored 13 points in his return as well. E.J. Reed played another good game. The freshman finished with 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting in 26 minutes. Gerrell Martin, broken nose and all, scored 15 off the bench and was 3 of 5 from three. Jason Brickman was beaten soundly in the one-on-one matchup with Kenneth Ortiz. Brickman ended the night with 7 points and 7 assists. Brandon Thompson was nowhere to be found. He finished with 3 points on 1 of 4 shooting in 19 minutes. LIU was held to 44% shooting for the game (29-49) and shot 37% (10-27) from three. LIU was out-rebounded once again (37 to 24) and weren’t good from the free throw line (19 of 31).
LIU Brooklyn is slowly seeing what was suppose to be a championship-caliber season slowly going by the waste side. They drop to 0-3 in the NEC for the first time since the 2003-04 season. LIU Brooklyn has left themselves any more room for error if they want to try and make a season of what has been nothing short of a trying year thus far for the Blackbirds. Mount St. Mary’s come calling Saturday afternoon at the Barclays Center. They once again must try and come up with a formula that can stop the bleeding and pick themselves off the bottom of the NEC standings. The rest of the NEC will look to kick LIU while they’re down. That what happens when you go 38-4 in league play the last two seasons including tournament play. LIU was picked to win it all again so they better realized pretty quickly that there isn’t a team that is going to let up and breathe life back into their season. That is up to the Blackbirds to decide if they are going to sink or swim on their own.