Before the game, it was a question whether or not Robert Morris’ All-NEC point guard Velton Jones would even play. Well, he did play. He didn’t get the start but he sure got the finish in Saturday’s 60-57 win over LIU Brooklyn at the Wellness Center. The loss snapped LIU’s six-game winning streak and gives the one-game season series to Robert Morris in the ever-tight NEC.
“Tough loss.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri after the bitter defeat. It was an really tough loss. This loss can attributed to couple of things. One, poor first half free throw shooting (1 for 7) and two, really poor three-point shooting overall (3 for 17). Of course, you have to credit Andy Toole’s RMU team for playing smart basketball and good perimeter defense. The Colonials came into this game with a different game plan and that was to take the air out of the ball in the second half with the lead. RMU decided to hold the ball until ten seconds left on the shot clock before running their offense. They got extremely timely shooting from forward Russell Johnson who scored all 12 of his points in the second half including knocking down three three-pointers. “We went into the game saying take away their threes and we didn’t do a good job of that.” said Perri. RMU shot 10 of 24 from three.
The Blackbirds, as has been their nature of late, came back late in the second half from an eight-point deficit to eventually take the lead with 3:01 to go with a pair of Jason Brickman free throws. “I thought our guys were gutsy with their will to get back into the game after they got down by eight.” said Perri. “We tried to change it up a little bit by going zone and we started getting some stops.” Yet Karvel Anderson, who made his RMU-LIU debut, hit a three to regain the lead for RMU. Jamal Olasewere would get the lead back for LIU with a jumper in the paint. With under a minute left and RMU with the ball, LIU would force Russell Johnson to take a contested shot which he missed but two Blackbirds underneath the RMU basket couldn’t corral the rebound and the ball went out of bounds. The worst thing any team facing RMU could do is give them a second chance at a lead. Andy Toole got the ball into his leader Velton Jones’ hands and even with one arm, the man can make clutch shots. He has been doing it his whole career with RMU and he did it again versus LIU. Jones nailed a floater in the lane with :11 to go which ended up being the winning basket. “The kid made a big time shot.” said Perri. “(Velton) Jones, as hurt as he was, was not trying to shoot most of the time. He was driving and kicking. We thought that was what his motive was and then the last one, he’s just a tough kid and he made the tough shot.”
Immediately after the Jones shot, Jason Brickman would get the ball and race up the court. He looked at head coach Jack Perri to see if they would call time out or just go. The moments hesitation might have cost LIU. “I was about to call timeout but then at the same time was like, in the huddle (during the previous timeout) I said hey, broken plays, that’s where we score off of. We’ve done that in the past. We got the ball in Jason’s hands, they don’t get a chance to set up, let’s see what we can come up with.”
Brickman passed it to Troy Joseph who turned the ball over. “Yeah, could I have second guessed myself for not taking the timeout.” said Perri regarding the LIU’s sequence after Jones’ floater. “I could do that. I’ll watch the tape. Again, with Jason Brickman, what else do you want. You want him with the ball, making decisions and unfortunately, it didn’t work out today.” After a couple of RMU free throws, LIU nearly completed a Grant Hill to Christian Laettner buzzer beater but Troy Joseph’s three-quarter court inbound pass to Jamal Olasewere’s three at the buzzer hit side rim and LIU would lose a tough one to swallow.
“We missed our free throws in the first half, thought that was huge.” said Perri. Obviously, since LIU lost the game by three, those six missed first half throws came back to bite the Blackbirds.
For the game, LIU shot 43.8% and held RMU to 37% shooting. Unfortunately, RMU shot 10 of 24 (41%) from three while LIU shot 17% from downtown. LIU was only +1 in the rebounding margin and -4 in the turnover margin.
RMU got 13 points for Karvel Anderson to lead them in scoring. Russell Johnson finished with 12 points. Lucky Jones scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the now 7-3 Colonials.
LIU got another double-double from Jamal Olasewere who finished the game with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Jason Brickman tied his career-high with 19 points and his four assists now ties him with Robert Cole for first on the all-time LIU Brooklyn assist list with 610. C.J. Garner finished with seven points which got him to exactly 1000 points in his LIU Brooklyn career.
With the loss, LIU has dropped to a four-way tie for third with Sacred Heart (lost on Saturday), Wagner (lost on Saturday) and Central Connecticut State (won on Saturday) at 6-4, a game back of second-place Robert Morris and two games back of Bryant for first. LIU splits the week and are 3-1 on this current six-game make-or-stretch with two difficult games to come next week. The Blackbirds will have to quickly shake off this tough loss to get ready for CCSU on Thursday night. CCSU has won three straight and is on a roll. This will be another tough challenge for the Blackbirds as they have to re-focus on containing CCSU high scoring offense and with their multiple high scoring players.
Two games back with eight games to go. Three weeks ago, any LIU fan would have likely signed up for that. As today showed with several upsets, there is nothing predictable about the NEC this season. Anything can still happen.