Record: 9-13 (5-6 NEC, 8th); Last game: Loss at Bryant, 84-77
KenPom Rank/RPI: 209/212
Time: 12:00 PM
Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
History between teams: 98th meeting. LIU Brooklyn leads the all-time series, 61-36. LIU has won the last five meetings and nine of the last ten. LIU Brooklyn defeated SFC 78-68 back on January 24th to take this season’s Battle of Brooklyn crown.
Who to watch for on St. Francis Brooklyn:
#5 Jalen Cannon – 6’6″ – F – So. – 16.4 ppg/9.5 rpg/57.6 FG%/69.4 FT% – Scored career-high 24 pts vs Colgate, scored 13 pts vs Bryant in last game.
#3 Ben Mockford – 6’2″ – G – Jr. – 10.6 ppg/1.6 rpg/40.9 3FG%/75.0 FT% – Scored season-high 19 pts vs Mount St. Mary’s, scored 15 pts vs Bryant in last game.
#30 Akeem Johnson – 6’6″ – F – Sr. – 9.4 ppg/5.3 rpg/48.5 FG%/67.1 FT % – Scored season-high 17 pts vs Sacred Heart, scored 6 pts vs Bryant in last game.
Matchups to watch:
Jalen Cannon vs Jamal Olasewere – Round Two: In round one, both players had good games. Cannon had 21 points, 10 rebounds. Olasewere had 20 points, 11 rebounds. Since their first meeting back on January 24th, both players are averaging double-doubles in their last five games. Both players are in the running for NEC Player of the Year. A big game for either player could vault one over the other in the POY race.
Since LIU Brooklyn and St. Francis Brooklyn last met five games ago on January 24th, each team fortunes seems to have gone in opposite directions. LIU has lost just once since their last meeting while SFC has won only once. SFC in that span has lost two games by three points or less. Unfortunately for them, one of those losses was against lowly Saint Francis University…at home. After SFC started the NEC season 4-2 and was in a 3-way tie for second place, they are now 5-6 and clinging to the eighth spot.
Why the sudden turn for the worse for the Terriers? The Terriers have all of sudden lost their way a bit defensively. They were once allowing under just under a point per game on the defensive end. Now, they are allowing 1.02 points per possessions defensively and have allowed 1.05 points per possession on average in their last five games. The opposition is shooting 49% from the field during this 1-4 stretch. Offensively, they are shooting a decent 42.4% from the field in the last five games and are scoring 1.023 points per possession which on most nights for them will get the job done.
One player who continues to play great for SFC has been Jalen Cannon. Even though his team has struggled, Cannon has been a model of consistency. He is averaging 16.4 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game for the season but during SFC’s last five games, Cannon is averaging 17.6 ppg and 10.2 rpg while shooting over 58% from the field. Cannon, in my opinion, has to be mentioned when talking about the candidates for NEC Player of the Year. Yet, if his team doesn’t get into the NEC tournament, his will likely have no shot of winning the award. As it is, he is losing ground every game his team keeps dropping in the standings.
So who isn’t doing the job of late for SFC? It really isn’t Ben Mockford. With the exception of the LIU and SFU games where he scored a combined nine points, he has scored at least 14 points in all the other games in the team’s last five games. Anthony White replaced Mockford in the starting lineup in their last game vs Bryant yet Mockford still played 25 minutes and scored 15 points. The culprit might actually be Akeem Johnson. In the last five games, Johnson is averaging 7 ppg which is below his 9.6 ppg average for the season.
The X-factor for SFC is still Travis Nicholas coming off the bench. He has averaged 9.4 ppg and 4.2 rpg over the last five games. Nicholas can explode at any time so LIU has to make sure he is well-defended when he enters the game. Once he gets going and start hitting shots, he is going to be hard to stop.
LIU got back on track with a win on Thursday vs Central Connecticut. Once again, it was a tale of two different halves. The first half, I thought LIU settled for too many threes and didn’t attack the rim enough. LIU were 3 for 17 from three in the first half and CCSU only had five first half fouls. In the second half, LIU shot 60% and hit 6 of 11 threes.
The trio of Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner and Jason Brickman had big games vs CCSU. Brickman is averaging ten assists per game in his last five games. Garner is averaging 13.6 ppg in his last five games. Olasewere with his play of late has begun to put his name in the mix for NEC Player of the Year. In NEC play, he is third in scoring (19.3 ppg), second in rebounding (10.3 rpg) and third in field goal percentage (58.8%).
For LIU to come out on top, they are going to need to contain Jalen Cannon. He is hard matchup for any NEC team. The biggest key for them is to control the boards and not allow either Mockford, Johnson or Nicholas to go off and have a big game.
Another player for LIU to watch is Alex Isailovic. He had 16 points vs Bryant and if he left open, he can knock down the open jumper. Anthony White has been getting more playing time of late and started in their last game.
It is important for LIU to get more production from their bench. E.J. Reed is coming off a good game but the rest of the bench needs to pick it up a little more. For SFC, they will more than likely be in desperation mode to pull themselves out of the funk they’re in and get off the 8-seed position and try to fight to get a first round NEC tournament home game. For LIU, a win will get them tied with Robert Morris for second if RMU loses to Wagner on Saturday or past Wagner in the standing with an RMU win over Wagner. The stakes are high for both teams.
Ken Pomeroy’s Game Projection:
Ken Pomeroy on his website has LIU Brooklyn beating St. Francis Brooklyn by a projected score of 78-74 with a 64% probability of a LIU Brooklyn win.
The Blackbirds head back to Jersey to cap the season series with Monmouth at the MAC for what could likely be the final time in NEC conference play on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14. Tip is scheduled for 7:00pm.