LIU Brooklyn 53 St. John’s 66

Landon Atterberry got his first double-double season in loss to St. John's (Photo: Bob Dea)

Landon Atterberry got his first career double-double in loss to St. John’s (Photo: Bob Dea)

It was hard to know what to expect coming into Wednesday night’s LIU Brooklyn season opener at St. John’s. Head coach Jack Perri enters this season with nine players who have never played for LIU before so this was going to be the first time we all got to see what this new group of Blackbirds was capable of.

The final score was not indicative of how well the Blackbirds really played at times with this rather young team, as they lost 66-53 to a more experienced, more talented St. John’s team at Carnesecca Arena.

Right off the bat, there were improvements in two phases from last season’s team, at least in this game. Their rebounding was very good. LIU out-rebounded St. John’s by five and were able to get 21 offensive rebounds against a more athletic and bigger St. John’s team. Their inexperience and size disadvantage showed in that they were only able to get ten points off their second chance opportunities.

Senior Gerrell Martin scored 14 points and help guard SJU’s D’Angelo Harrison. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Also, their defense which was a major point of emphasis in the preseason after going through a disastrous season defensive last season, really showed up to play for the most part tonight, holding St. John’s to 66 points and allowing just 18% three-point shooting.

“We talked about transition defense and not allowing them to get out and go.” said Perri after the loss. “We wanted to make it more of a half-court game and keep the scoring down.”

“LIU came in with purpose.” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin after the game. “I was impressed with their cohesive approach.”

Landon Atterberry started out his season strong with his first career double-double. He scored 12 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds including seven offensive boards. One of the goals Perri had for Atterberry before this season was to be more assertive on the glass for LIU and he did that tonight.

LIU’s biggest issue was stopping St. John’s forward Sir’Dominic Pointer. The 6’6” senior set career-highs in scoring (18 points) and blocks (6) to help lead the Red Storm to victory. Also, big man Chris Obekpa finished with 8 blocks even while battling an ankle injury that seemed to hamper him more of the offensive end where he was held to 5 points on 1 of 7 shooting.

Overall, LIU held their own. They had a five-point lead early on in the first half and lead again with under eight minutes left in the first before St. John’s grabbed the lead again. Each time, St. John’s would go on a run and it looked like they would begin to pull away, LIU would respond. A trait you didn’t see too much from LIU last season.

LIU trailed by six at half and then started the second half on a 7-0 run to regain the lead once more. LIU had a resiliency to them in this game which you like seeing from a young squad. There was no giving in and quite frankly, showed a toughness that sorely lacked last season. LIU got within four with about seven minutes left but just couldn’t get any closer as St. John’s, mostly on the defensive end was able to stymie the Blackbirds and keep them at bay.

“In the second half, unfortunately they got some run outs. Maybe fatigue played a little bit of a factor in that. That certainly hurt us.” said Perri.

Nura Zanna with a nice LIU debut going up against SJUs Chris Obekpa. Photo: Bob Dea)

Nura Zanna with a nice LIU debut going up against SJU’s Chris Obekpa. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU was only able to shoot just under 30% from the field as St. John’s length and athleticism caused them to alter some shots and shoot some open jumpers a little quicker than they would have liked. LIU tried to battle Obekpa and Pointer in the paint. They were able to get 24 points in the paint. Freshman Nura Zanna had a nice debut with 10 points and 6 rebounds going up against the trees inside. He shot just 5 of 12 but he had some nice inside moves and worked hard inside to get some shots.

The Iceland duo of Elvar Friðriksson and Martin Hermannsson had so-so debuts. Each had five assists although Hermannsson also had four turnovers as well. Both looked impressive at times. Friðriksson showed great poise running the offense and I hate to say it but resembled former Blackbird Jason Brickman out on the court, at least in this game. Neither shot the ball well as they combined to go 3 for 13 and 1 for 7 from three to score a combined ten points. Hermannsson at times looked a little tentative in taking shots possible due to St. John’s length. Yet, you could see the potential in these two guys and see why the coaching staff are love with them both. As they get more comfortable with things and their teammates, they are going to be quite a duo.

“I wish Martin (Hermannsson) would have been more aggressive for himself. I though he had shots that he passed up.” said Perri. “He has been our best player everyday. He is a tough-minded kid. I think he isn’t used to playing against Big East athletic guards like that. I think they are both going to be really good. They have a certain presence to them. They have a certain innate toughness to them. They don’t let things necessarily bother them, they just play through stuff. So I was really happy with both of them.”

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Elvar Friðriksson (L) and Martin Hermannsson (R) made their LIU debuts in loss to St. John’s (Photo: Bob Dea)

Also, at one time in this game, Perri went with five freshmen on the court at once given further evidence of the youth movement happening this season at LIU.

“There was a point with twelve minutes to go in the game, I had five freshmen on the court and they were getting stops. They played with some grit. They played with some toughness.”

LIU also played this game without three forwards as neither Glenn Feidanga (ankle), Jonathan Tshibuy (knee) and Chris Carter (foot/mono) were available to go, making the effort they gave against a bigger St. John’s team even more impressive.

“Overall, I was kind of happy with our effort. Not happy with the outcome but at the same time, I think we can make some progress with that.” said Perri.

Senior Gerrell Martin finished with 14 points but he shot just 5 of 16 although he hit 4 of 8 from three. LIU’s bench scored just seven points. Freshmen Trevin Woods (3 points) and Jamil Hood (0 points) also both made their LIU debuts in this one.

Besides Pointer’s 18 points, St. John’s got 15 points from Rysheed Jordan and 14 points from D’Angelo Harrison as they go to 3-0 on the young season.

The early games don’t get an easier for LIU Brooklyn as they next face Saint Joseph’s of the Atlantic 10 on the road on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Yet, this is a game and an effort that they can hopefully build on and gain confidence from. They didn’t look overmatched which was the fear heading in. They accounted themselves well but need to learn from this loss and get better. No opponent is going to give them wins because of how young they are.

Comments

  1. Stu class of 68 says:

    At the game-D 100 % better than last year-had a poor shooting night- we were in the game until the last few minutes- coach Perri did a good job with all the new talent-LOOK FORWARD TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON AND A RUN AT THE NEC CHAMPIONSHIP

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