If you weren’t able to make it out to the MAC at Monmouth on Thursday but got to see LIU Brooklyn beat Monmouth earlier this season at the Wellness Center then you didn’t miss much. This game played out almost exactly like the first game between these two teams did back on January 19th including most importantly, the result. The Blackbirds once again used a big second half to upend the Hawks for the second time this season and for what could be the final time as NEC opponents, 80-66.
LIU once again had to come back after being down at the half, thanks to a turnover-filled first half. The Hawks who are the NEC leaders in turnovers forced lived up to their reputation in the first half, forcing 13 LIU turnovers which help lead to 12 points for Monmouth. LIU actually got off to a very good start and were up as much as nine points, seven minutes into the game. But the turnovers and the increased defensive pressure by Monmouth got the Hawks quickly back in the game. “We just didn’t handle the ball (well) obviously.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri after the game. “We started out well. We had a nine point lead and then got a little sluggish. They were trapping and our guys were overdribbling. That got us into trouble. They ended up scoring 38 points (in the first half) because of the turnovers more than anything else.” LIU’s C.J. Garner got caught a couple of times in some of Monmouth’s defensive traps. “They are real aggressive trapping, just randomly. So when you drive, they just randomly collapse on you so you can’t over-dribble on them.”
LIU three-point defense was what kept LIU from having a larger halftime deficit. Monmouth was 2 of 7 from three in the first half while LIU was 4 of 10. Both teams shot at least 50% from the field in the first half. Jamal Olasewere hit a three right before the half to avoid repeating the six-point halftime deficit they had against Monmouth during their last meeting and made it a three-point game at the half. “Monmouth is known to get after it (defensively).” said LIU’s Jamal Olasewere after the game. “We tried to keep our poise in the first half and obviously we didn’t do that.”
In the second half, LIU tightened the screws defensively once again just like in their last meeting. The Blackbirds held Monmouth to just 30% shooting in the second half and shut the Hawks out from beyond the arc as they didn’t make a single three-pointer in the second half (0 for 12). The Blackbirds also went to the free throw line 28 times in the second half while the Hawks went to the line 16 times. “We were stronger with the basketball.” said Perri regarding the differences between his teams’ play in the second half. “We made them fouls us because that is what they do. We made our free throws. Handled the ball a little bit better. We grinned it out and on the road, to grind a game out, that is how you got to do it.”
The Blackbirds kept the Hawks from scoring for a 5:40 stretch in the second-half that took the game from Monmouth up two to LIU up by eleven which put the game away. The Blackbirds finished with 45 second half points which is exactly what they scored in the last meeting in the second half. In fact, the two second-halves in both meeting were nearly identical. Tonight, it was 45-28 in favor LIU. On January 19th, it was 45-29 in favor of LIU. Bizarre!
For the game, LIU held Monmouth to 40% shooting from the field and kept them to 2 of 19 from three (10.5%). LIU shot 51% from the field including 6 of 18 from three. They were +15 in free throw attempts and +6 in rebounds although they gave up 5 more offensive rebounds then they got. LIU committed 25 turnovers which was way too many once again. The biggest culprit was Jason Brickman who committed seven turnovers with Olasewere and Garner committing four turnovers each themselves. Monmouth who are among the NEC leaders in steals, got 14 steals in the game.
Jamal Olasewere finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds and did it in just nine shot attempts as he went 9 of 10 from the foul line. It is his ninth 20+ point performance of the season. C.J. Garner scored 20 points on 14 shots and also grabbed six rebounds and got four steals. E.J. Reed had a very good game off the bench with 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 23 minutes and was causing some havoc on the defensive end, making shot attempts difficult inside on some Monmouth players. Jason Brickman didn’t have his best night with the turnovers but still got nine assists including a couple of his usual gems. Also, Troy Joseph has a solid game off the bench and you can see his confidence growing game by game. He finished with seven points, six rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes. He has been solid on both ends. It is good to see him finally earning the playing time.
Ed Waite was a pain in the side for LIU. He finished with a career-high 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting. Stephen Spinella scored 13. Jesse Steele was held scoreless in the second half and finished with eight points on 4 of 14 shooting including getting shutout from three (0-6).
Thursday night was a very good night for LIU Brooklyn. Not only did they get an important road win but get a lot of help in their efforts in making up ground in the NEC standings in what was a wild Thursday night in the NEC. First-place Bryant lost by 14 at Mount St. Mary’s on 44 points from the Mount’s Sam Prescott as he hit 10 of 14 threes. Second-place Robert Morris lost at Quinnipiac by 2. LIU Brooklyn is now record-wise, tied with RMU for second at 9-4 although RMU holds the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head win. They are now .5 game back of Bryant who is now 9-3 and LIU holds the tiebreaker against them. Also to note, Wagner won big vs CCSU even though CCSU’s Kyle Vinales dropped 42 points on the Seahawks but then they dropped 101 points on CCSU. Sacred Heart were upset at home to St. Francis University. SHU didn’t have their point guard Phil Gaetano who was out with the flu.
LIU now looks ahead to taking on Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday afternoon back at the Wellness Center. FDU lost again Thursday to St. Francis Brooklyn and at 2-11 in the NEC, sit in last place. Yet, they nearly beat LIU in their last meeting and that now sits at the top of Jack Perri’s mind. “We were very, very fortunate to win that game. They have some talent. Our guys mindset is that we want to keep going, we want to keep rolling here a little bit but it is not going to be easy because they have some talented pieces that give us some problems with some match-ups.” As it always is, the game that look the easiest are sometimes the hardest ones to win and that will be no different come Saturday.