It was one of the major milestones coming into the season, we were looking forward to seeing. On Thursday night, the first one finally happened.
LIU Brooklyn’s Jason Brickman, in his 110th game of his college career, broke an NEC career assist record that stood tall for 25 years. With his third assist of the game to Troy Joseph at the 13:39 mark of the second half, Jason Brickman became the new NEC career assist king with his 805th career assist, passing the 804 career assists of Marist’s guard Drafton Davis, who finished his career back in 1988.
Ironically, on the night Brickman breaks the NEC career assist record, he also goes for a career-high 21 points to go with his six assists and LIU needed every single point as the Blackbirds held off a hard-charging NJIT team who nearly erased a 17-point deficit with 8:11 left to play and got within a point with five seconds left to beat the Highlanders in a high scoring shootout, 96-93. LIU’s 96 points was easily the highest offensive scoring output of the season surpassing the 87 points they scored in the season opener against Saint Peter’s.
Oddly, this game really felt like there was several games within the same game. As the Brickman watch was taking effect, the LIU Brooklyn offense was running on all cylinders in the first half like LIU fans have been accustomed to seeing. Strangely enough, LIU put up 42 first half points with Jason Brickman just dishing out just one assist. “It took a while for Brick to get it.” said LIU head coach Perri after the game. “Our guys didn’t have their feet ready early in the game. It was kind of funny.” Gilbert Parga, in his second game back from his lacerated elbow injury, has his best half as a Blackbird with 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting in 14 minutes off the bench.
Unfortunately for Parga and the Blackbirds, Parga injured his right ankle on a drive to the basket in which he was fouled. He immediately went down and grabbed at his ankle. He missed his second free throw and had to stayed in the game and was badly limping during NJIT’s final possession of the first half. He tested it out right before the start of the second half but couldn’t go. He sat on the bench with ice wrapped around his ankle the entire second half. His immediate status was unknown after the game. LIU will likely have to wait to after the swelling goes down to see how badly he is injured and see how much more playing time he could miss. Hopefully it is not too serious and won’t have to miss too much time.
As the second half commenced, the focus returned to Brickman and his quest to break the NEC record. Finally at the 15:18 mark, on a pass to Iverson Fleming for three, Brickman tied the NEC record.
Then two minutes later, Brickman found Troy Joseph who finished a layup and with that a new NEC career assist king was crowned.
With the pressure of the NEC record off him, Brickman went to work offensively. He scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half and drained 6 of his 8 shots including a career-high 5 three-pointers.
After a Landon Atterberry layup with 8:11 left to go, the score was 67-50 LIU, and it looked like LIU would cruise to its first road victory of the season. But NJIT had other things in mind.
NJIT would go on a 19-5 run to get within five at 74-69 with 2:51 remaining. Then came the coming out party of freshman Iverson Fleming.
Fleming would scored the next seven points on LIU next three possessions to extend the lead back to ten. But then Landon Atterberry gets hit was a technical foul, the Blackbirds second technical in as many games and this one nearly cost LIU the game. “Probably the biggest play of the game, in a bad way, was Landon getting that technical foul.” said Perri of the Atterberry technical. “Keep your poise, you know, we talk about that all the time. There is a certain trust factor that he’s got to learn. I’m glad that he can hopefully learn from it with a win instead of it coming back to bite us.”
NJIT’s star of the game, sophomore Winfield Willis, who scored a career-high 30 points, hit the two technical free throws and then buried a three on the ensuing possession and NJIT was quickly back within five just nine seconds later. Fleming would respond with layup. NJIT responded. Martin hits a pair of free throws. NJIT responds with a three. Fleming responds with another layup. Willis hits a three for NJIT. Up and down, back and forth it went for the wild last minute of the game.
LIU’s E.J. Reed then fouls Willis as he takes a three and Willis sinks all three free throws and now NJIT is within two at 93-91 with :12 left. Reed gets sent to the free throw line and he goes one for two. NJIT hits a layup at the other end and are now within one, 94-93 with :05 left. Iverson Fleming gets fouled and the freshman calmly sinks both clutch free throws and an NJIT heave from half court goes wide left and the Blackbirds literally escape with a victory.
In total, NJIT scored 61 points in the second half and 43 of those points came in the final 8:11 of the game. NJIT made 15 of their last 19 field goal attempts. Conversely, LIU made 11 of their final 12 free throw attempts to stave off a major collapse. Talk about the ultimate heartbreak if LIU Brooklyn didn’t pull this one out.
“Our focus was on (Damon) Lynn more than anything else.” said Perri regarding defending NJIT and their second-half comeback. “He was coming in averaging close to 20 a game and we did a really good job on Lynn (9 points on 3-12 FGs). For the most part, what we’ve been defensively, I thought our defense was decent in the first half and even in the first ten minutes of the second half, it was solid. I had to overload minutes with guys (in the second half) because Parga was out and I had six or seven guys and that was it. So I think fatigue played a little bit of a factor on the defensive end. It is something we can learn from. We have to try and get better defensively because right now, it is not cutting it.”
Fleming finished with a new career-high 22 points on 8 of 11 shooting and he did in just 19 minutes to lead the Blackbirds. He had just 3 points in 3 minutes at the half. He stepped up big-time and picked up the slack with Parga out with the bad ankle. “Thank God for Iverson Fleming.” said Perri. “He was tremendous. He was confident. He attacked the basket. He hit threes. He got his feet set and he was ready. I was really happy for him because we need him to gain some confidence so I can go with another guy. He really works hard in practice, is a great teammate. He is always very energetic and enthusiastic in practice. He is a fun kid to root for.”
But the star of the night was Jason Brickman with his 21 points and six assists on his record-breaking and career-high scoring night. The quiet floor general of this LIU team for the last four years, just wanted to put this record behind him as quickly as possible. “I was trying to get the record early in the first half and just get it over with. They were giving me a lot of open shots and I started feeling it. I knocked down a few, it just feel great to get both of those in the same day.”
“He likes this gym as far as his shooting.” said Perri of Brickman’s career-high scoring game. “He was phenomenal. I always have confidence in him to shoot the ball. I want him to shoot the ball more. He always got such a such a great floor game. He kept his poise, he kept playing and he found his shots that he could make. He is a superstar.”
What a wild game this was. Both teams shot over 50% from the field. Both made eleven threes. Both were at least 70% from the free throw line. LIU for the second consecutive game won the battle of the boards, out-rebounding NJIT, 36-24. LIU scored a season-high 1.31 points per possession (73 possessions) but gave up 1.2 ppp on defense.
Along with Fleming and Brickman’s career-high games and Parga’s 14 first-half points, E.J. Reed had 12 points, Landon Atterberry and Gerrell Martin had 10 points each. Along with Willis’ career-high 30 points, NJIT’s Ky Howard scored 17 points and Terrence Smith had 14 for the now 6-6 Highlanders.
With this win, it puts an end to LIU’s six-game winless streak away from Brooklyn this season and they improve to a record of 3-6. Now LIU returns back to Brooklyn to play a pair of home games split between the Steinberg Wellness Center and the Barclays Center. Lamar comes in next Wednesday for a 7pm game at the SWC.
Congratulations to Jason Brickman on his NEC career assist record. It would be hard to imagine that we will see a point guard like him at LIU Brooklyn or in the entire NEC for a very long, long time. Now the countdown to 1,000 assists begins.