For three straight seasons, LIU Brooklyn has made the NCAA Tournament as the winners of the NEC Tournament. For the third straight season, LIU bows out of the NCAAs after only one game as James Madison played their game plan to near perfection and knocked LIU out of the NCAA Tournament in their first four matchup in Dayton, Ohio, winning 68-55.
Give James Madison all the credit, from the opening tip they controlled the tempo of this game. They also started the game off red hot shooting, getting off to a 10-2 start and getting up 20-8 before the under 12 media timeout in the first half. LIU’s backcourt had trouble getting the offense going for most of the first half. JMU size advantage at the guard position slowed down the LIU attack as Brickman and Garner just couldn’t get to the rim or open from the outside. “I was a little concerned with them going small to start the game.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri after the loss. “I didn’t like our matchups to start the game because (Rayshawn) Goins couldn’t play. I actually thought it would have helped us if he did play.”
Jamal Olasewere picked up an foolish first foul in the LIU backcourt pushing off a JMU guard. He picked up another offensive foul with 6 minutes and change to go in half and had to sit. With LIU down 12, Perri decided to roll the dice and put Olasewere back in with two fouls. The dice rolled snake eyes as Olasewere picked up his third personal with 2:24 to go in the half as LIU was in a middle of a run to close the half. LIU kept the run going with Olasewere on the bench and it was lead by Jason Brickman and C.J. Garner.
Garner, who looked to have really twisted his ankle pretty good early in the first half but showed his toughness and stayed in the game, hit a couple of jumpers. Brickman hit a three. Brickman then found Troy Joseph for a three. Brickman then hit another three. Brickman then found E.J. Reed for a short jumper and all of sudden LIU was down just one. Garner then gets a steal with the half about to end and oddly it seems like he looked for the clock at the other end of the court rather than look at the clock above the basket he was shooting at and left fly a three which he hit but it was just a fraction of a second too late. LIU would stay down by one at the half.
Garner after the game though admitted the ankle bothered him the rest of the game. “I probably sprained my ankle after I scored my first basket. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to go back out there but of course I did. I got it wrapped up. It was bothering me. I couldn’t plant my foot the same way as I would normally and I wasn’t able to be as explosive. It’s no excuse. It is what it is and injures happens.”
The Blackbirds would get off to a nice start in the second half. Led by both Olasewere and Garner, LIU would get their first lead of the game at 40-39 with 15:02 to go after to E.J. Reed free throws. Unfortunately, this is where the game changed for James Madison as they went on a 9-0 to regain the lead and control of the game from there on out. LIU couldn’t get any closer than three the rest of the game and JMU closed the game on a 14-4 run to win going away by 13.
“It took us a while to get really going, most of the (first) half.” said Perri. “Two bigs things that happened. C.J. hurts his ankle and he wasn’t the same after that, he sprained it pretty bad and Jamal picks up his third foul so again he couldn’t be himself and play with the same aggressiveness that he’s used to playing.” Perri also credit JMU defense bothering LIU and not allowing the Blackbirds to get the offensive game going. “They bothered our shots around the rim. Plain and simple. Ten blocks shots, that was something that we weren’t necessarily thinking was going to happen but their guards did a good job, they have great length. Not the outcome we were looking for.”
“This sucks.” said Olasewere after his final LIU game. “I feel like we fought hard. Tonight they were the better team I guess.”
LIU played a lot of 2-3 zone in this game as they tried to capture the success that it had against Mount St. Mary’s in the NEC Championship Game but JMU just played under control and patient for the whole game and worked to get good shots both inside and outside. By the time LIU went back to man-to-man the game was already decided.
This game came down to JMU taking advantage of their backcourt size and length against a smaller LIU team. JMU’s Rayshawn Goins wasn’t really much of an offensive factor in the 13 second half minutes he played although he did grab eight rebounds, five of them offensive. The player who really hurt LIU was guard Andre Nation. He was great. He finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and had 5 blocks for JMU. He had 3 or 4 big blocks on C.J. Garner as the Dukes were making their late run to seal this game. A.J Davis finished with 20 points to lead JMU. He was 7 for 15 and 4 for 10 from three. JMU advances to take on #1 seed Indiana on Friday afternoon.
Jamal Olasewere in his final game for the Blackbirds finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the year. He ends his LIU career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1871 points. That is the mark Julian Boyd will be chasing next season. C.J. Garner ends his LIU career with 16 points. He went out on a pretty high note even with the ankle injury. Jason Brickman scored six points, all in that late first half run by LIU on his two three-pointers. He had nine assists and three turnovers. Freshman E.J. Reed in his first NCAA tournament game scored eight off the bench but was 3 for 10 shooting. Brandon Thompson, Kenny Onyechi and Booker Hucks all end their college careers on a low note going scoreless.
For the game, LIU was held to 35% shooting from the field was only 3 of 16 from three. They were held to 0.85 points per possession in 65 possessions. LIU gave up 1.1 ppp in 62 possessions for James Madison. JMU shot 46% from the field and 8 of 23 from three.
LIU Brooklyn ends their season at 20-14. It was a disappointing ending but nonetheless this was a great season for LIU Brooklyn basketball considering they started the year 0-4 and then were 5-10 at one time. This team started the NEC season at 0-3 and rebounded to finished tied for second and finishing in the three seed and getting a road win in the NEC Tournament to eventually win their third straight NEC title at home. This team survived player suspensions, the season-ending injury to 2012 NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd, multiple major losing streaks to get back to the NCAAs for the third straight year which had never been done before in the NEC.
The Blackbirds have a lot to be proud of. It would have been awesome if this great LIU senior class, the winningest senior class since they joined the NEC, got to end their career with an NCAA tournament win under their belt but it wasn’t meant to be. The five departing seniors should hold their head high and be proud of the accomplishments they made in their careers here. Who knows if we will see a run like this again?
LIU head coach Jack Perri and his coaching staff does return Jason Brickman and hopefully Julian Boyd as he will apply for his sixth-year of eligibility which looks very positive he will receive. There will be new roles for guys like E.J. Reed, Gerrell Martin and Troy Joseph going into next season as two and maybe even all three move into the starting lineup next season. LIU looks like they have another good one coming in next season in big man Nura Zanna from Florida as well as Jahmal Lane from St. Benedict’s Prep in Jersey. They also have three-point specialist Gilbert Parga eligible next season. They will still need to bring in a couple of more guys in the April signing period but LIU still has pieces to make a realistic run at a unprecedented four-peat next season. We will see next season if LIU can still employ this run and gun style that has won them three straight NEC championships or they will need to adjust the style of play to fit the roster they are going to have next season. Time will tell. For now, let’s congratulate LIU Brooklyn on another successful 20-win season, a historic third NEC Championship and a another NCAA tournament berth.
Thank you seniors. You’ll always be remembered by Blackbird Nation. I will make sure of it.