A thing of beauty this was not but fortunately for LIU Brooklyn, wins aren’t measure by how pretty you play but by the score at the end of the game. LIU used a 45-point second half to down Monmouth at the Wellness Center 75-65 on Saturday afternoon. The win will help LIU bring their latest winning streak up to three and get them back to .500 in the NEC at 3-3 after an 0-3 start.
LIU used a strong defensive second half to overcome a rough and ugly first half which saw them down six at halftime. They held Monmouth to 36% shooting in the second half after the Hawks shot 40% in the first half. “I didn’t know it could be done, we held a team under 40 percent.” joked LIU head coach Jack Perri after the win. It was actually the fourth time this season, LIU held a team to 40% or lower field goal shooting but it is the first time it has happened since the win vs Manhattan on December 16.
LIU’s strong offense combined with tough defense in the second half turned around what was an ugly first half of basketball for the Blackbirds. They only shot 38% in the first half and committed eleven turnovers while having only a +3 edge in the rebounding margin. The Blackbirds had four players in foul trouble with Jamal Olasewere, Kenny Onyechi, E.J Reed and Khalil Murphy all with two first-half fouls.”We played a little bit faster than we should have.” said Perri in regards to their poor first half. “I also think again the foul trouble had a little bit of something to do with it. But we talked about it again at halftime, that we have to limit our turnovers and not allow them to steal the basketball because they need that to score. We did a much better job of that in the second half.”
At the start of the second half, LIU immediately tied the game on their first two possessions. Olasewere who was scoreless at the half and played in only six minutes, got his first points of the night on a three-point play. Next time down, Brandon Thompson hits a three and tied the game at 36. LIU would start the half on a 11-2 run to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. “Once we survived the foul trouble, our guys did a great job of defending and rebounding.” said Perri. “We stopped turning the ball over and we stopped fouling. That’s our whole philosophy and our guys did a good job of that in the second half and that’s why we won the game.” In the second half, LIU turned the ball over just six times and were +9 in the rebounding margin to out-rebound the Hawks by 12 for the game.
C.J. Garner was LIU’s leading scorer with 16 points on 11 shots. Brandon Thompson scored 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting including 4 of 9 from three. Jamal Olasewere finished with 13 points which he scored all in the second half after picking up his second foul at the 10:44 mark of the first half and sat for the rest of the half. Booker Hucks once again came up huge off the bench for LIU with Olasewere, Reed and Onyechi all in foul trouble. He scored all eight of his points in the first half and was 3 of 4 including making a couple of big threes. Khalil Murphy gave LIU six good minutes of the bench with four points and four rebounds.”I think Khalil and Booker Hucks both did an admirable job in the first half, holding down the fort, keeping us in the game. It was ten minutes, it was a big stretch for us to have to do that. Those guys both did a really good job.”
Freshman E.J. Reed for the second straight game was plagued by early quick fouls. He had two fouls in just three minutes of play in the first half. He stayed out of foul trouble in the second half and finished the game nine points, a team-leading eight rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes. “He was great on the defensive end, rebounding, blocking shots and obviously he made his free throws too (5-6) so he’s good.” said Perri of his three-time NEC Rookie of the Week. The freshman understands he has to learn to stay away from bad fouls. “The first couple of fouls, they were uncalled for really. It was basically just the intensity of the game and I really didn’t have my head in the game.” said Reed. “But we went in (at the half) and my teammates talked to me and told me what to do and don’t get bothered with all the hype that is going on out there on the court and just play my game.” He took his teammates advice and settled down and played his game and it paid off. Reed’s play has come along in the last month or so, admitted he had to go through a transition from the pace of high school games to the pace of Division I college basketball, “I think I’m getting used to the pace. At first, the pace was real, real, real, real, really, really fast. It is different from high school. So its really just the pace and getting used to the pace and everything will flow better.”
LIU Brooklyn held Monmouth to 0.983 points per possession (65 points in 66 possessions). That is two straight opponents LIU has held to under a point per possession. LIU scored 1.16 points per possession (75 points in 65 possessions). They also did a decent job at the free throw line especially in the second half. LIU finished 15 for 20 at the foul line including a perfect 11 of 11 in the second half. They limited Monmouth’s points off turnovers to just 12 points off of 17 LIU turnovers which was also a key to this win.
For Monmouth, Jesse Steele finished with 16 points although he was 5 of 17 from the floor including 2 of 8 from three. Freshman Christian White in his first career start had a very good game with 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting including 3 of 4 from three.
LIU completes a successful 2-0 week, in what was on paper two winnable games, and got back up to .500 in the conference. This week was big because the schedule gets more challenging next week. LIU goes back on the road next week, one for a short trip (15 minute walk) to St. Francis Brooklyn, and one for a long, tough trip (3 1/2 hours) to Bryant. Both teams are ahead of LIU in the standings. SFC is 4-2 after their win vs FDU on Saturday and Bryant, the surprise team of the NEC this season is in first-place with a perfect 6-0 NEC record and a comfortable two-game lead over the field after their huge blowout home win vs Wagner. The game on Thursday vs St. Francis Brooklyn is the designated Battle of Brooklyn game. Whatever the game, the games between these two Brooklyn schools are always tight, exciting ones so expect the same on Thursday.