2012-13 LIU Brooklyn MBB Season Rewind

An intense roller coaster ride. There is no other better way to describe the season the LIU Brooklyn Brooklyn Blackbirds had in 2012-13. One that ended in historic fashion as the Blackbirds became the first ever Northeast Conference team to win back-to-back-to-back NEC Tournament championships and make a third straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The way that LIU got to that point was by no means a picnic. Of the three championship seasons, this one definitely had its biggest share of crazy events happen which only added to the drama as the season unfolded yet help make the season one of the sweetest for Blackbirds fans.

It all started back in April when Jim Ferry on April 10th announced that he was leaving LIU Brooklyn after ten seasons as head coach and after guiding the Blackbirds to two straight NEC championships to take over as head coach at Duquesne University. After the announcement was made, LIU Brooklyn Athletic Director John Suarez immediately promoted associate head coach Jack Perri, who had been with the program for the past seven years, to become LIU’s 13th men’s basketball head coach.

In May, one of LIU’s highly-touted recruits, 6’7″ forward Taurean Waller-Prince asks and receives his release from his National Letter of Intent to play for LIU Brooklyn after learning of the head coaching change. Waller-Prince would end up playing back in home state of Texas for Baylor.

During the summer and right up until the start of the 2012-13 school year, Perri and his staff went to work completing out the roster. In the summer, sophomore forward Khalil Murphy transferred in from University of San Francisco and applied to receive a hardship waiver to play immediately this season instead of having to sit the mandatory transfer year. Freshman guard Kedar Edwards signed on and was waiting to hear from the NCAA if he would be eligible to play for LIU this season. Junior guard/forward Gilbert Parga transferred in from Iona College by way of Citrus College, a junior college in California. We would later find out that Parga would not be eligible to play this season due to having enrolled in summer classes at Iona before he changed his mind to play for LIU Brooklyn.

In late September, the first bit of adversity hit this team when four players where arrested for third-degree assault stemming from a fight which occurred at a back-to-school on-campus party. The four players, Troy Joseph, C.J. Garner, Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd, were all indefinitely suspended from the school after the arrest. It would be three weeks later before they would all be reinstated back to the school and all four were allowed to play but they were have to each serve a two-game suspension during the first two conference games of the season.

On October 15, LIU learned that the NCAA had granted Murphy his waiver request to play right away in 2012-13. Edwards shortly after LIU’s opening game of the season was notified he would be ineligible to play this season by the NCAA due to the status of his high school.

LIU Brooklyn would begin their season on November 9th and play in the first-ever college basketball game at the brand new Barclays Center, four blocks away from campus. LIU would trail for most of the second half and would be down by as much as 11 with 2:49 to go before mounting a late charge to get within one with six seconds left only to fall 77-74 and lose in their Barclays Center and season debut.

They would then go on a three-game road trip which began at Lafayette for the first of the two meetings this season. C.J. Garner would send this high-scoring affair into overtime with a layup with :16 remaining but LIU never have the lead in the extra period and fell to 0-2 with a 98-94 loss. They then took on the two BCS heavy-hitters in Maryland and the defending national champs Kentucky Wildcats. LIU hung around against both the powerhouses for the first half before going down big in the second halves of these games. They would lose to Maryland by 17 and Kentucky by 29. In the midst of the these losses, 2012 NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd was dealing with cramping issues which caused him to sit out the end of the first two losses of the season. The Blackbirds would start the season 0-4.

LIU would return back to the Wellness Center for a three-game homestand. The Blackbirds entered the season with a 27-game winning streak at the WRAC stemming from the 2010-11 season. First up was Columbia, a team which they probably suffer their worst non-conference loss of the season prior. LIU, behind 19 points from Boyd and 16 each from Olasewere and Jason Brickman, got their first win of the season winning 70-61. They would then get a measure of revenge against Lafayette in their second meeting of the season, beating them 71-60.

LIU would next take on Hofstra and after LIU had a three-point halftime lead, Hofstra would go on a huge run to start the second half and would get up by as much as 16 points. LIU would charge back behind Julian Boyd. He would complete a one-handed dunk off an out-of-bounds pass from Brickman and would get fouled to give LIU the lead temporarily. It would be a Booker Hucks three from the top of the key with 40 seconds to go which proved to be the game-winning shot and LIU would defeat Hofstra 88-84. Boyd would have 20 points in the game. Unknowing to all in the building that night, it would be Boyd’s last game at the WRAC for the season.

LIU would next travel down to Texas for the first of two Texas visits to take on Rice. In the second half of the LIU 97-70 win, Julian Boyd would chase after a loose ball near midcourt and get tangled up with a Rice player. He immediately grabbed for his knee. He wouldn’t return to the game. A few days later, it was announced that Boyd had torn his ACL and meniscus in that knee and would be gone for the remainder of the season. The one break LIU got was that it happened in the team’s eighth game so Boyd had yet to play in 30% of the team’s games which is the NCAA’s threshold for applying for a medical redshirt. This means that Boyd could return to play for LIU next season which would be his sixth season of eligibility.

LIU returned back to Brooklyn to play Manhattan at the WRAC and the Blackbirds fed off the emotion of losing their best player and blew out the Jaspers, 75-48 for their fifth straight win and keeping their Wellness Center winning streak alive at 31 in a row.

Then reality set in and the bad losses showed up. LIU would go to Jersey City and lose to a bad St. Peter’s team by 13, 80-67. They would get manhandled by a not so good Seton Hall team at the Barclays Center and lose 89-58. Then they would go back to Texas to face a really bad Lamar team who 1-10 at the time LIU faced them. LIU would lose on a Lamar layup with :16 remaining and lose to the worst team on their schedule, 81-80 in their final non-conference game of the season.

2013 would arrive and NEC play would begin. The Blackbirds would take to the road for the first two games, at Sacred Heart and at Quinnipiac. LIU wouldn’t have Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner or Troy Joseph available as they began serving their two-game suspensions. LIU would hang in both games but they would lose to Sacred Heart 77-73 and to Quinnipiac 82-74.

The suspended player would return for their first home game of the NEC season against Wagner. Wagner shot the lights out from three, going 9 of 10, and shoot nearly 60% from the field to break LIU’s winning streak at the Wellness Center at 31 in a row. It would put the Blackbirds in a 0-3 hole to start the NEC season and bring their second losing streak of the season to six games. The 2012-13 season was beginning to look bleak and the hopes of an NEC three-peat were just about died.

With their back against the wall to their season, LIU headed back to the Barclays Center looking for some firsts. Their first win in that building and their first NEC win of the season. They ended up getting them both with a 86-72 win against Mount St. Mary’s. LIU would then head to Fairleigh Dickinson and LIU looked to be heading to 1-4 in conference play as they were down 5 with :32 to go. A couple of big makes and poor FDU free throw shooting down the stretch gave LIU a chance to tie with :05 remaining. After an FDU timeout, C.J. Garner got the ball and raced up the floor and found an open Brandon Thompson on the left side behind the three point line. Thompson with a defender bearing down on him knocked down the three at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. LIU would score the last four points of overtime to win 79-75 and get a much-needed win on the road.

They would defeated Monmouth in their next game at home by ten before heading to the Pope Center to take on St. Francis Brooklyn for the annual Battle of Brooklyn game. It was an amazing tale of two halves. SFC dominated play in the first half, holding LIU to 21 points and 25% shooting. In the second half, LIU blew the doors off SFC and scored 57 points in the half and shot 75% from the floor to beat the Terriers 78-68.

Their next game would be at Bryant, who at the time was in first-place in the NEC. It was “White Out” day at Bryant and they got a capacity crowd at their gym, the Chace Athletic Center. It was a back and forth first half before Bryant went on a big run and got to as much as a 13 point lead. LIU would trim the deficit to seven by halftime. LIU would start the second half hot to take a four point lead. Again, it would be a back and forth affair until LIU went on a run to take a five-point lead with 2:17 left. Bryant would again come back and with one second remaining and Bryant down three, Bryant’s Alex Francis would get a layup to go plus get fouled. With a chance to send the game to overtime, Francis misses the free throw and LIU would leave Bryant with a big 79-78 win to get themselves back in the race for the #1 seed, in one of the best NEC games of the season. The Blackbirds would make it six wins in a row after a 82-62 win at the WRAC versus St. Francis (PA).

Robert Morris would come into the WRAC next for a nationally-televised afternoon game. It was another RMU-LIU classic. Back and forth and tight for most of the game. RMU would get up eight in the second half only to have LIU comeback and take the lead. Late in the game, RMU’s Russell Johnson would miss a jumper but LIU couldn’t get grab the rebound and it would go out of bounds and keep possession to RMU. On the next in-bounds, RMU’s Velton Jones would get the ball and hit a floater over Jamal Olasewere which would be the game winning shot and LIU would lose 60-57 and drop their only meeting against their biggest conference rival.

After the RMU loss, LIU would win the next four games, beating CCSU 81-75 on the road, taking the second meeting against St. Francis Brooklyn 83-75 in their final game of the season at the Barclays Center, winning at Monmouth 80-66 in their final ever meeting as NEC foes, and easily disposing of Fairleigh Dickinson at home 92-67.

LIU’s final road trip would prove to be difficult. LIU would take on a hard-charging Mount St. Mary’s team who were dominating at home and the Mount beat LIU 83-71 to split the season series. LIU then went to Staten Island to take on Wagner at a sold-out Spiro Sports Center for a ESPNU nationally-televised game in primetime, up against the Academy Awards. It was another candidate for best NEC game of the season. LIU would give up a seven-point lead and Wagner would eventually get up by ten with 2:06 remaining. LIU would hit four three-pointers over the next 1:53 to tie the game at 92. On Wagner last possession, Wagner’s Latif Rivers would take a off-balance shot that would hit the rim, sail above the height of the backboard and fall into the hands of Kenneth Ortiz who laid it back up and in with under a second remaining to give Wagner a 94-92 win and ruined all hopes for LIU to get a #1 seed for the NEC tournament. LIU now needed to win their final two games at home to insure a top four seed for the NEC tournament and at least one home game.

LIU got exactly what they needed but had to work hard to get it done. LIU had to play a desperate Sacred Heart team who also needed a win to get themselves into the NEC tournament. LIU would win in a tight one, 70-68. Then on Senior Day, LIU would come back from 11 points down early in the second half led by their two seniors Jamal Olasewere and C.J. Garner with 33 and 30 points respectively to beat Quinnipiac 96-90 and insure at least a #3 seed in the upcoming NEC tournament. LIU scored 62 second half points in that game.

On to the NEC tournament and LIU drew Quinnipiac who was the #6 seed in the quarterfinals. Once again, Quinnipiac got in front. This time Quinnipiac had a nine-point lead with 7:57 to go. But again, LIU under the wings of C.J. Garner and his 30 points, came back and defeated Quinnipiac in their final ever NEC meeting 91-83 to advance to play #2 seed Wagner in the NEC semifinals. LIU in the first NEC tournament road game in the last three tournament, came out of the gate blazing and had a 20-point halftime lead at Wagner. Wagner would try to get back in it using a full court press and we able to get within 11 but LIU had enough answers on the offensive end to beat Wagner 94-82 to advance to the NEC Championship game for the third year in a row. In a surprise twist, in the other NEC semifinal game, #5 seed Mount St. Mary’s upset #1 seed Robert Morris on the road, meaning LIU would host the NEC final at the Wellness Center for the third straight season.

In the NEC Championship Game, the Mount would get off to a hot shooting start and take a 20-12 first half lead before LIU began storming back. It would go back and forth until LIU would score the last four points of the half to take a 35-31 lead at the break. LIU would score the first seven points of the second half and utilizing an effective 2-3 zone on defense, LIU would pull away and win rather easily 91-70 to win their third consecutive NEC tournament championship and becoming the first NEC team ever to accomplish the feat.

On Selection Sunday, LIU drew a #16 seed and would have to play in a play-in game against fellow #16 seed James Madison of the CAA in Dayton, Ohio to get into the field of 64. The winner would next play #1 seed Indiana in the round of 64.

The Blackbirds got off to a cold start, trailing 10-2 at the first media timeout. JMU were hot from three and were up 20-8 with 11:12 to go in the first half. JMU were comfortable ahead for most of the first half before LIU finally went on a 13-2 run to close the half and get within a point of JMU at the half. JMU would again extend the lead to start the second half but again LIU would comeback and eventually take their only lead of the game at 40-39 with 15:02 remaining after a pair of E.J. Reed free throws. JMU would then go on a 9-0 run and take the lead and control of the game back. LIU wouldn’t get any closer than five the rest of the way and they would fall to JMU, 68-55, to close their amazing season.

Jamal Olasewere finished his LIU career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1871 career points and he grabbed 963 career rebounds to finish fourth on LIU’s all-time rebounding list. Also his 130 career games is an LIU Brooklyn record. C.J. Garner finished his three-year LIU career with 1256 points which placed him 20th on LIU’s all-time scoring list.  Jason Brickman with his 290 assists this season broke the record he created last season of 249 and he is now LIU’s all-time assist leader with 719 assists. He now holds the NEC assist record in a season for freshman, sophomore and junior year players. He finished the season as the NCAA assist leader with his 8.5 assists per game. He is now 86 assists shy of becoming the NEC all-time assist leader going into next season. Head coach Jack Perri is one of the ten finalist for the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year Award which goes to the top first-year coach in NCAA Division I college basketball.

LIU Brooklyn would finish the season 20-14. It is the third year in a row, LIU finished the season with at least 20 wins. It is the first time it has been done since they last did it back in 1981 to 1984. They ended up finishing tied for second place in the NEC standing at 12-6 with Bryant and Wagner and ended up with the #3 seed after an 0-3 start in conference play. This team was once 0-4 and 5-10 at points of their season and made a remarkable turnaround after many thought the season would be lost and history wouldn’t be made. Not only did the Blackbirds make history but they now have a chance to continue making more next season as they go for their fourth-straight NEC championship.

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