For LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball team, this was supposed to be a season where they were hoping to take the next step in turning the program around after missing the NEC Tournament last season. That step was to get back to the NEC Tournament this season while integrating many new faces into the program.
So far though, it has been another uphill battle for LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball head coach Gail Striegler as LIU finished the non-conference season 2-9 and have started the NEC season 1-3 after a 1-1 week in the conference play with a 69-48 setback at the Barclays Center to rival St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon before getting their first NEC win of the season Monday night with a 60-51 victory over Central Connecticut State at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
Overall, the offense once again this season is struggling. Quite frankly, this is a poor shooting team. The Blackbirds are dead last in the NEC in scoring offense and are also have the worst shooting percentage in the NEC shooting just 32.2% from the field. With a three-point shooting percentage of 18.2%, that percentage ranks them at 346th in the nation. They score 58.3 ppg. They are seventh in the NEC in offensive points per possession at 0.83 ppp. “We just have to hit some of (open shots) because until we do, (teams) are going to clamp down on our inside people.” said Striegler. “It is not a good combination when you are missing outside shots and your defense is not as good as it should be.”
LIU Brooklyn has one consistent scoring option. That is senior forward Cleandra Roberts. She leads the team in scoring at 18.3 ppg and has scored 10 or more points in every game except one this season. She also leads LIU in rebound with 7.7 rpg. There would be no telling where this team would be without Roberts. She is practically doing it all for the Blackbirds to stay competitive in games this season.
Coach Striegler said of her star player, “She is hard to guard because she can step outside and shoot the shot, she can drive, she can get offensive rebounds, she can post you up. She is a very duel threat at the post. She is definitely the leader on the team. She is our go-to-kid. As I told our players tonight (after the St. Francis Brooklyn game on Saturday) though they got to quit throwing it to her with three people on her. That is ridiculous. You need to look for your shot and do something else. She can’t be the superwoman of the team. She got to get her points and get her shots but we can’t throw the ball to her when our kids have an issue they just try and throw it in to her, no matter how many people on her. They just can’t do that.”
After Roberts, the scoring production and consistency drops. Sophomore Sophie Bhasin (10.8 ppg) has been lacking consistency. Against CCSU though, she was the team-leading scorer with 22 points after a game on Saturday in which she scored just two points against St.Francis Brooklyn. So has junior Letava Whippy (8.1 ppg). Both had big games for LIU this season but have had a hard time getting consistent play of them game after game. “We just have to get some more points out of some kids.” said Striegler in talking about finding a consistent second scorer behind Cleandra Roberts.
Senior forward Fanny Cavallo has been holding her own on the glass with 6.1 rebounds per game and she does score 7.1 ppg while shooting over 46% from the floor. With LIU’s offense geared more towards Roberts than Cavallo, she doesn’t get as many shot attempts as her counterpart down low.
Freshman Aleisha Myers has struggled with her shot this season especially with her three-point shot. Myers is just a 22% three-point shooter at the moment and shooting under 30% from the field.
The Blackbirds needs to improve on defense which is third in points allowed (65.9 ppg) and have held opponents to 0.97 ppp while keeping teams to 43% shooting. Defensively, LIU isn’t play all that badly although there is definite room for improvement. They actually played a very good defensive game against CCSU in their win, holding the Blue Devils to 33% shooting. Still Coach Striegler wants to see a good, consistent defensive effort every game. “We have to hold (teams) to 60, 65 points and we are given up too many points on the grand scale. We have to play better defense overall.”
LIU needs to have consistent outings like the one Sophie Bhasin had versus CCSU to go along with Cleandra Roberts production and they need a great defensive effort game-in and game-out if they want to set their sights on reaching the NEC Tournament this season. Monday night was a good place to start.