The buzz was in the air. The thrill of opening night in the Northeast Conference gave an electric feeling before tip-off inside a packed house with 1117 people at the Pope Physical Education Center on Thursday night. For one the majority of those fans who was there to root on St. Francis Brooklyn, it was a great night as the Terriers started NEC play with a convincing 78-64 win over LIU Brooklyn.
The night started in pre game with an empty basketball court with just one person on it shooting baskets. That one person was LIU’s Julian Boyd. This game was supposed to be the triumphant return of one of LIU’s all-time greats. Instead, Boyd who tore his ACL once again a couple of weeks ago and is lost for the season, had to sit and watch as St. Francis Brooklyn attacked the boards at both ends especially the offensive glass.
The Terriers grabbed an astonishing 20 offensive rebounds in the first half. They grabbed more offensive rebounds (20) than LIU Brooklyn had total rebounds (14) in that first half. St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Glenn Braica said in the postgame, “Jack (Perri) walked by me at halftime and said I never seen a stat like that and I didn’t know what he was talking about but we had 20 offensive rebounds at the half. I’ve never seen that either, I didn’t know if it was a mistake. That was one of our keys to the game, to go to the glass.”
Jalen Cannon was a force in this game for the Terriers as he had 17 first half points and 19 points total and 14 rebounds as he took advantage of an LIU team who has had a lot of rebounding issues this season. Cannon finished with his fifth double-double of the season.
Yet, Cannon was out-shined by two other teammates. Brent Jones and Ben Mockford returned to their familiar spots in the starting lineup for Glenn Braica’s squad and both perform at high levels. Jones wasn’t too far off from a triple-double with 8 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds and only one turnover. But Mockford was the star of the night.
Mockford started off slow and then it seemed like he couldn’t miss. In fact, in the second half, he didn’t. He was a perfect 6 for 6 shooting, all from three to finish with a new career-high 30 points on 11-18 field goal shooting and 8-14 from three.
The Blackbirds once again had to deal with front court foul issues as all three forwards, Landon Atterberry, E.J. Reed and Glenn Feidanga all finished the first half with two fouls each. Reed, in particular, played only 7 minutes in the first half after getting hit was a technical foul on a double-tech called on him and SFBK’s Kevin Douglas, which gave Reed his second personal foul and put him on the bench.
Even Jason Brickman wasn’t immune to the mental mistake in this game. A player who rarely fouls at all, for some reason, fouls Brent Jones at half court with 0.6 second remaining in the first half which gave the Terriers a double-digit lead going into the locker room after the made free throws.
Overall, it was a poor night for the Blackbirds. Other than Landon Atterberry’s 19 points on 8-12 shooting, no one else did anything of substance for LIU Brooklyn. Jason Brickman, even though he finished with 11 assists, didn’t have a good game by Brickman standards. He scored only 6 points was 3-10 from the field and was blocked a few times going for layup against a stingy St. Francis Brooklyn interior defense. Gerrell Martin finished with a quiet 18 points. Gilbert Parga was shut down by the Terriers defense as he wasn’t able to get going at all. He finished with just 3 points on 1-8 shooting in 19 minutes. E.J. Reed had 11 points but was 1-5 from the field, his points came at the free throw line where he went 9-12.
LIU Brooklyn lost the battle of the boards by 24 rebounds (SFBK: 52, LIU: 28) and were destroyed on the offensive glass 26 to 9. The Terriers ended the game taking 20 more shot attempts than LIU.
“I thought this was a very good win for us.” said Braica of his team outstanding performance. “It was good night for us. We got a chance to beat an arch-rival who is a very good team and to go 1-0 in the league.”
This wasn’t the way LIU wanted to start their NEC season and now they have a short turnaround to play another tough team in Wagner on Saturday on the road. Wagner easily dispose of Central Connecticut State 88-59 on the road Thursday night. “This wasn’t the start that we were looking for.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri after the game. “They missed some shots and we couldn’t get a rebound. That was the biggest key to the game. We did not do a good enough job in that category. That set the tone of the game. Disappointing. We lost our poise a little bit which is always something that you need, not only in the NEC but in the Battle of Brooklyn games, you got to keep your poise.”
Perri revealed in the postgame presser that he didn’t have a full team to practice with in preparation for this game as guys were banged up and couldn’t practice with various minor injuries. All of his non-injured scholarship players played on Thursday night.
If the Blackbirds don’t straighten out their issues on the glass and keeping their composure, they could quickly be facing a 0-2 hole come Saturday night as they head to Wagner. With four of their first five NEC games on the road, the Blackbirds have to try and steal a road win or two early if they plan on making an sort of noise later in the season. With 15 games left to go, LIU can’t wait too long to get things going or else they are going to try and climb a hole that could be impossible for this team this season to get themselves out of.