Six games. That is all that is left of LIU Brooklyn’s season if they didn’t start a major turnaround beginning with this Battle of Brooklyn game at the Barclays Center. LIU needed a win. St. Francis Brooklyn who has a rough week with guys being arrested and suspended and getting last minute reprieves to play. Both wanted the win desperately. The result, another Battle of Brooklyn classic resulting in a huge 69-68 win for the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds and keeps them in the hunt for the final NEC tournament spot.
LIU had something they haven’t had in weeks. A roster of ten healthy scholarships players. Gerrell Martin made his return back to the LIU starting lineup after missing the past two games with a shoulder injury. Gilbert Parga was a full go after getting some practice time in and Glenn Feidanga not only played after his ankle injury last Saturday but he got his first career start over Landon Atterberry who LIU head coach decided to bring off the bench.
Atterberry, who had started every game this season until today and was coming in on a bit of a slump, busted out of it in a big way with 20 points of 9 of 12 shooting in 30 minutes off the bench. Atterberry was matched up for most of the game against St. Francis Brooklyn’s big man Jalen Cannon and he was able to hold his own against the All-NEC forward.
“He has been awesome in practice.” said Perri of Atterberry. “I didn’t want him to think that it was anything of his fault prior to this. It certainly wasn’t. I just thought it was a little bit of a change up. Obviously, to get a bigger guy like Glenn (Feidanga) in that situation to start the game off and I think Landon can be a little more relaxed in that situation and come in when there is maybe some bodies that are a little bit more tired and he can take advantage of that which he did.”
Another change for Perri and the Blackbirds came on the defensive end. Perri decided to go back to their traditional man-to-man defense LIU is more accustomed to playing and it worked out well for them. Recently, LIU had been getting abused by opponents at the three-point arc in the zone defense but in this game LIU was able to hold the Terriers to 6 of 14 shooting from three. “We went back to man-to-man. We’ve been working on that.” said Perri. “I think guys bought into that well. We’ve been getting killed by the three-point line the last few games so we made a conscience effort to do better with that. I thought it was time to go back to that. I was just getting frustrated with every team, no matter what, even if they were non-shooters were hitting threes against us at a pretty good clip. So we changed that up.”
Also the Blackbirds got a much-needed lift from their returnees, Martin and Parga. Martin and his much-needed outside shooting came through in this game with a perfect 3 for 3 from deep and he finished with 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting. Parga who looked healthy and ready to play, played 23 minutes off the bench and scored 14 points of 5 of 9 shooting and was a big lift for the Blackbirds having another scorer to turn to.
LIU also dramatically change the play on the boards from the first meeting where St. Francis Brooklyn dominated especially on the offensive glass. This time around LIU out-rebounded 36-34 and evened out the offensive rebound at eleven a piece. “That was obviously our biggest thing.” said Perri. “Our mindset was no second chances, limit them on that. Our guys also did a decent job on the offensive glass, gave us some second chance opportunties. I was really proud of our guys because that is a real physical team and a big team that usually take advantages of people on the glass.”
St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Glenn Braica felt the change from zone to man-to-man was the difference in the chance in rebounding margin from the previous meeting. “LIU has been primarily a zone team this year, it’s hard to rebound in a zone because there is not defined responsibilities and they played mostly man-to-man today and I think that is the reason. Them playing man was more about them keeping us off the glass more than anything.”
Even with the fine play for most of the game, it still came down to a much-needed stop on the defensive end with under six seconds left and the credit goes to freshman Glenn Feidanga who on a penetrating Wayne Martin for St. Francis Brooklyn was enough of a bother and might have gotten a hand on the ball although he wasn’t credited for a block but forced Martin to a bad shot which LIU rebounded and Troy Joseph put away with two huge free throws to make it a two-possession game and clinch the win for LIU.
St. Francis Brooklyn who entered the game after having a really tough week with five players being suspended at one point and getting word in the last 24 hours that two of their more important players, Martin and Brent Jones would be allowed to play in the game. Jones didn’t get the start for the Terriers although he played in 28 minutes and scored 13 points off the bench. Martin played 16 minutes and finished with six points. Ben Mockford led the way for the Terriers with 17 points, Jalen Cannon scored 15 points on 5 of 10 shooting. The Terriers finished at 1.07 points per possession (63 possessions), LIU scored 1.02 (68 possessions).
Glenn Feidanga had a good game for LIU. Along with his big defensive play at the end of the game, he scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in his first start. E.J. Reed fouled out for the first time in five games and scored just six points.
Jason Brickman dished out a season-high tying 14 assists to pass four different players on the all-time career list with 961 assists and is now 6th on the list. Brickman was named the Lai-Lynch Battle of Brooklyn MVP although he was just 1 for 10 from the field. St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Glenn Briaca decided to put a bigger player on Brickman to keep him from having a big scoring game and it worked. “I thought our big guys did an excellent job keeping him in front of them.” Braica said. “(Brickman) is a terrific player. We just felt you got to take something away from them.”
Perri felt that the postponed Sacred Heart game on Thursday thanks to the snow storm was a bit of a blessing in disguise. “We had that long layoff too, not having that Sacred Heart game but to be honest with you, that might have been the best thing for us. We got some really good practices this week I thought.”
With the win, LIU climbs to 3-8 and remains one game back of both Fairleigh Dickinson and Central Connecticut in the race for the seventh and eight spot in the standings. It also snaps their four-game losing streak. It keeps hope alive with now five games left to play and LIU now going out to Pennsylvania for a tough pair of road games at Robert Morris and at Saint Francis University.
The Blackbirds will need to try and steal at least one of these two games if they can and hope for some good results for them from FDU and CCSU. This win though at least gets them off to the right foot and give them a puncher’s chance at making it into the NEC tournament. They need to keep fighting and keep playing and hopefully keep getting more results like this one and see what happens. It will definitely be an interesting final two weeks.