It is done.
The season opening road trip that took the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds to Queens then Philadelphia then Madison Square Garden then back to Philly, is mercifully done. For Jack Perri and his youthful Blackbirds squad, this difficult start to their season couldn’t come to an end soon enough.
LIU Brooklyn wrapped up what KenPom has currently ranked as the twelfth-toughest schedule overall in college basketball at the moment with a 70-56 defeat to the Temple Owls at the Liacouras Center on Sunday afternoon.
The Blackbirds were flying in the first half, on both ends of the court. They used beautiful ball movement along with hard-nosed rebounding and good defense to take a 34-27 lead at the half. It is not a stretch to believe that LIU might have played their best half of basketball through the first four games in that first half.
The second half started out promising with LIU going up by eight after a Nura Zanna field goal with 18:38 remaining but after that it was all Temple.
Over the next eleven minutes, Temple went from down 8 to up 10 and the dagger of that large run was two straight threes by Temple’s Quenton DeCosey that took them down 5 to up 1 followed by a Josh Brown dunk and Temple would keep a lead they would not relinquish. Temple’s size and athleticism finally broke the dam for the Blackbirds.
“It was their bodies. The last ten minutes, it was their athleticism versus our Joel Hernandez at the four or Trevin Woods at the four. They just beat us up. We just don’t have that.” said LIU head coach Jack Perri after another tough loss to a bigger team.
LIU had a +3 rebounding advantage doing into the halftime break and had held the Owls to 33% shooting from the field including a dismal 1 of 15 from the three-point line. Also, LIU had nine assists on 13 made field goals. Six of those coming from freshman Elvar Friðriksson.
But the second half saw that rebounding advantage disappear to a +10 advantage for Temple. Also, Temple found the shooting range and held LIU to 26% shooting in the second half equaling to LIU getting outscored 43-22.
For a young group who has been in six of the eight halves played so far this season and yet have no wins to show for it, frustration and disappointment is expected.
Playing against formidable competition in their first four games and also playing somewhat undermanned, LIU has not gotten a chance to play the style of play they want to.
“It’s frustrating because we are scoring in the 50s right now.” said Perri. “We got to figure out how to execute better and we got to make better decision offensively. I hope this isn’t who we are.”
The Blackbirds were led by Landon Atterberry who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. Gerrell Martin had a bounce back first half after a couple of poor performances finished with 12 points although all of those point were scored in first half.
Redshirt freshman Nura Zanna finished with eight points and nine boards and showed a lot of fight up against Temple’s big front line. His work inside hasn’t gone unnoticed by his head coach.
“I know he has fouled out of a couple of games but (Zanna) hasn’t been doing it in 17 minutes.” said Perri of Zanna. “Most freshman, they foul out in 15 to 17 minutes. But he is playing 27 minutes to 30 minutes a game. I think that is one thing that’s good that he is able to play without fouling for good stretches for the very least. I want to get him more touches, certainly going forward. I’m going to try to get him more touches and got to do a good job of getting him the ball.”
Point guard Elvar Friðriksson had another solid game. He scored eight points and dished out a season-high eight assists to just one turnover. So far this season, he has 18 assists to just three turnovers in four games averaging just over 30 minutes/game.
“Eight (assists) and one (turnover), he doesn’t turn the ball over. He has been doing a really good job of controlling the ball without making some wacky decisions.” Perri said.
On the other side, his fellow Icelandic teammate Martin Hermannsson shooting struggles continues. He shot just 1 of 7 in this game after getting into early foul trouble and playing just twenty minutes. He is now shooting 7 for 31 this season and still has yet to connect on a three-pointer as he is 0 for 10.
Perri believes Hermannsson will shoot himself out of his early funk. “(Hermannsson) got in foul trouble so he didn’t play the whole first half. He is getting frustrated. I think he is a very good player. It’s in his head, once he starts making them, he’ll be fine.”
Quenton DeCosey led Temple with 15 points. Jaylen Bond finished with his second career double-double (11 points & a career-high 13 rebounds) to help the Owls go to 4-2 on the season.
LIU can now put this difficult road stretch in the past and can look forward to finally playing in front of their home crowd as they head back to the Steinberg Wellness Center to begin their home schedule this week. It is a welcome change for a team that could use a morale boost that a home crowd can give as well as an easing in the difficulty of the opponents.
“There is a lot of youth (on LIU) and now we get back to playing teams like us.” said Perri. “It would have been awesome to win one of these games, yes. In this game, in the end, we didn’t have a chance to win it but we played extremely well enough for a half. I think there is some good things. I’m just trying to keep these guys positive.”
Also, reinforcements may finally be close to returning. Chris Carter dressed for this game but did not play. Perri indicated he had just returned to practice on Saturday and that it is tough to play him right away after missing close to a year with his foot injury. Glenn Feidanga is also close to returning after not being able to practice for most of the last six weeks with an ankle injury. He could dress in Wednesday’s game against New Hampshire but Perri indicated he probably won’t see much if any playing time right away as they try to ease him back from his injury. Jonathan Tshibuy is still out with his knee injury with no timetable yet on his return.
Hopefully, these four games will be used as learning and teaching points. There were plenty of good things to take away but there were also plenty of things that need to be worked on and improved upon.
The learning process continues on for what KenPom has listed as the twelfth least-experienced team in college basketball. As the schedule lightens up and with home games in eight of the next ten games, we should get a better idea of what this season’s LIU team is all about.