Coming into this game, on paper, it looked like it will be a toe-to-toe battle right to the end. For 28 minutes, that is what you got in this all-important one-game season series between two teams trying to stay on pace with the upper tier pack. LIU Brooklyn then turned on the offense to get themselves a comfortable lead and hold off a late charging CCSU team, 81-75, at Detrick Gym Thursday night.
LIU shot 60% in the second half on their way to a 48% shooting night after a cold shooting first half. The Blackbirds in the first half fired three, after three, after three and missed many of them. In fact, LIU shot 3 of 17 from three in the first half. Brandon Thompson himself went just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. Luckily for LIU, CCSU wasn’t too crisp on the offensive end themselves. CCSU went just 4 for 12 from three and shot 32% overall in the first half. LIU showed hustle on the boards, getting to ten offensive rebounds and out-rebounding the Blue Devils 29 to 21.
LIU Brooklyn’s Jamal Olasewere and CCSU’s Matt Hunter went toe-to-toe on the offensive end in the first half. Olasewere went 7 of 8 shooting with his only miss coming from his only three point attempt of the game. He also grabbed ten rebounds to get his eighth double-double of the season in just seventeen minutes of play. Hunter kept on pace with Olasewere with 14 points and 8 rebounds of his own, playing all 20 minutes. In fact, four of the five CCSU starters played all 20 minutes in the first half.
The second half, LIU finally got the team play going led by the great play of Olasewere and the slick passing of Jason Brickman whose passes were hitting their mark repeatedly. Brickman got eight of his twelve assists in the second half including a beautiful bounce pass through traffic which found a wide-open C.J. Garner himself underneath the basket for a layup. Brickman wasn’t too far shy for his first-ever triple-double as he finished with 8 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds. The seven rebounds was a new career-high for the 5’10” point guard. Brickman also is now the LIU Brooklyn all-time assist leader, passing Robert Cole’s 610 assists. He now has 622 assists for his career.
The Blackbirds were finally able to get the three-point shots to drop in the second half. LIU shot 6 of 11 from downtown and were able to hold CCSU to just 5 of 13 from three to hold them to 9 for 25 for the game.
Olasewere finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds. C.J.Garner got back on the right foot scoring 17 points. Brandon Thompson after a bad first half, was better in the second half and finished with 14 points on 16 shots. CCSU was content on leaving Thompson open and Thompson had a tough time making the Blue Devils pay. Thompson’s 14 points is now the seventh time this season and the fifth time in the last eight games he has finished with a 14-point game. E.J. Reed had a nice second half and finished with ten points and four rebounds in twenty minutes off the bench.
CCSU got 25 points from Hunter on 19 shots and grabbed 11 rebounds. Terrell Allen finished with 14 points. Kyle Vinales had a tough game with 13 points on 18 shots.
LIU scored 81 points in 72 possessions to score 1.13 points per possession. CCSU scored 75 points in 78 possessions for a 0.97 points per possession game.
With the win, LIU has now won seven of the last eight games. They stays on pace with Robert Morris and Wagner who won their games on Wednesday. Bryant, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart all won at home on Thursday so LIU remains in a now three-way tie for third at 7-4. Bryant remains in first with RMU remaining in second, a game back of the Bulldogs. LIU is in third amongst the three third-place teams with earlier losses to both Wagner and Sacred Heart. LIU plays both teams again towards the end of the month. LIU is now 4-1 on the six-game make or break stretch of their season.
The Blackbirds now put their focus towards St. Francis Brooklyn who kept it close with Bryant on the road on Thursday before falling late to them. SFC has now lost four of their last five beginning with the loss they took to LIU back on January 24th at home. This time, the scene gets played out for the first time at the new Barclays Center which will likely be home to the non-Battle of Brooklyn game for the next few years to come. It is another important game for both teams but especially for LIU. A win would be huge as this weekend the top four teams in the NEC standings play one another and that would mean gaining a game with a win on two of those teams while staying on pace with the other two. With now seven games left, it almost seems like every game becomes a big game, no matter who the opponent is.