It has been quite a turn for LIU Brooklyn this season. The last three seasons have all ended in the Blackbirds lifting the NEC championship trophy above their heads. This season is now in realistic danger of the ending with LIU Brooklyn not even getting a chance to defend their first-ever NEC three-peat.
Another poor shooting outing along with red-hot three point shooting by Saint Francis University resulted in a 74-58 LIU defeat at the Steinberg Wellness Center Saturday afternoon. It brought LIU’s current losing streak to four and it equals the largest losing streak of the season for the Blackbirds.
The loss drops LIU to 2-9 in the NEC and you have to go all the way back to the pre-Jim Ferry era to find an LIU team that started the conference season with a worse record. The 2001-02 LIU Blackbirds started that season 0-9 and was 2-9 thru 11 games and had a coaching change mid-season from Ray Martin to interim coach Ron Brown. LIU missed the NEC tournament that season and hired Jim Ferry after the season.
LIU’s 58 points on offense followed the 56 points they scored against Robert Morris on Thursday. It is hard to come to grips of seeing LIU, a team which used to be among the nation’s leaders in scoring the last three seasons and cracked 80 points on a regular basis, now has a hard time scoring 60 points.
We knew LIU defense wasn’t very good but now LIU’s offense has all of sudden this week gone M.I.A. LIU in this game shot 3 of 19 from three. In the last two games against RMU and SFU, LIU shot a combined 7 for 37 from three. That is 18.9% three-point shooting over their last two games. Then when you have the last two opponents hits 17 of 40 threes (42.5%), it equals to two ugly losses which now has LIU in a tailspin towards the bottom of the NEC standings.
The Blackbirds were down by as many as 17 with 6:19 to play in the first half as Red Flash players hit what seemed like three after three after three. The main culprits was three-point sniper Ben Millaud-Meunier who scored 14 and hit 3 of 7 threes but the dagger came from Stephon Whyatt. Whyatt entering this game was 3 of 25 from three but of course in this game hit 4 of 5 three-pointers to finish with a team-high 17 points.
“Our 1-2-2 defense is not good. Our 2-3 is not good. Our man-to-man is not good.” Jack Perri said after this latest defeat as he continues to look for answers. “Steph Whyatt made three three’s on the whole year going in so we wanted him to shot and he goes 4 for 5. But I don’t think we did a good job on the other guys, (Dominique) Major and Millaud were the two guys that we said to take away their threes and they hit four.”
LIU was able to show some life at the end of the first half to cut the 17 point deficit down to 8 at the half at 45-37 but in the first five minutes of the second half, SFU increased the lead back to 14 and they never looked back.
LIU shot 31% in the second half and couldn’t make a single three as they went 0 of 10 from beyond the arc. “Our offense was just gross in the second half.” said Perri. “You’re not going to win games when you score 58 points and we are not shooting the ball very well with what we got right now.”
Earl Brown and impressive freshman point guard in Queens native Malik Harmon scored 22 of SFU’s 29 points to knock out LIU. Brown finished with 14 points and Harmon in his SWC debut scored 16.
Other than E.J. Reed who was easily LIU’s best player on the floor and LIU’s only dependable offensive threat, it was a subpar afternoon for the rest of the team. Troy Joseph struggled mightily as he finished with just one point and couldn’t get a field goal to drop (0-6). Iverson Fleming, who has yet to impress as a starter, had another poor shooting game (1-5) and scored only seven in 32 minutes. Joel Hernandez, who got his first real extended playing time (26 mins) had a good game with a career-highs of 14 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.
Jason Brickman struggled against the Red Flash. His shot was just off on Saturday as he scored six points on 2 of 7 shooting. He dished out six assists to get his career total up to 947. It snapped a five-game double-digit assist streak. Brickman didn’t have a good week shooting the ball as he went a combined 4 for 14 from the floor and 3 of 11 from deep.
Landon Atterberry has not be able to equal the scoring production he had during non-conference play into NEC play. Atterberry has scored in double-digits just three times in conference so far. His scoring average in NEC games has dipped to 10.4 ppg from 12.6 ppg in non-conference games. As his production has fallen so has his minutes especially in the two games this week. Atterberry scored eight in this game.
The play that optimized how bad this season has gone for LIU. In the second half, E.J. Reed get stripped making a move to the basket. He falls and rolls over and takes out his teammate Glenn Feidanga. Feidanga comes up limping and can’t put weight on his ankle and needs help to get off the court to the training table. That is LIU’s season in a nutshell.
There was no injury update after the game on Glenn Feidanga who didn’t return to the game after his injury. Gilbert Parga returned to the LIU lineup but only played three minutes as he had only just shot around the day before and was given the clearance to play after pre-game warmups.
The mood in the locker room these days are far for the joyous times of the past when wins came by the boatload. “They’re down. No question about it.” Jack Perri said of his team. “The season is certainly not over by any means and that’s just the mentality that we have to play better, it’s going to build character. It’ll feel a lot better once we start winning after having to deal with all this and hopefully we can start winning.”
LIU now faces a major problem in that CCSU beat FDU on Saturday as their All-NEC guard Kyle Vinales returned to their lineup from injury and in his first game back, only dropped 20 points in his return. Vinales return only spells trouble for LIU as now CCSU at 3-7 in the NEC has passed LIU in the standings and now occupy the final playoff spot in the NEC in eighth place. If LIU doesn’t start finding some wins in the last six games of the season, LIU will likely be watching the NEC Tournament on the web and television rather than playing in it and defending their championships.