LIU Brooklyn MBB final game on Senior Day still has meaning.

Ok, we all know Thursday night loss to Central Connecticut State was rough. Beyond rough. Painful is more like it. We as LIU Brooklyn fans won’t get to see our beloved Blackbirds defend their three straight NEC championships. They will be missing the NEC Tournament for the first time since the 2006-07 season. It has been a depressing last several hours since the loss.

Last night, I and John Templon of Big Apple Buckets faced a devastated and defeated Jack Perri in the stairway of the Steinberg Wellness Center. Perri was at nearly a complete loss for words. I felt bad for him and for his team. It is obvious this season didn’t go as planned. It was obvious after losing five seniors to graduation and two All-NEC players from last season’s team that this season would be different from the last three years. Yet, it seems like after the first two games of the season, the train went off the rails and it was tough getting it back on track.

I can’t recall a season where there has been so many injuries for the Blackbirds. It was tough for Perri to gain any kind of cohesion especially with five new players on the roster. In just these five players alone, Julian Boyd, Nura Zanna, Chris Carter, Joel Hernandez and Gilbert Parga, they missed a combined 100 games this season. 100 games!! Not having Zanna and Boyd at all this season really hurt the competitiveness of this season’s LIU squad.

So comes this Saturday and the season finale for the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball team. It is Senior Day and it will be the final game for senior Jason Brickman, grad student Julian Boyd, and redshirt junior Troy Joseph who is scheduled to receive his bachelor’s degree in May. Although there is nothing at stake for LIU as a team, it is still a meaningful game in a couple of ways.

This game is very meaningful for Jason Brickman. As we know, he is just three assists shy of being the fourth player ever to reach 1,000 career assists. With 13 assists, he will be the first player since 1988 to average a double-double in points and assists for an entire season. How remarkable is that?! He has been a steady rock at the point guard position since his arrival. He came with virtually no fanfare. People mocked his last name. Now he is leaving with everyone’s admiration, respect and appreciation for what he was able to accomplish in his four seasons at LIU.

We also need to show our great appreciation for Julian Boyd. Boyd was the first major piece to the championship puzzle and without him, there likely wouldn’t be three more years added to the NEC and NCAA championship banners hanging inside the Steinberg Wellness Center. Since we haven’t seen him play in over a year and a half we tend to forget his great talents and accomplishments. He brought confidence, a little cockiness, a desire to be great, great athleticism and highlights and moments that won’t be soon forgotten. He should be given as big an ovation as any LIU player has received. In my opinion, without Julian Boyd, there is likely no NEC three-peat.

Senior Day should still be a great day of celebration for two players that meant so much to this LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball program. They along with last season’s graduates Jamal Olasewere and C.J. Garner represented the core of this three-time NEC championship era and as we said good bye one last time to these LIU greats, let remember even though this season was a tough season for everyone to endure, those championships can’t be taken away from them or from us.

So let’s all go to the Wellness Center on Saturday and show our love and appreciation to these great seniors and then cheer on Jason Brickman to a record-breaking finale and hopefully see him and all the seniors go out with one last victory.

LIU suffers heartbreaking OT loss to CCSU. The Soar for Four officially comes to an end.

The scoreboard says it all. CCSU defeats LIU Brooklyn and thus eliminating them from postseason contention. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The scoreboard says it all. CCSU defeats LIU Brooklyn and thus eliminating them from postseason contention. (Photo: Bob Dea)

In a season that has seen its fair share of heartbreak for the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball team and its fans, Thursday’s game against Central Connecticut State brought the final dagger to the hopes of any type of postseason play for the 2013-14 season as LIU loses in overtime to CCSU 86-82 at the Steinberg Wellness Center. The loss eliminates LIU from any involvement in the 2014 NEC Tournament and gives CCSU the final NEC playoff spot.

It was none other than CCSU’s Kyle Vinales who hit a three at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Vinales hit his only two threes of the game in the final 1:06 of regulation that took the game into overtime after LIU was up 71-67 with just over two minutes remaining.

Junior Gerrell Martin scored a career-high 31 points vs CCSU Thursday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Junior Gerrell Martin scored a career-high 31 points vs CCSU Thursday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The Blackbirds once again got off to a slow start to the game getting down 10-0 until Gerrell Martin scored LIU’s first basket over five minutes in. Martin would then take over offensively for LIU as he knocked down shot after shot. Even the shots he was missing would rim in and out. He was locked in that first half and scored 22 point on a blazing 9 of 14 shooting, making four threes.

The problem was LIU couldn’t contain Faronte Drakeford who hit five of seven shots and scored 12 in the first half. Drakeford was doing his damage in and around the basket and was helping get LIU bigs in foul trouble. Once again, the dreaded foul woes was a problem for LIU and it hit them hard in the first half. Reed had two fouls just 4:25 into the game. Later, Landon Atterberry got himself into first half foul woes with two fouls with 8:45 remaining in the half. Then Glenn Feidanga picked up his third foul just before halftime.

With LIU’s foul troubles, it was Martin shooting heroics that kept LIU within striking distance at the half, 37-31. Jason Brickman in his chase to 1,000 career assists had six first half assists. He would have had more if those Martin’s in and out shots had fallen.

Freshman Joel Hernandez had himself a career night with his first double-double. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Freshman Joel Hernandez had himself a career night with his first double-double. (Photo: Bob Dea)

The tide started turning in the second half as LIU started picking up it up defensively and was getting momentum from the supporting crowd of 1,073 with their loud chants of “defense”. With LIU down nine at 59-50, the Blackbirds would go on a 17-2 run to take a six-point lead with 4:48 to go in regulation.

Yet, CCSU got big baskets and rebounds from Brandon Pell who played a heck of a game for the Blue Devils to get CCSU back within four before Kyle Vinales played Mr. Clutch in the final minutes of regulation.

After the first three by Vinales to get CCSU within one, Martin was fouled and made both free throws to go up three with 18 seconds remaining. LIU head coach Jack Perri decided not to foul Vinales and send him to the line for two free throws instead deciding to let Martin play straight up man-on-man defense on him and not foul. To Martin’s credit, he was all over Vinales but it goes to show the greatness of Vinales, he buried the three over Martin. “In that situation, I did not.” admitted Perri regarding fouling CCSU up three in that final possession. “I just didn’t. I’ve done that before but I didn’t on that situation and maybe I should have.”

In overtime, Peel continued hurting LIU with a couple of quiet baskets to start the extra period. For some reason, Landon Atterberry and E.J. Reed each took an rushed ill-advised three which drew the ire of Perri who was visually upset at his players shot selection. Even then, LIU come back from down four to twice take a one-point lead before CCSU would close the game on a 7-2 run which included a huge missed three by Gilbert Parga with 15 seconds remaining that rimmed in and out and would have given LIU the lead. CCSU would ice the game at the free throw line where they were a perfect 18 for 18 and took away with them the final NEC playoff spot.

CCSU got a team-high 25 points from Faronte Drakeford and 18 points from Brandon Peel. Kyle Vinales who score those killers six points at the end of regulation scored just eight points on 3 of 9 shooting but of course hit his only two threes of the game. Matt Mobley scored ten including the game-clinching two free throws with two seconds left in overtime. Malcolm McMillan scored 11 points.

LIU got a career-high 31 points from Gerrell Martin. In the last two games, Martin has scored 57 points and has gotten back-to-back career high scoring games. Freshman Joel Hernandez, who had a great second half with 13 points, finished with a career-high 17 points and got his first career double-double with 12 rebounds. Hernandez showed LIU fans what there is to hope for from him in the next three years. E.J. Reed finished with a double-double 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Jason Brickman dishing off one of his ten assists. With 997 career assists, is three assists shy of 1,000 for his LIU career. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Jason Brickman dishing off one of his ten assists. With 997 career assists, is three assists shy of 1,000 for his LIU career. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Jason Brickman got his eleventh double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 assists. I assume he would trade the double-double for a win. With his ten assists, he is now just three assists short of 1,000 with 997. He should easily get it on Senior Day on Saturday against Bryant in the season finale. Brickman played all 45 minutes.

After the game a devastated Jack Perri didn’t have to many words to say. “I don’t know what to say guys.” said Perri. “I’m devastated, the guys are devastated. Devastating loss. It’s been that kind of year.”

So Saturday will be the final time we will get to see the greatness of Jason Brickman in his LIU Brooklyn jersey. That is really the only thing LIU has to play for on Saturday. This is not the ending Brickman envisioned coming into this season but it is the unfortunate reality. “All I said to the guys is I want Jason to go out on a win and obviously for him to get 1,000. Get ready to get prepared tomorrow. There is not a lot of happy people in (the locker room).” Perri told his team after the brutal loss.

After three straight NEC championship seasons, a new NEC champion will be crowned in a couple of weeks. It is so unfortunate for Brickman and for Julian Boyd, even with him watching on the bench all year, to not even get a chance to defend what they help build over the last three seasons. It is a really sad shame.

Blackbird Gameday Report – Game 28 – (NEC Game 15) – Central Connecticut State Blue Devils

liubkccsuOpponent: Central Connecticut State Blue Devils

Record: 9-18; 4-9 on the road; Last game: Loss at Bryant, 68-65

Current KenPom Ranking: 305 out of 351 (LIU Brooklyn: 311 – up from 319 before previous game)

Date and Time: Thursday, February 27, 7:00 PM

Location: Steinberg Wellness Center, Brooklyn, NY

TV/Web/Radio Coverage: Web: NEC Front Row

Meeting History: 36th all-time meeting. CCSU leads series 18-17. Last meeting: @ CCSU, 62-61, Win. LIU Brooklyn has won the last 6 meetings and 9 of 10 in the series.

CCSU Players to Watch:

1. Kyle Vinales #1 – 6’1″ Guard – Jr. – 17.2 ppg/3.8 apg/37.6 FG%/36.1 3FG%/32.1 mpg
2. Faronte Drakeford #22 – 6’7″ Forward – Jr. – 13.2 ppg/5.3 rpg/48.1 FG%/31.2 3FG%/26.9 mpg
3. Malcolm McMillan #11 – 6’0″ Guard – Jr. – 11.1 ppg/3.6 rpg/47.2 FG%/34.2 3FG%/30.6 mpg

Matchup to Watch: CCSU’s Kyle Vinales vs LIU’s Gerrell Matrin

Scouting the Blue Devils:

This game is as close to a play-in game for the NEC Tournament as you’re going to find. CCSU only needs to win this game to clinch the final NEC Tournament spot. So this is a huge game for both teams.

One major difference LIU is going to see from their first meeting back on January 18th is the return of veteran All-NEC guard Kyle Vinales to the CCSU lineup. After his return on February 8th, CCSU won their first three games with him back in the lineup coming off the bench. Since then, CCSU has dropped their last two games to Mount St. Mary’s and Bryant.

Vinales is a dangerous scorer although he is having a bit of down year compared to the lofty standards he put up his first two seasons at CCSU. Vinales missed nine games due to a broken finger. In 17 games played this season, Vinales has shown he can still fill it up. He has eight games of 20 or more points. Also, he is known for coming through in the clutch. He recently hit a game-winner three with two seconds left to give CCSU a big win on the road against St. Francis Brooklyn. He will be one of the main focus in LIU’s gameplan.

Faronte Drakeford is averaging 13.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg. He is CCSU’s second leading scorer. He scored ten points in the last meeting between the teams. Drakeford is actually second on the team in points per 40 minutes at 19.6. He’s scored 20 or more points seven time this season including a season-high 25 points versus Fairleigh Dickinson.

The question mark will be in junior point guard Malcolm McMillan. In CCSU last game vs Bryant on Saturday, McMillan played only nine minutes scoring just one point with an apparent ankle injury. In the last meeting between LIU and CCSU, McMillan scored a game-high 23 points on a perfect 9 for 9 shooting including four made threes. He could be a game-time decision but in this big of a game, I would expect him to try and give it a go.

CCSU is right now ninth in the NEC in offensive efficiency at an even 100 points per 100 possessions and are sixth in the NEC in defensive efficiency at 107.6 points allowed per 100 possessions. CCSU averages 70.3 ppg offensively and gives up 77.1 ppg on defense.

Updating the Blackbirds:

LIU Brooklyn got a must-have win on the road at Sacred Heart on Tuesday with a 80-75 win. LIU will need to win this game against CCSU to control their destiny for the NEC Tournament going into the season finale on Saturday against Bryant. If LIU loses this game, they are out of qualifying for the NECs.

Junior Gerrell Martin is coming off a career-high 26 points against Sacred Heart. He hit 10 of 14 shots including five made threes. LIU will need a similar performance of both ends from Martin as he will likely be guarding Vinales on the defensive end.

Senior Jason Brickman needs just 13 assists to reach the 1,000 career assists milestone he has been chasing all season. Against CCSU last time out, Brickman scored 14 points and handled out six assists in the win. Brickman is tied for the NEC lead in double-doubles with ten. Brickman’s 268 assists this season is 57 more than the player in second place on the assist list. Brickman can still average a double-double for the season if he dishes out 23 assists over the last two games.

E.J. Reed is coming a good game against Sacred Heart, playing 36 minutes and getting his fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

LIU Brooklyn has won the last six meetings against CCSU at the Steinberg Wellness Center going back to the 2007-08 season.

Keys to Victory for LIU:

– Get off to a fast start: Against SHU, LIU got off to a horrible start but was able to recover. Against CCSU, they may not be as fortunate so LIU will need to a good first five to ten minutes at the start.

– Watch out for Vinales: Vinales likes to play big when the lights are the brightest and this is as bright as it will get for CCSU this season so LIU has to watch for Vinales taking over and riding his hot hand.

– Bring the energy: Everyone is got to be up for this game. Everyone! The players, the coaches, the fans, the Blackbird, has to be fired up and ready because it is going to take every bit of energy to bring this one home in what should be a tight affair throughout.

KenPom Score Projection: 80-76 CCSU (LIU Win Probability: 64%)

Next up for the Blackbirds:

LIU Brooklyn plays its regular season finale at the Steinberg Wellness Center against the Bryant Bulldogs on Senior Day as we say goodbye to Julian Boyd and Jason Brickman in their final home game. The game is on Saturday, March 1st and tip off is scheduled for 4:30pm. Everyone should try to come and show their appreciation for these two amazing seniors who will be leaving LIU Brooklyn.

With LIU Brooklyn in “playoff mode”, defeat Sacred Heart in first of three must-wins

One win down, two to go as LIU Brooklyn gets first win out of the way at Sacred Heart Thursday night (Photo: Bob Dea)

One win down, two to go as LIU Brooklyn gets first win out of the way at Sacred Heart Tuesday night (Photo: Bob Dea)

Tuesday night was the first of three consecutive “put up or shut up” games for the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball team and they were able to put their first “put up” on the board with a 80-75 win over the now 1-13 Sacred Heart Pioneers at the vastly empty and quiet William H. Pitt Center.

This was a make-up game from the postponed February 13th game thanks to the major snow storm that hit the tri-state area that day. I guess either the Sacred Heart faithful forgot or quite frankly just didn’t care to take in a game that involved two teams with four combined NEC wins coming in. The announced attendance was 173, which I’m going to go out on a limb and say that is probably the lowest-attended men’s basketball game in the NEC this season.

The quietness of the small crowd led to a somewhat weird atmosphere for a game LIU Brooklyn had to have against the last-place Pioneers. They were able to ignore the library-like setting and focus in on the task on hand.

#4 Gerrell Martin going up for two of his career-high 26 points vs Sacred Heart Tuesday. (Photo: Bob Dea)

#4 Gerrell Martin going up for two of his career-high 26 points vs Sacred Heart Tuesday. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Junior guard Gerrell Martin who was coming off a rough game on Saturday against Saint Francis (PA) with just four points, put on a shooting clinic and finished with a career-high 26 points on 10 of 14 field goal attempts. Martin buried 5 of 7 three-pointers and his played with great rhythm all game long. He also did a fantastic job defensively shutting down Sacred Heart’s main three-point threat Steve Glowiak and holding him to just eight points in the game and 3 of 8 shooting.

“Obviously, Gerrell was huge.” LIU head coach Jack Perri said after the win. “He did an unbelievable job on (Glowiak). He hit a few late against our zone, (Martin) took him away completely. Gerrell did a great job on both ends.” LIU point guard Jason Brickman also appreciated the much-needed big-time performance by Martin. “He was great today on both ends.” said Brickman. “Guarding Glowiak, not giving him any looks. He was really great. Offensively, he was in rhythm, he got hot. He was really focused too. He wants to get into the (NEC) tournament, all these guys want to win these last three games. He had a great mindset coming in and he was great on offense knocking down shots for us.”

Jason Brickman collected his 10th double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 assists. Now has 987 career assists. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Jason Brickman collected his 10th double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 assists. Now has 987 career assists. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Along with Martin’s big night, Jason Brickman, whose recent play of late has seem to be taken up even another notch, once again brought the determination and focus of a senior who desperately wants to finish his career off strong. Brickman finished with his tenth double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 assists. The twelve assists helped pass ETSU’s Keith Jennings who has 983 assists to go into fourth place on the NCAA all-time career assist list. Brickman now has 987 assists with two games regular season games remaining. He now needs 13 more assists to become just the fourth player in NCAA history to reach 1,000 career assists.

“Jason was great with his three-point shooting and his distributing.” Perri said. “He is the one guy, again we are talking playoffs, even in that Saint Francis game, I’m like we got to treat this like a playoff game and he did and the other guys in reality don’t have a lot of playoff experience for one and he was the one that was really, really locked in. He is trying to do everything he can whether it is taking shots or making plays, he has been tremendous.”

“I think the Robert Morris game really took a lot out of us. A lot of our energy and effort and we really come out flat versus Saint Francis PA.” said Brickman on his team psyche after the difficult weekend in Western Pennsylvania before coming into this game. “We needed a little bit of rest and come out here and come out strong and get a win, I think it really helps us and our confidence. We can use that going into our next game. Coming down to the last few games, I’m really focused in. I really want to keep playing. I don’t want it to be my last game on Saturday so I want to try and end on a great note here at LIU and try to make the playoffs here and make a little run if we can so my mindset is just to be focused and be aggressive and try to do whatever I can to help the team.”

E.J. Reed played 36 minutes and had a nice stat line with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks.

E.J. Reed played 36 minutes and had a nice stat line with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks.

The Blackbirds also got a very positive contribution from E.J. Reed who played well and most importantly took care of his fouls and went the entire first half without a foul while collecting 7 points, 9 rebounds and swatting a career-high five shots on his way to his fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Reed was able to play a season-high tying 36 minutes.

“I was happy with E.J. Reed’s focus.” Perri said. “He was much more focused on the defensive end. He was locked in a little bit better, not fouling. He had some block shots and some big time defensive rebounds in the first half.”

Also, it has to be mentioned of the good play LIU has been getting of late from freshman Joel Hernandez who scored eight points in this game and has impressed the coaching staff with his game. Troy Joseph finished with nine points and Landon Atterberry dropped in seven.

Sacred Heart got a team-high 15 points from Evan Kelley off the bench. Phil Gaetano had 11 points and nine assists. Mostafa Abdel-Latif had 11 points and nine rebounds. De’von Barnett had ten points. LIU held Sacred Heart 0.931 points per possession (81 possessions). It was the first time in nine games in which LIU held an opponent to under a point per possession.

With the win, it now sets up the huge game on Thursday night between Central Connecticut State and LIU Brooklyn at the Steinberg Wellness Center. At 4-9, LIU is now one game back of CCSU with LIU holding the tiebreaker between the two teams.

jason Brickman chatting with BHJ after the win Tuesday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

jason Brickman chatting with BHJ after the win Tuesday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

So what is at stake? With a LIU win Thursday, LIU and CCSU will be tied 5-9 and thus with LIU winning the season series between the two teams, they will have the tiebreaker if they finish with the same record at the conclusion of Saturday’s games. If LIU loses Thursday, CCSU clinches the final NEC tournament spot and LIU’s season will come to an end on Saturday. So this becomes a de facto playoff game for LIU. Win and hope is still alive. Lose and the season is basically over.

“We talked about playoffs now, this is what it is.” said Perri. “Each game is a playoff game. Obviously, we won our first playoff game. Now we going home to play Central Connecticut and that is going to be the next one.”

Thursday should be a wild affair and hopefully the crowd support is there for the Blackbirds and they get a packed house for the game. Ready or not, playoff time is here. LIU gets to play what is essentially a pair of playoff games at home. It will be the final times LIU plays at home this season so now its the time to turn out and get fired up. Time for vintage WRAC-mania to return just in time for these two crucial games. Get there Thursday night and get fired up and be ready to go Blackbird Nation! It should be fun.

LIU Brooklyn Women’s Basketball clinch spot in 2014 NEC Tournament

LIU Brooklyn WBB team clinches a berth into NEC Tournament after a one-year absence. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn WBB team clinches a berth into NEC Tournament after a one-year absence. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Congratulations are in order to the LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball team. On Monday night, the Blackbirds defeated the FDU Knights at the Steinberg Wellness Center 56-40 on Senior Night, resulting in them clinching the final available spot in the NEC Tournament which starts on Sunday, March 9th.

LIU Brooklyn return back to the NEC Tournament after a one-year absence last season. LIU is currently 9-18 overall and 7-9 in the NEC. They are currently the holders of the eight-seed but can climb up further with two games left to play in the season.

Cleandra Roberts has been LIU's go-to star all season long. Averaging 18.7 ppg. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Cleandra Roberts has been LIU’s go-to star all season long. Averaging 18.7 ppg. (Photo: Bob Dea)

They have won five out of their last seven games after starting the conference season at 2-7. What has improved? Their defense. During their 2-7 start, teams were scoring 68.5 ppg on LIU. In the last seven games, they have cut the opposition scoring by ten at 58.1 ppg.

They have gotten great play from likely All-NEC star senior Cleandra Roberts who is averaging 18.7 ppg and 7.4 rpg. Roberts has only been held to single figures scoring twice this season. They have also gotten good play out of sophomore Sophie Bhasin (10.2 ppg) off the bench and senior Fanny Cavallo (7.0 ppg/6.7 rpg).

The Blackbirds will find out next Monday night who their first round opponent will officially be. At the moment, they would be taking on the top-seeded Robert Morris Colonials at RMU.

 

Blackbird Gameday Report – Game 27 – (NEC Game 14) – Sacred Heart Pioneers

LIUSHUOpponent: Sacred Heart Pioneers

Record: 4-24; 1-12 NEC; 1-8 at home; Last game: Loss at Fairleigh Dickinson, 73-66

Current KenPom Ranking: 301 out of 351 (LIU Brooklyn: 319 – down from 306 before previous game)

Date and Time: Tuesday, February 25, 7:00 PM

Location: William H. Pitt Center, Fairfield, CT

TV/Web/Radio Coverage: TV: NEC Front Row

Meeting History: 27th all-time meeting. LIU Brooklyn leads series at 17-9. Last meeting: @ LIU Brooklyn, 70-68 LIU Win, 2012-13.

Sacred Heart’s Players to Watch:

1. Louis Montes #12 – 6’5″ Forward – Sr. – 13.6 ppg/4.7 rpg/43.5 FG%/35.4 3FG%/25.6 mpg
2. Evan Kelley #2 – 6’4″ Guard – Jr. – 12.7 ppg/3.5 rpg/42.6 FG%/20.0 3FG%/29.7 mpg
3. Steve Glowiak #31 – 6’3″ Guard – Jr. – 11.4 ppg/2.7 rpg/38.9 FG%/38.7 3FG%/26.9 mpg

Matchup to Watch: LIU’s E.J. Reed vs SHU’s Louis Montes

Scouting the Pioneers:

Sacred Heart is the final team to not have played LIU Brooklyn this season. This is their only regular season meeting. Their previously scheduled game was postponed back on February 13th due to the snow storm that day.

Sacred Heart is having a miserable season in year one of the Anthony Latina era. The Pioneers have won just four games this season and only one home game when they defeated FDU back on January 11th.

The Pioneers are one of the worst defensive teams in the NEC along with LIU Brooklyn. In fact, these two teams are last and second-to-last in defensive efficiency this season in the conference. Sacred Heart allows 112.1 points per 100 possessions while LIU allows 115.9. This should be a high-scoring game with neither team playing much defense.

Yet, the offenses for both teams are pretty bad as well. Sacred Heart has the worst offensive efficiency of any team in the NEC with a 100 points per 100 possessions. LIU is not better in eighth. Sacred Heart has the worst effective field goal percentage and they shoot the poorest two-point and three-point percentages in the conference.

The Pioneers this season are lead by senior forward Louis Montes who is averaging 13.6 ppg. He is not having as good of a season as he had last season but they aren’t that far off in many categories. Montes missed a pair of games two weeks ago due to concussion-like symptoms. He returned this weekend to score 27 against Wagner and 19 against Fairleigh Dickinson. He has scored in double digits in his last six games. He is also a double-double threat with three this season.

Junior Evan Kelley has played in 22 of Sacred Heart’s 28 games this season, a year after playing in just two games last season due to injury. He missed six straight games including the first four NEC games of the season. Kelley is the Pioneers’ second leading scorer at just under 13 ppg. He has scored 20 points twice in conference this season against St. Francis Brooklyn and Wagner. He has hit the 20+ scoring mark four times this year including a career-high 32 points at Holy Cross. Kelley has come off the bench the last two games for the Pioneers.

Junior sharpshooter Steve Glowiak is Sacred Heart’s best three-point shooter. He shoots it at just under 39% from deep. Glowiak has started the last three games for the Pioneers and three games ago scored 27 points against Central Connecticut, hitting 7 of 13 threes.

Junior point guard Phil Gaetano leads the Pioneers in assists although his assist totals are as pronounced as they were a year ago. Last season, Gaetano was right behind Jason Brickman nationally in assists per game but this season even he is still second in the NEC in assists per game, he is averaging 6.1 apg down from the 7.9 he had last year. Yet, he can dish off double digits assists on any given game. He is the best free throw shooter in the NEC at 92%.

Junior guard Chris Evans is currently serving a month-long suspension for the dreaded “violation of school policy”. The suspension will likely end Evans’ season. Evans was averaging 11.4 ppg this season.

Updating the Blackbirds:

LIU Brooklyn comes off a forgettable weekend in Western Pennsylvania dropping a pair of games to Robert Morris and Saint Francis (PA). Now at 3-10 in the NEC, LIU needs to win all three of their final three games to come from behind and overtake 8th-place Central Connecticut State for the final NEC tournament spot.

Point guard Jason Brickman is coming off a great scoring game in which he scored 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting including five three-pointers made. He also dished off five more assists to get his career total up to 975 and now sits in fifth-place all-time in the NCAA career assist list. He is now nine assists away from passing East Tennessee State’s Keith Jennings who has 983 career assists. Brickman is 25 assists away from the 1,000 career mark and he would need to average 8.3 apg to reach the mark in the final three regular season games.

Sophomore E.J. Reed scored 15 points in the loss at SFU but his playing time has been greatly reduced thanks to the stretch of foul woes he has had over the last three games. He has 14 fouls in the last three games and leads not only LIU in fouls but is one foul ahead for the most fouls in the NEC with 92 fouls this season. He has not played over 25 minutes in any of his last three games with his foul troubles.

Landon Atterberry has come of the bench the last three games. After a 20-point performance against St. Francis Brooklyn in the Battle of Brooklyn, he has scored a combined 8 points in the last two games and shooting just 40%.

Troy Joseph hasn’t played well the last four games. He has scored a combined 11 points in those four games and is shooting 3 for his last 19 and has not made a single three in that stretch.

Keys to Victory for LIU:

– Control the paint: LIU needs to try and win the battle inside. Montes last season scored a career-high 35 points in a win at SHU vs LIU. Reed and Atterberry need to get it going inside.

– Watch out for Glowiak: Although the Pioneers are a poor three-point shooting team but Steve Glowiak is one of the better three-point shooters in the NEC. LIU will need to try and contain his looks.

– Show some fire: This year’s LIU team with some many new faces has lacked that fire in the belly the championship teams of the last three seasons had. Grant it, they don’t have all the star players they had in the past but now the season is on the line. Time to play with heart, grit and emotion. They need to play to win and not play not to lose.

KenPom Score Projection: 80-74 Sacred Heart (LIU Win Probability: 31%)

Next up for the Blackbirds:

LIU Brooklyn return back to the Steinberg Wellness Center for the final two home games of the season. First off, it is a MUST-WIN game versus Central Connecticut State who LIU is fighting with for the final spot in the NEC Tournament. The game is on Thursday, February 27 and tip off is scheduled for 7:00 pm. Come out to the SWC to support LIU in this HUGE must-win game!

After RMU disappointment, LIU Brooklyn goes down to SFU with not much fight

LIU Brooklyn came into Saturday’s contest against Saint Francis University, disappointed after losing a 16-point lead which lead to a nine-point loss at RMU. Yet, the Blackbirds had a chance to get some redemption and put themselves in position to possibly gain some ground on the only two teams they have chance left to catch, FDU and CCSU. But LIU Brooklyn failed to answer the bell in this game as SFU for the second time this season, took it to the Blackbirds and defeated them handily, 83-64 at the DeGol Arena on Saturday.

For the first ten minutes, LIU looked like a team that was game and had put the loss of Thursday behind them. They were up a point and things looked promising. Next thing you know, SFU were off to the races and LIU couldn’t make a basket. The Red Flash would go on a 25-6 run to close the half to take a 41-23 lead at the break. LIU could only muster up a 37% shooting percentage in the first half and make just 3 of their 15 threes.

It is no secret that Jason Brickman desperately doesn’t want his LIU career to end in this fashion, going out without even an opportunity to defend what he had help start, three consecutive NEC championships. Brickman came out of the gate showing that he wasn’t going to go down quietly anymore. Brickman came out firing and hitting from deep. Brickman took eight shots in the first half and hit 3 of 6 three for 11 points. He played all 20 minutes. He obviously came to play. His teammates unfortunately didn’t have that same drive it seemed.

LIU showed little life at the start of the second half to get within 14 but SFU got back on track and started hitting shots and soon the SFU lead was pushed back up to 21 and LIU never seriously threatened the rest of the game.

Brickman did all he could. He played all 40 minutes. He finished with a game-high 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting and finished with just five assists as his teammates had a difficult time finishing on shots. The only other support Brickman got was from E.J. Reed but once again he was mired in foul trouble as he has seemingly all season long. He scored 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting in 24 minutes collecting four fouls along the way. Other than Joel Hernandez who scored all 12 of his points in the second half, no other LIU player scored more than four points.

In fact, if you remove Brickman, Reed and Hernandez numbers from LIU totals, the rest of the team was just 7 for 23 in the game and 0 for 8 from three for 14 points. Just frightening numbers to look at if your a coach on the LIU staff.

LIU’s defense was bad as it has been nearly all season. They allowed 1.21 points per possession and 83 points to a team which in their prior game scored just 44 points and scored a miserable, season-low 0.661 ppp. SFU shot 52% from the floor and made 10 of 23 threes. In the two games against LIU, SFU won both games by a combined 35 points.

SFU’s Stephon Whyatt for the second time this season torched the Blackbirds. He had his two best games of the season against them. He scored 21 points on Saturday and scored a combined 38 points in the two games against LIU. Ronnie Drinnon scored a career-high 19 points and Queens native and Christ the King HS alum Malik Harmon scored 18 points. He scored a combined 34 points in two games against LIU this season.

LIU falls to 3-10 in the NEC with three games to play. After the game, LIU had to wait and see if this loss would officially put an end to NEC tournament hopes. FDU won their game against Sacred Heart on Saturday so FDU officially clinches an NEC tournament berth. CCSU lost by three to Bryant on the road. The loss keeps CCSU a game and a half ahead of LIU for the eighth and final NEC tournament spot. LIU still holds a game in hand of CCSU which will played on Tuesday at Sacred Heart. If at any point in the upcoming week, LIU loses and CCSU wins, LIU would be officially eliminated.

The next two games for LIU will tell if Senior Day will be a day in which LIU plays for a chance or if it will be a day to only celebrate the careers of Jason Brickman and Julian Boyd and hope to see Brickman cross the 1,000 assist threshold and begin looking towards next season. Starting Tuesday, we’ll know what the answer will be.