Apparently, third time is the charm for the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds men’s basketball team. Four players score at least fourteen points for LIU to beat Mount St. Mary’s 86-72 and get their first-ever win at the new home away from home, the Barclays Center. The win snaps a six-game losing streak and gives LIU their first conference win of the season.
It had been trying times for Jack Perri and his Blackbirds and things didn’t get any easier after the ugly loss at the WRAC to Wagner on Thursday to snap their 31-game WRAC winning streak. The Blackbirds looked to start a new home winning streak but they would have to start it at the Barclays Center where they were 0-2 coming into this game. LIU used their second-best offensive productive game of the season (1.27 points per possession, 86 points in 67 possessions) to finally end a streak of losses that this team hadn’t seen in three years.
LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri who was visibly frustrated after the Wagner loss Thursday was able to crack a smile or two after this win Saturday. “Obviously, that feels good.” said Perri after the game. “That is absolutely the best we’ve played.” Even though, Mount St. Mary’s were able to score 1.13 points per possession (72 points in 64 possessions), LIU did play a good defensive game. LIU showed major improvement in the effort department. The Blackbirds contested more shots and did an excellent job on the boards, out-rebounding Mount St. Mary’s 40-27. “I thought we did a good job, pretty consistently of defending and rebounding. And when we defend and rebound then we can run.” said Perri of his team’s defensive effort.
LIU got another career scoring game from freshman E.J. Reed. The fabulous freshman finished with a another new career-high 21 points on 7 of 13 shooting in 28 minutes and also grabbed 7 rebounds. “He’s been great. He is really starting to come into his own.” said Perri of his freshman forward. “We’ve seen it from the beginning that he has this ability. He is so long and he’s athletic and he has a great motor to him. It helps a lot.” Reed is now averaging over his last five game 15.6 points per game and 4.4 rebounds a game. He might be on track for a third consecutive NEC Rookie of the Week honor.
Jamal Olasewere had his most effective game of the season going 7 for 10 from the field in scoring 16 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. It was Olasewere’s fourth double-double of the season. Olasewere who has seemingly been frustrated in trying to carry the load for the Blackbirds in absence of Julian Boyd, played under-control with the exception of one offensive foul in the first half. He even knocked down a three-pointer in this game, something he has been having trouble doing consistently this season.
Yet, the player of the game for LIU was senior C.J. Garner. The 5’10” guard probably had his best game of the season. He stepped up scoring 19 points on 6 of 10 shooting including draining a couple of critical threes in the second half. One in particular as Mount St. Mary’s was making a strong run and had cut a once 17 point lead down to four, it was Garner who hit a big three-pointer to get the lead back to seven and calm things down for LIU. He had the ball in his hands a lot in this game, helping LIU brake the Mount’s press and used his quickness and outstanding ball handling to get out of some tight spots and find his way to the rim for some acrobatic layups. “I felt good.” said Garner in the postgame press conference. “Coach told me to be a little more aggressive, definitely try to get to the rim. Also shooting the ball from three. It felt good playing with these guys out there. Felt good to get out of this slump too.”
LIU shot 58.5% (31-53) from the field which is quite a contrast from the 42.8% field goal shooting LIU had during the six-game losing streak. They also shot 8 for 15 from three (53.3%) which was their second-best three-point shooting performance of the season.
Mount St. Mary’s was lead by team’s leading scorer Rashad Whack who had 18 points on just 11 shots. Raven Barber had 10 for the Mountaineers who fell to 1-2 in NEC play and 6-9 overall.
LIU showed the poise that wasn’t around during the Wagner game on Thursday. LIU didn’t panic after Mount St. Mary’s went on a 19-6 run midway through the second half that cut a 17-point lead (54-37) to four (60-56). A pair of threes, first from Garner and then Jason Brickman (5 points, 10 assists) killed the Mount’s momentum and then another three from Garner pretty much put the game away for the Blackbirds and allowed LIU to cruise to the finish.
For Olasewere and Garner who came back this week after spending last week on the bench serving their two-game suspensions, the ups and mostly downs of this season had probably weighed on these two senior starters the hardest since they both have been around to win two NEC championships. Jamal Olasewere admitted after the game, this season has been a difficult one yet one they haven’t given up on. “We’ve been hit with a lot of adversity this season. We can’t use that excuse to why we lost six games. We just try to fight through everything and just keep our heads up through everything.”
The Blackbirds got a surprisingly nice home crowd for the game. The game drew 2,413 fans and they for the most part were into it. Great job by the LIU Brooklyn Athletic Department getting that many fans out to the game for women’s/men’s doubleheader.
Now that the second losing streak of the season is finally over and LIU has a one in the NEC win column, it will quite interesting to see if LIU can now get back on the track and play to the standard most of us have been expecting them to play at throughout this season. LIU finally looked like themselves in this game versus Mount St. Mary’s. They run and gunned some, they played well-enough defense and rebounded the ball really well. Can they now give a consistent effort and get on a winning streak to get back to .500 in conference? LIU hits the road Thursday with a trip to Fairleigh Dickinson to take on a much-improved 2-2 team.
Picture Slideshow: (Photo Credit: Bob Dea)