3.1 seconds. That was all the time that was left to tick down before LIU Brooklyn would take a huge early season upset win out of the City of Brotherly Love. But Saint Joseph’s would spoil the fun.
The Hawks’ James Bembry would hit his first career three point basket with those precious 3.1 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime and eventually eked out a 74-70 win at the Hagan Arena on Tuesday night.
The loss sent LIU Brooklyn to 0-2 to start the season. Yet, for the second game in a row, the Blackbirds showed real grit in hanging with and eventually taking the lead late on the Hawks before falling in the extra period.
LIU had a chance to be the heroes after two straight Martin Hermannsson driving layups gave them a one-point lead with 47 seconds left in regulation. Then it looked like fellow Iceland freshman Elvar Friðriksson put this one in the upset column for LIU with a pair of free throws with ten seconds remaining. But Bembry had something else to say about it.
“We talk about these situations.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri of their last defensive possession of regulation. “We talked about (playing) straight man to man if it’s only two points or only one point. (Friðriksson) makes both and we’re up three, I’m switching and staying out and guarding the three point line. Unfortunately, (James) Demery drove and Joel (Hernandez) helped and he makes the first three of his career. But you can’t help in that situation. It’s lack of experience and that is all it was. I think, next time he will be better at it. I couldn’t foul in that situation because Nura (fouled) out, we were too small, I didn’t trust it.”
Unfortunately for Perri and LIU, they didn’t have Nura Zanna to turn to in overtime because he fouled out with 1:06 to go on a very questionable foul underneath Saint Joseph’s basket in which Zanna was battling with a Hawk for a loose ball rebound and then got hit with the foul.
Even then, LIU had a chance to win it in overtime when Gerrell Martin got a look at a long three with LIU down two at 72-70 but he couldn’t connect and Saint Joseph’s, who had a 91% KenPom win probability going into the game, survived.
Nura Zanna had another strong game with 14 points and eight rebounds on 6 of 9 shooting before fouling out. The sophomores, Iverson Fleming and Joel Hernandez, both had great games off the bench for LIU. Fleming finished with 14 points on 4 of 7 shooting and Hernandez scored ten with five boards.
Elvar Friðriksson once again looked strong at the point, taking charge of the offense for most of the game for LIU. He scored 12 but made a couple of huge threes late to keep LIU in striking distance.
Martin Hermannsson scored only eight but late in the game he started to look dynamic, fearlessly driving to the basket and connecting on those huge late game layups.
“He had some shots (early) that he makes. He was getting to the rim and he was coming up a little bit short on them.” said Perri of Hermannsson’s performance. “He is getting experience. He is a really talented kid. He is a really good player. He is just going to continue to get better and you saw that down the stretch, making some really big plays. He is really crafty and has an ability to get into the lane.”
LIU was down ten early in the second half and it looked like Saint Joseph would pull away but similar to the St. John’s game last week, LIU fought back and immediately answered with a 8-0 run to get back within two.
So far, that has been good early theme for LIU Brooklyn. They are showing great tenacity and toughness and not letting cold spells get into their heads and effect their play. They have made strong comebacks in both early season games so far.
“We are trying to get better each day and we are really trying to do that.” said Perri of his team’s early season performances. “From each of our scrimmages we have gotten better. It has been tough. We have had a lot of practices and not a lot of games. Saint Joseph’s played their fifth game and this is only our second. I think our guys have done a really good job. I can’t ask for much more.”
You can see on the faces of his players, that LIU were really trying to steal this game away. The bench was into it, the players on the floor had determined looks on their faces and they nearly pulled it off.
“I hope they don’t think about this loss in a negative light. It is going to be hard. They’re young. They are all devastated in (the locker room). They wanted to win this game so badly.”
LIU got great play from their bench with 32 bench points. They were slightly out-rebounded by just three to a taller, more athletic Hawks team and shot the ball better at 43%.
Interesting though, Perri went with the hot hands of Hernandez and Fleming especially in the second half and only played senior Gerrell Martin twenty minutes. He finished with just two points on 1 of 5 shooting. He only saw four minutes in the second half before playing down the stretch in overtime.
LIU’s tough start to their non-conference schedule only continues when in under 48 hours, they will face a tough Stony Brook team at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving. The long breaks in between games are pretty much over for the rest of non-conference play.
“This is a tough stretch right now.” said Perri. “We don’t have time to think about it because tomorrow it is preparation on Stony Brook and then we got to play. The rest of the semester, we don’t have a lot of practice time and it becomes all about preparation.”