Coming into Saturday, there were seven winless teams remaining in Division I college basketball. LIU Brooklyn was one of them. The Blackbirds were hoping to get themselves off that list and put their first W in the win column. It looked very promising for a good period of the first half but win number one of the season for LIU will still have to wait as they dropped their sixth straight game to fall to 0-6 to start the season as Lehigh defeated the Blackbirds 80-76 at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
LIU Brooklyn got off to fast start with a 17-7 lead a little over six minutes in. Things looked good. LIU were making shots especially from three, sinking three of their first four attempt. Their defense were getting stops. Their seniors were putting points on the board. Martin Hermannsson was driving and making plays. It looked early like this would be the day the losing streak finally ended. But the good times would not last.
The turning point of the game came with 5:10 left in the first half and LIU up 25-21. Lehigh would finish the half outscoring LIU 13-6 including an 11-0 run which carried over to the start of the second half and ended as a 13-0 run.
LIU was able to get back within one at 45-44 in the second half but Lehigh went on a 13-2 which turned out to be the deciding run of the game.
LIU made one late push to get within four but clutch free throw shooting down the stretch for Lehigh, where they went a perfect 18 for 18 in the final five minutes, help stave off LIU in the end.
“I guess the reality is that we are not ready to win.” LIU head coach Jack Perri said after the game. “There has been some poor decisions offensive which has been a theme from this group’s first six games. Poor shot decisions, poor times to attack. They’re still learning. We didn’t have a preseason where we got some kind of continuity and we’re still in that process. Unfortunately, we got figure it out quicker rather than later in regards to the offense. That is obviously a big problem right now is our offense.”
Lehigh had five players finished in double figures led by Kahron Ross’ 19 points and five assists. Justin Goldsborough finished with a double-double 13 points and 10 rebounds. Austin Price had eleven points and Corey Schaefer and Miles Simelton off the bench finished with ten points each. Lehigh has now won four straight in a row and are 4-4.
The LIU starting seniors of Landon Atterberry and Gerrell Martin had a strong bounce back game after the 0-12 shooting game versus New Hampshire on Wednesday by going a combined 13 for 30 against Lehigh. Martin finished with a season-high 20 points and a career-high nine rebounds. Atterberry got his second double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“They both scored and I think that helps them both. I want to see them respond when they don’t necessarily shoot the ball really well moving forward.” said Perri. “That was a step forward for them to make some shots and make some plays and hopefully they can continue to do that.”
Martin Hermannsson played his best game of the season thus far. He continuously attacked the basket all game long and got a couple of jumpers to fall. He finished with a season-high 19 points.
“He will continue to get better. I’m telling you, he is a big-time shooter, he is going to start to make more.” said Perri of Hermannsson. “He hit some wide open looks too. He is going to be fine. He is a tough kid. He has ability to really attack the basket too. I hope that he continues to build off of these games.”
The LIU starting five had their best scoring game as a collective unit. They scored 68 of LIU’s 76 points. The 76 points was also a season-high output for the Blackbirds.
The one starter who struggled was Nura Zanna. He fouled out in 15 minutes with just two points and a rebound. He committed two or three really bad fouls which at one point had Jack Perri covering his face in displeasure. Perri knows this team needs Zanna on the court and out of foul trouble if they want to win games this season.
“We are not going to win many games with Nura getting into foul trouble like that. He has done a good job until this point. He made some silly fouls, freshman fouls. That hurt us.” said Perri.
The bench was once again quiet with just eight points on three of nine shooting most of that coming from Joel Hernandez. LIU did get 19 minutes of play from sophomore Glenn Feidanga in his second game back from his ankle injury and also senior Chris Carter got his first game action in 362 days with his foot injury that has keep him out all that time when ironically his last game before this one was also against Lehigh.
If LIU wants to get a couple of wins sooner than later, they are going to need to cut down on turnovers. They committed 15 turnovers in this one which Lehigh took advantage for fifteen points. LIU also needs to get the fouls under control. Lehigh killed LIU going 28 for 32 from the foul line, all in the second half.
“It is not an easy thing when you’re losing. You’re trying to keep their confidence but at the same time demand them to do the right things, act the right way, play the right way. It is a work in progress.” said Perri.
As we take a look forward to the remainder of their non-conference schedule, what looked like a schedule before the season where LIU could get some wins before NEC play, now is starting to look even more difficult as year has gone on.
Next up for LIU is a game on Tuesday at Maine who are 1-6 but the one win was against NEC foe Wagner just this past week. Then LIU host NJIT who beat Michigan on Saturday. Yes, you read that right, the only team without a conference beat mighty Michigan at Michigan by two. They also beaten former LIU head coach Jim Ferry’s Duquesne team on the road. Then FIU who are over .500 at the moment, at New Hampshire who LIU has already lost to and then Hofstra who have beaten Stony Brook and Wagner and lost to South Florida by just one point. The schedule was made out with the intent to possibly get some wins in non-conference but is looking like one where you would have to ask “Where are the wins going to come from?” The answer is hopefully coming soon if not this won’t be the happiest of holidays for the Blackbirds.