Things are starting to get very dire for LIU Brooklyn as the injuries continue to mount and mount and mount. With no Gerrell Martin who suffered a sprained ankle apparently in the very first minute against St. Francis Brooklyn Thursday night and later on, losing an almost indispensable E.J. Reed for the second half of this game with a concussion, and with the laundry list of guys already out, LIU broke down in the second half to a very talented Wagner team as they fall 84-70 at the Spiro Sports Center in Staten Island.
The loss puts LIU back in a familiar 0-2 hole in the NEC which was the same hole they had last season before climbing out of it to eventually win the NEC tournament. This season though, the hole is feeling more like quicksand as the Blackbirds continue to get hit with the injury bug at almost an unprecedented pace. “I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years of coaching with all the injuries that we’ve had since day one.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri after the loss. “It’s been frustrating. For me, I’m trying to obviously get these guys to keep this mindset that we are trying to get better.”
Without Martin to start the game, Perri gave the starting nod to Gilbert Parga. For a half, LIU looked like the competitive team we were all hoping this year’s team would be. They played feisty and gritty basketball for a half. With just three true forwards coming into the game, LIU knows that going up against teams in the NEC who have depth in the front court and can come at you in waves are going to be a challenge for the them from here on out.
LIU played a good first half only being down 38-36 at the break. But around 2:30 before the end of the half, junior forward E.J. Reed got hit in the head somehow and looked dazed as he went to the bench to get checked out. The training staff immediately ruled Reed unavailable for the second half with a concussion. Ironically, in a first half where he was playing solidly with 7 points and 5 rebounds and committing just one personal foul, he gets knocked out of the game.
What made the Reed concussion even worst, at the time it happened, his front court mates Landon Atterberry (2 personals fouls) and Glenn Feidanga (3 personal fouls) were already sitting on the bench with foul trouble.
LIU with now just two front court players for the game were just trying to hold off a bigger, athletic Wagner team for as long as they could. They hung in for the first seven minutes of the second half. Then Wagner put it in overdrive on both ends of the floor. With the score tied at 48, the Seahawks in the next 3 minutes, would go on a 9-0 run to take the lead for good and when the dust was finally gone, Wagner had gone on a 21-4 run to go up 69-52 that put LIU away.
The exclamation point being a Jason Brickman turnover which turned into a long outlet pass to Latif River who throw the ball off the backboard and teammate Dwaun Anderson jumped over his own teammate in Marcus Burton and throw down a thunderous jam that nearly blew the roof off the Spiro Sports Center.
“We had no bodies.” said a confounded Perri. “We were down to six or seven scholarship bodies. We just got fatigued.”
Wagner were led by a career-high tying 19 points from Mario Moody along with 10 rebounds. Marcus Burton scored 17 points off the bench. Dwaun Anderson finished with a career-high tying 12 points. Wagner shot 46% on LIU and scored 1.16 points per possession. Wagner with their 2-0 start in NEC play are currently tied with Robert Morris for first place after this opening weekend in the NEC. “That’s a good team obviously. They were picked preseason number one.” said Perri regarding Wagner.
Ok, here were the positives for LIU. D.J. Griggs stepped up in this game. He played probably his best game as a Blackbird. He nailed a couple of big threes in the first half and drove to hoop nicely. On one play, as he scored on a fast-break layup from a Jason Brickman pass, he nearly reminded me of C.J. Garner with his quickness and finish. He finished with a team-high tying 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting. “He stepped up. He had a look in his eyes.” said Perri of Griggs. “I was happy to see that early on. He wanted to play, he was out there, he was aggressive. He did a good job both offensively and defensively.”
Jason Brickman played a hard 35 minutes against the NEC’s two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Kenneth Ortiz. In the second half, he was forced to be more of a scorer with Reed and Martin out and Atterberry in foul trouble. He finished with 12 points and dished out 6 assists but had 6 turnovers as well.
Gilbert Parga shooting slump continues. He was just 1 for 10 from the floor. He finished with 10 points thanks to a perfect 8 for 8 from the free throw line. Parga has made just 2 of his last 21 shots over his last two games.
Troy Joseph just missed a double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Landon Atterberry played just 21 minutes and finished with 9 points and 7 rebounds. LIU shot 37% from the field and 8-23 from three. They scored just 0.98 points per possession. It was the ninth game this season, LIU scored below a point per possession.
With Martin out now for the next few games, with Reed possibly missing at least the next game with his concussion, with no Chris Carter, no Julian Boyd, no Nura Zanna. Things are starting to look bleak for LIU and Jack Perri knows it. “Guys have opportunities. Iverson Fleming, Joel Hernandez, D.J. Griggs are going to have to try and step up. We are going to be way under-sized now. I only have two forwards in the entire program, hopefully we can just try and keep getting better.”
It is hard to believe but next weekend has to be consider a must-win weekend for LIU Brooklyn as they return home to face FDU on Thursday and play an equally-depleted CCSU team on the road next Saturday. If LIU has any hope of even finishing .500 in the NEC this season, they are going to win both games next weekend or else it is not out of the question that LIU could be facing the notion of going from three-time defending NEC champions to completely missing the NEC tournament if they don’t put some wins on the board soon and have more players available to practice and play in games then watching them in sweatsuits holding crutches. These is as dire a time we have seen around LIU Basketball in quite a long time. Even more so than at time last season.