The time is now for the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. At 1-4 in the NEC entering Saturday’s matchup against the team they defeated in last season’s NEC Championship game in Mount St. Mary’s, LIU needed a win in the worst way. With good defense, solid shooting and a pair of double-doubles for two Blackbirds, one from a player everyone excepts and another from a player probably no one excepted it from, LIU got a huge home win beating the Mount 75-71 at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
The Blackbirds had five players finish in double-digits in what was a balanced scoring attack. Once again, just like in the previous game against Bryant, it seemed like everyone was involved with all but one players scoring at least one basket. Head coach Jack Perri was just happy to get back on the winning end, “It feels good to get a win. I think we got some good all-around performances from a multitude of guys.”
Yet, it was two players who really stepped their game up. Senior Jason Brickman was his usually double-double self with 14 points and 12 assists but once again the surprise player was freshman Glenn Feidanga who this week has been seemingly been transformed to a big-time presence down low and on the glass. Feidanga finished with his first career double-double with career-highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Feidanga had himself quite a week and likely earned himself an NEC Rookie of the Week honor coming Monday. Feidanga in the two games this week scored 23 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in 40 minutes played while shooting 11 for 12 from the field while also keeping his fouls in relative check. “The big thing with Glenn is he is healthy now.” said Perri. “He has been in treatment (with) his shoulder, his knee, his foot since September. Now he is out (of treatment). He doesn’t see the trainer anymore and he has done a great job the last two games and hopefully he can continue that.”
Feidanga has noticed the difference in his game as he has gotten confidence and has gotten healthy. “It shows that my hard work pays off.” said Feidanga. “Before practice, after practice, the coaches take me aside and work out with me. Also, the bigger thing is when I came I was banged up with some injuries and now my body feel good.” His comfort level with his teammates and the college game has definitely grown since the start of the season. “I’ve started feeling more comfortable on the court. I get tips from Jason (Brickman) to give me those passes and make layups.”
Speaking of Brickman, he passed another milestone on Saturday, becoming just the 14th player in NCAA Division I history to have 900 assists for his career. He now has 905 assists to his name. His also collected his eighth double-double of the season and his second in consecutive games. Brickman started the game turning the ball over due to the Mount’s trapping and press. “After I stopped turning it over and starting figuring out their press and they’re running guys at me. Once I calmed down, I made the simple passes and we were able to get some easy layups.” said Brickman. “In the second half, it started getting close. I wanted to be more aggressive and try and get to the line. We were getting into the one-and-one so I wanted to be aggressive and get to the basket.”
Also defensive, things have started to take a bit of positive turn over the last couple of games. They played a solid defensive first half against Bryant on Thursday and followed it up with a another good defensive effort that carried through most of this game. LIU, by shear necessity, have been utilizing the zone more and more and the results are starting to show. “Our guys are starting to buy into this defense a little bit.” said Perri. Even though some late three pointers by Mount got them above the 1.0 point per possession threshold at 1.026 ppp, the LIU defense has finally started to pick itself up. The Mount shot just 38% from the field and shot just 28% in the first half.
For the Mount, freshman Bryon Ashe lead them with a game-high 18 points. The impressive-looking frosh hit five three-pointers off the bench. Sam Prescott finished with 14 points on 14 shot attempts. Taylor Danaher scored 13. Gregory Graves just missed a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds. Julian Norfleet who coming in was third in the NEC in scoring was held to just 8 points and 6 of those came in two desperation threes very late with the game pretty much in hand. The Mount fall to 3-3 in the NEC.
Besides Feidanga and Brickman efforts, the entire LIU front court played an excellent game. E.J. Reed finished with 12 points and Landon Atterberry dropped in 10 for the Blackbirds. D.J. Griggs continues to impress and provide much needed scoring off the bench with Gilbert Parga once again out with his achilles injury. Griggs finished with 10 points.
The win puts LIU at 2-4 in the NEC and puts hope back into the minds of the Blackbirds and their fans. They have another big test coming into the Steinberg Wellness Center on Thursday in Wagner who beat the Blackbirds during opening weekend. The goal for LIU is to get back to .500 in the NEC and go from there. This win stabilized them and got them pointed back in the right direction but they need to build on this win and continue the solid play of this week into next week and getting a winning streak going. You see this team is starting to believe and buy in to what Perri and his staff is teaching them. They need to keep this momentum going. Right now, this is just the beginning.