LIU Brooklyn knew what was at stake going into the final four games of the season. Win out and they were guaranteed at least a 2-seed. Lose at any point and the Blackbirds begin playing seeding-russian roulette. Now, LIU has put themselves in deep water in keeping a top 4 seed with a 83-71 loss against Mount St. Mary at Knott Arena on Thursday night.
The loss drops the Blackbirds to third place in the NEC standings after Robert Morris and Bryant as expected got big home wins.
A bad sign for the Blackbirds was that they shot nearly 59% from the field and held MSM to only 37% in the first half and they could only manage to be up four points at the half. The Mount is a team who isn’t shy about launching threes and in the first half, they went 5 of 10 from deep to keep them within striking distance. LIU also committed nine first half turnovers, four of them committed by point guard Jason Brickman.
The Mount hung around with the LIU, never letting them get beyond a four-point lead. Then with the score tied at 53, Jamal Olasewere, who had doing a terrific job of staying out of foul trouble for this 10 wins in 11-games run, got hit with his fourth personal foul with 10:52 to go. As if on cue, MSM went to work from outside. Rashad Whack for MSM hit two consecutive threes and then later Julian Norfleet hit a triple to give MSM a nine-point lead. From there, the Mountaineers never looked back. It would end up being a 17-4 run that ultimately put LIU away. The Mount sealed it at the foul line going a near-perfect 20 of 21 from the charity stripe. A Shivaughn Wiggins’ missed free throw with :32 left on their last free throw of the game ruined what would have been a perfect night from the foul line.
After the game, according to a tweet by Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets who was at the game, LIU’s head coach Jack Perri told him that this was “the most disappointed he’s been in his team’s effort during a game.” LIU totally lost their edge on that 17-4 run and let open shooters get free and didn’t do much to prevent them from getting continuous open three-point looks.
The Mount finished 11 of 25 shooting from behind the arc. The Blackbirds were only 3 of 10 and 0 for 5 shooting threes in the second half. The Mount shot 42% overall while giving up 50% shooting to LIU. On most nights, you would take that but not on a night you let the opposition shot 44% from three. LIU was out-rebounded by 3 in the rebounding margin which the Blackbirds have been doing a great job of winning for most of this conference season.
LIU wasted a career-night from freshman E.J. Reed who was fantastic for LIU. He was 10 for 12 from the field including 2 for 3 from downtown to finish with 25 points and 9 rebounds in a career-high 33 minutes. His best shot of the night was a second half step back jumper which he just had his foot on the thrre-point line that was nothing but net. He came to play. Senior Jamal Olasewere, who I excepted to have a monster game, was kept in check thanks to foul trouble and MSM defense. Olasewere only played 20 minutes thanks to his foul trouble and finished with 9 points and 5 rebounds. The nine points snapped a 17-game streak in which he scored in double-digits.
C.J. Garner did his best to help out Reed. He finished with 20 points on 15 shots. Jason Brickman didn’t have a good night. He scored 11 points but he took 11 shots. He turned the ball over six times while dishing out just six assists. He seemed to be bothered by the Mount Mayhem pressure and was making some ill-advised passes going for MSM turnovers. He also seemed to be a little out of control at times which not like Brickman at all. He had trouble making the right reads and right decisions. Credit that the MSM head coach Jamion Christian and his game plan and of course to Mount Mayhem.
Brandon Thompson only took two shots in a game with just one of them being a three. He was shutout in this one. He now has scored just 20 points over the last four games. He is got to pick it up. Troy Joseph was only able to get one shot off in 21 minutes although he did grab five rebounds. Kenny Onyechi only played five minutes and collected three fouls. He is definitely not playing nowhere near 100 percent.
I asked Jack Perri after the win against FDU if he was getting concerned about his team’s free throw shooting. He said no. Yet, against the Mount, LIU was 14 of 24 from the foul line for 58%. It is now their second straight game where LIU has failed to hit more than 60% of their free throws. It is got to be a growing concern now for Perri.
The loss coupled with a heartbreaking one-point loss by Wagner at St. Francis Brooklyn, now set up a monumentally huge game on Sunday on ESPNU. It is now pretty much a must-win game for both teams. Wagner fell out of the top four to fifth in the NEC with the loss coupled with a Quinnipiac win at Sacred Heart on Thursday night.
The loss on Thursday pretty much killed almost all hopes of LIU winning their third straight NEC regular season championship thus not getting the 1-seed and at least an automatic postseason bid to the NIT. LIU at this point, can now only hope for getting at best, a 2-seed but now they need Bryant to lose at least one of their last four games and for LIU to win out the last three. Bryant takes on a red-hot Quinnipiac team at home on Saturday.
This was LIU’s first road loss since losing to Quinnipiac back on January 5th which was the second game of the two-game suspension for Olasewere, Garner and Joseph.
LIU will need to pick themselves up in a hurry. They are heading towards hostile territory once again at Wagner’s Spiro Sports Center with what will no doubt be a sell-out and incredibly loud and intense atmosphere. If you were at that game last year at Wagner, you understand what I’m talking about. LIU with a loss Sunday could see all the hard work they did to get back into the NEC race and get at least a top four seed go for not if things don’t fall their way. The Blackbirds will need to bring their biggest and best effort of the season if they have any plans getting a win out in Staten Island Sunday night. LIU can ill-afford to lose any more ground in the standings with only three games left to their regular season.
Extra: As I mentioned before, Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets was at the game and he wrote this game recap with a few interesting quotes for Jack Perri after the game.