Forty minutes wasn’t enough to determine a victor. It took two overtimes to settle this game but in the end, LIU Brooklyn came out with a desperately needed 82-81 victory against Sacred Heart at the Steinberg Wellness Center on Thursday night. The win breaks LIU’s three-game losing streak and it salvages a win out of this three-game NEC opening home stand.
LIU for the first time this season had a change to their starting lineup. Before the game, it was known that senior Landon Atterberry was suspended from this game by head coach Jack Perri for violation of team rules. He wasn’t in attendance at all at this game. That meant sophomore Joel Hernandez got his career start for LIU playing the four position in Atterberry’s place.
Without Atterberry being available, Perri was forced to mix up his rotation and it extended a opportunity for some big minutes for some of the other bench guys especially freshman Trevin Woods.
Woods took full advantage of his chance to play extended minutes and it resulted in his first career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 27 minutes of action.
He played a big factor in the second half through the overtimes. All his points came after halftime. He knocked down three consecutive threes in the latter part of the second half and scored 11 straight points for LIU with each basket made either tied or gave LIU the lead in this tightly-contested game.
“Up to this point it has been really tough especially getting my shot.” said Woods. “Today, especially in the second half, it was really falling. It felt great though to finally starting putting some points and contributing to my team and then on top of that I was able to rebound a good bit. It was pretty good.”
“As a young kid and most freshman have that adjustment period, how hard you have to play and practice.” said Perri. “He has really been doing a good job in probably the last three weeks and I’m like I want to get him in there. He hasn’t been shooting really well so he gets down on himself a little bit but to his credit he stayed with it. He was wide open in the first half and again in the second half, he got great looks and knocked them down and got some big offensive rebounds. He is a wonderful kid, great kid. Both (Woods) twins are awesome kids. I hope this give him confidence so that he can continue to produce and give us good minutes.”
Woods then passed the baton over to sophomore Joel Hernandez in the overtimes and Hernandez scored nine of his fourteen points in the last ten minutes of the game. He went six for eight from the free throw line in the overtimes and made a huge three from the corner with 1:25 to go in the second overtime that spun around the rim a couple of times before fallen through which gave LIU a three-point lead and ended up being the game-winning basket.
“(Joel) is probably our toughest kid.” said Perri of Hernandez. “I could sense his frustration (in the first half) and told him at halftime, ‘Relax man. Keep your body language and focus, you’re going to be fine.’ and once he got some free throws and he makes that huge three that puts us up, that was awesome.”
LIU was also helped out by Sacred Heart terrible free throw shooting. The Pioneers was just 9 for 23 from the charity stripe in this game. Senior Evan Kelley was the biggest culprit going 2 for 8 from the free throw line.
LIU gave up 60 rebounds to Sacred Heart including 27 offensive boards which lead to 28 second chance points. LIU also committed a season-high 21 turnovers. LIU was able to force 17 Sacred Heart turnovers and turn it into 27 points. Even though LIU shot 35% for the game, they were able to hold the Pioneers to just under 40% including just 6 for 24 from three (25%).
“The twenty-one turnovers and not only that but the rebounding. They beat us on 50-50 balls in the second half which we were a little slow. Probably those first ten minutes before Trevin started knocking down threes and then we kind of got our step going again. That was a little disappointing. We are trying to play fast. It is a work in progress.”
Sacred Heart had five players finish in double-figures with senior Evan Kelley leading the way with a team-high 17 points. Freshman Cane Broome scored 16 points but combined for just two points in overtime. De’von Barnett and Jordan Allen both finished with 12 points. Allen had nine of those points in the overtimes. Phil Gaetano scored 11 and had nine assists but also committed eight turnovers. Tevin Falzon had 12 rebounds and five blocks for Sacred Heart who now falls to 1-2 in the NEC with the loss.
LIU Brooklyn also had five players finish in double-figures along with Woods and Hernandez, point guard Elvar Friðriksson busted out of his three-game slump with a game-high 18 points and seven assists. He played 45 minutes.
LIU needed a big time game in the middle from freshman Nura Zanna with the absence of Atterberry and he came up big with 13 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes before fouling out in the second overtime. Martin Hermannsson finished with 12 points in 44 minutes played. Gerrell Martin scored eight and grabbed seven rebounds.
“It feels really good to get that first one.” said a joyous Perri after the game. “We knew guys had to step up in Landon’s absence. Our guys grinded it out and we had to play really, really small. Obviously, it was a little ugly on the rebounds. Though we got the big stops when we needed to get stops. We made some big shots, we made some big free throws. I’m really happy with our effort.”
LIU easily played their fastest game of the season with 93 possession in a 50-minute game. Yet, they were only able to score 0.89 points per possession. They were able to hold Sacred Heart to 0.91 points per possession.
It was a passionate and spirited effort from the Blackbirds in this game and it was led by their head coach who this season has shown more fire and emotion in-game on the sidelines especially in this home stand as he tries to lead this young team to biggest heights.
“I want these guys to have the same enthusiasm.” said Perri. “I try and preach not getting too high or too low and I don’t like myself doing that (in-game). I have been frustrated with things that I can’t control. I keep telling myself I have to do a better job with that because I always been I think pretty good with that. At the same time, I want to show these guys, you can be fiery and be aggressive.”
The win was big for LIU because it prevented an 0-3 NEC start and snaps a streak of two straight seasons LIU had started 0-3 in NEC play. It also give LIU some confidence now heading into stretch of games where they play four of the next five and five of the next seven on the road. In fact, LIU’s next home game is at the Barclays Center on January 17th so their next game back at the Steinberg Wellness Center isn’t until January 29, three weeks from Thursday night’s game. LIU is now back in the mix with a host of 2-1 and 1-2 teams through three games.