In what will likely be one of the best games of the NEC season, LIU Brooklyn for the second straight game came back from a double-digit and halftime deficit to win. This time it was against the first-place Bryant Bulldogs in front of a nearly capacity crowd at the Chace Athletic Center. The Blackbirds defeated Bryant, 79-78, on “White-Out” day, leaving the Bryant fans red with anger. The win gives LIU a 2-0 week and brings the current winning streak now to five games.
The game was eerily similar to the game LIU played on Thursday against St. Francis Brooklyn. LIU struggled in the first half against the Bulldogs just like they did against the Terriers on Thursday night. Bryant shot 62.1% from the field in the first half. The Blackbirds had trouble stopping the sophomore transfer Dyami Starks. Starks was unconscience shooting the ball. He was 8 for 11 shooting and an incredible 6 of 8 from three, scoring 22 first half points. At one time, he was 5 of 6 from beyond the arc.
LIU was able to stay in the game thanks to a unlikely source of late, the bench. Booker Hucks had a huge first half with 11 points on 3 of 4 shooting, all from three. E.J. Reed also stepped up with 13 points on 4 of 4 shooting and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Those two guys combined to outscore the starters 24 to 18 in the first half. LIU found themselves as far down as 13 point with just over a minute to go before the end of the half. This is where the game turned.
It all started with a huge pair of three-pointers from Jason Brickman on back-to-back possessions before an Kenny Onyechi layup ended the first half scoring and Bryant up seven at the break at 49-42.
LIU kept the momentum going with a 12-1 run to start the second half. Jamal Olasewere who struggled mightily in the first half with just four points and three first half fouls, came out of the break like a man possessed. He scored 9 of LIU’s first 14 second half points. LIU also stayed with a 2-3 zone on defense even though Bryant, in particularly Dyami Starks, were torching LIU with threes on it. The decision by LIU head coach Jack Perri paid off as Bryant shot just 16% from three in the second half. Starks didn’t have the clean looks he was having in the first half and missed all four of his second half three attempts.
In the closing minutes with LIU Brooklyn up by three, LIU’s Jamal Olasewere and Bryant’s Alex Francis went back and forth against each other scoring baskets. With five seconds left, Dyami Starks missed a three to tie but Francis grabbed the rebound and put it back in and drew a foul on Olasewere with 1.2 seconds left. But Francis missed the free throw that would have taken the game into overtime. Olasewere rebounds the missed free throw and the clock runs out to give LIU Brooklyn the big road victory.
The Blackbirds held Bryant to 40% shooting in the second half and finished the game shooting 51.8%. LIU Brooklyn shot 53.3% for the game. In one of my keys to the game, LIU was able to hold Bryant to under 40% from three as they finished shooting 38.5%. Both teams scored 1.18 points per possession as LIU got 67 possessions and Bryant 66.
LIU Brooklyn got 19 points and 7 rebounds from Jamal Olasewere, 14 of those points came in the second half. E.J. Reed (15 pts) and Booker Hucks (14 pts) combined for a big 29 points off the bench. Troy Joseph, although he got a technical foul on a double tech to him and Bryant’s Corey Maynard, played 16 good minutes. He had 4 points, 4 rebounds and one huge follow dunk that was SportsCenter Top 10 worthy. The player of the game was Jason Brickman. He finished with 11 points, 10 assists and just two turnovers. His two three-pointers at the end of the first half saved LIU from a blowout and allowed them to make the comeback.
Bryant got 25 points from Dyami Starks but just three second-half points. Alex Francis had 16 points. He sat a good chunk of the second half with foul trouble. Frankie Dobbs had 13 points on just 6 shots.
LIU out-rebounded Bryant by 10. They had 12 turnovers but just three turnovers in the second half. LIU now matches their season-high five game winning streak which followed the four-game losing streak which LIU started the season on. They start 2-0 on this make-or-break six game stretch they are on. They are now 5-3 in the NEC and back to .500 overall at 10-10. LIU is now tied with Wagner fourth in the conference. Robert Morris, Bryant and Sacred Heart are all tied for first at 6-2. Also to note, this win is big because LIU and Bryant only play each other once this season so if they end up tied at the end of the season, LIU now has the tie-breaker over them.
LIU Brooklyn will looking to keep the ball rolling against St. Francis (PA) back at the Wellness Center Thursday night. It is a sandwich game as it comes between Bryant and always huge game between Robert Morris at home next Saturday, which will be nationally-televised on ESPNU. LIU will need to stay focused and not look past SFPA. After this great 2-0 week, the last thing LIU can do is slip up and lose all this momentum. Next week, now that the students are back in class, hopefully the crowd turnout will be better. Nothing is better than seeing and hearing the WRAC rocking.