Momentum can be fickle at times. Once a team has it, they ride it and once a team losses it, it’s not easy to get it back. In a way, that was what happened to LIU Brooklyn Saturday night up on Grymes Hill in Staten Island in falling to the Wagner Seahawks by the score of 87-82.
Two momentum swinging plays were thanks to questionable calls by an officiating crew that likely have had better games than this one.
The first was right before the half as the officials called a foul on Elvar Friðriksson as Aaren Edmead was attempting a buzzer-beating three before the half. Edmead sunk all three free throws and took what would have been an eight-point LIU halftime lead and shrunk it to a much more manageable five-point lead at the break.
Wagner rode that momentum through the start of the second half and it led to an 11-2 run for the Seahawks to give them their first lead of the half. Perri didn’t make excuses though for Wagner’s momentum swing.
“We didn’t finish. Elvar has got to be smarter than that to even put himself in that position.” said Perri. “Beginning of the second half, we came out flat. Zanna hadn’t played at all (in the first half) and he was a little flat. Once he got going, they couldn’t stop him.”
The next momentum changing play or plays came when Nura Zanna got called for his fourth and fifth foul which took him out of the game. The calls came right as Zanna got hot and became a near unstoppable force inside for LIU Brooklyn. He hit five straight field goal attempts and was five of six from the charity stripe to keep LIU close before he helped push their lead up to seven with 5:28 to go.
Zanna’s fourth foul was an offensive foul call as Zanna was getting the ball and it looked like a Wagner flop as the Wagner player immediately went to the ground. Then the fifth foul was another offensive foul that was very ticky-tacky. With Zanna out of their hair, Wagner finished the game on a 11-7 run.
Credit also has to go to Wagner defense at the end of the game. LIU had a chance to tie the game with the shot clock off the Wagner up one after a huge Landon Atterberry block on Marcus Burton. Wagner’s Jo Jo Cooper forced a turned the ball over on a pass by Martin Hermannsson. Wagner’s Romone Saunders hit two free throws to put LIU down three. Wagner’s defense once again came up strong giving Gerrell Martin a tough look at a three and then Landon Atterberry threw up a prayer that was well wide.
LIU has to point at their second half defense which allowed Wagner to shoot nearly 61% (17-28 FGs). Once again, turnovers was a problem for the Blackbirds as they committed 18 of those which led to 23 points for Wagner.
“We didn’t defend well enough in the second half.” said Perri. “In our close losses, we’ve had one really good half defensively and one really poor half. We can’t say anything about the offense today. It was a matter of not getting stops.”
Marcus Burton who LIU held to just two points at the half, scored 16 points in the second half and finished with a team-high 18 points. Also, 6’10” Nolan Long gave Wagner a great lift in the second half with nine points and four rebounds and finished with 11 points. Freshman Romone Saunders finished with 17 points to help Wagner get just their fourth win of the season and go to 2-2 in the NEC.
LIU got a team-high 18 points from Joel Hernandez who was a perfect 7 for 7 shooting in the first half and finished 8 for 11. Nura Zanna finished 17 points on a perfect 6 for 6 in the game. Both point totals were new career-highs for each.
“I think that what he is in this league.” said Perri of Zanna. “I saw the frustration on the first two fouls early on. I was glad to see he was able to make his free throws, doing a good job that way. He was a chance to be a really, really good player. I’ll love to see him on the court more.
“(Hernandez) was great. He rebounded on the offensive end and had some nice plays.” said Perri of Hernandez. “We knew this was a game he can certainly take advantage of. They really extend defensively and he’s got that ability to penetrate which he showed he can do.”
Martin Hermannson scored 14 on eight shots with four assists. Gerrell Martin scored ten on 2 of 7 shooting. He was 0 for 3 from three. Landon Atterberry who returned to LIU lineup but did not start after missing the last game due to a one-game team suspension, had six points and seven rebounds.
LIU wasted their second-best offensive game of the season. They scored 1.14 points per possession in 72 possessions. Only the Maine game was better when they put up 1.18 points per possession. Defense was their downfall. They gave up 1.14 points per possession to Wagner in 76 possessions.
“This was disappointing because this was a very winnable game which they are all going to be. We just to find a way down the stretch even. We had chances to win that game and we just didn’t get enough stops.”
So the grueling rapid fire, four conference games in eight games end with LIU with a 1-3 record and LIU tied with Sacred Heart for eighth place in the standings. There is still a lot of season left to play and LIU was in every single game this week but only have one win to show for it.
LIU will have a few days now to prepare for Central Connecticut on Thursday. Even with CCSU at 0-3, no games this season are gimmies. LIU is going to have get their turnovers and defensives issues fixed as they continue on into the season.