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.

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