It was almost like watching two different games if you were either an LIU Brooklyn or St. Francis Brooklyn fan in 38th annual Battle of Brooklyn at the Pope Center Thursday night. If you were a Terrier fan, you couldn’t not have been happier with how the first half went. If you were a Blackbirds fan, you were almost amazed and in awe of the clinic they were putting on St. Francis on both ends of the court in the second half. Yup, it was that kind of Battle of Brooklyn. Only LIU fans went home happy after the Blackbirds scored 57 second-half points to take this year’s Battle of Brooklyn, 78-68, and win it for the third straight season. This win also takes LIU Brooklyn’s current win-streak up to four.
It is almost ridiculous how different the two halves of this game went. St. Francis defense in the first half was magnificent, hardly allowing LIU any easy looks at the rim. The Blackbirds shot a dreadful 25% from the floor in that half. Only three Blackbirds player scored in the half as Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner and Brandon Thompson shot a combined 7 for 18 while the rest of the team shot a miserable 0 for 10 including an 0 for 5 from Jason Brickman.
Meanwhile, SFC was playing tight defense and even though they only shot 35% from the floor in the first half, they looked like a team who was in total control. Jalen Cannon was nearly matching whatever Olasewere was doing offensively with 10 points and 7 rebounds in the first half. Ben Mockford even hit a three at the end of the half but it was waved off as he didn’t get the shot off in time. Yet, things were pointed in SFC’s direction.
The second half brought a totally different basketball game. After SFC would match their largest lead of the game (14) for the third time with 16:05 left to play, LIU would go on a amazing 23-6 run over the next seven minutes to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. “That was a great win for us on the road.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri after the game. “We were able to keep it within twelve, within striking distance, as ugly as that was. In the second half, I can’t ask for anything more, both offensively and defensively.” The Blackbirds held the Terriers to just 38.7% shooting in the game while shooting an insane 75% in the second-half to finish at 48% field goal shooting for the game.
LIU Brooklyn were once again lead by seniors Jamal Olasewere and C.J. Garner who combined for 42 points on 15 of 24 shooting. Garner was named the Lai-Lynch Battle of Brooklyn MVP for his 22-point performance, 17 of which came in the second-half. Also, a key figure for LIU in the second-half was the play of junior Jason Brickman. Brickman just missed a double-double with nine points and eleven assists, nine of those that came in that brilliant second-half. Garner credited Brickman for the second-half LIU turnaround. “I guess it started with our point guard Jason Brickman.” said Garner. “He really started finding everybody and that’s what really got us going. We owe a lot to him.”
The Blackbirds’ 57 second-half points were the most points they scored in a half this season. The twelve-point halftime deficit they overcame was also their largest this season. “We’re an explosive team.” said Olasewere who finished with a double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds). “In the first half, we played hard but we didn’t play with a lot of discipline. Going into the second half, we just kept playing hard, just cut down on the fouls.” LIU committed only 4 second half fouls after committing 11 in the first half. The second-half looked like the vintage LIU team we’ve grown accustom to seeing the last couple of seasons.
LIU also got a nice contribution from freshman E.J. Reed. After getting three fouls in seven minutes in the first half, going scoreless, Reed played sixteen second half minutes and made plays on both ends including hitting a three and finishing off an alley-oop from Brickman. Reed ended the night with six points, four rebounds, a block and a steal and wasn’t afraid to go after some tough, defensive rebounds. Also, Brandon Thompson played a solid game with 14 points and 6 rebounds. Ironically, it is the third time in four games he has finished with 14 points.
St. Francis Brooklyn got 21 points and 10 rebounds from Jalen Cannon on 14 shots. Brent Jones finished with 14 points but took 13 shots to get that. Lowell Ulmer had a very nice game with 10 points on six shots in 13 minutes of play. The Terriers only grabbed nine rebounds in the second half and five of those were offensive. “We didn’t guard in the second-half. We didn’t rebound.” said St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Glenn Braica after the loss. “Give them credit, they made shots. They made some great plays. When they made the run, I thought we didn’t react to it well.”
For the game, LIU scored 1.09 points per possession (78 points in 71 possessions) and they held SFC to 0.94 points per possession (68 points in 73 possessions). It is the third consecutive game, LIU held their opponent to under a point per possession.
Next up for the Blackbirds is a big game versus first-place Bryant on the road on Saturday afternoon. Bryant lost to Sacred Heart on Thursday night to snap their six-game NEC winning streak and an eight-game winning streak overall. A possible win over the Bulldogs could get LIU right back in the hunt for the NEC regular-season title race. Currently, they’re two games behind Bryant with Robert Morris and Sacred Heart a game in front. LIU is in a three-way tie for fourth at 4-3 with Wagner and St. Francis Brooklyn. LIU will need to put two solid halves together on both ends if they want to knock off the very good offensive team in Bryant. If they bring the second-half effort to Smithfield, Rhode Island on Saturday, then things might look promising.