Opponent: Central Connecticut
Record: 2-15 (Last game: L vs Robert Morris, 72-60)
KenPom Ranking: 338
Tip-Off Time: 7:00pm
Location: Detrick Gymnasium – New Britain, CT
Media Game Coverage: Online: NEC Front Row
Meeting History: 37th all-time meeting. Central Connecticut leads the series, 19-17. CCSU last season snapped an LIU six-game winning streak in the series with an 86-82 win which got them into the NEC tournament and eliminated LIU Brooklyn.
Projected Starting Lineups:
LIU Brooklyn: Elvar Friðriksson (G), Gerrell Martin (G), Martin Hermannsson (G), Joel Hernandez (F), Nura Zanna (F)
Central Connecticut: Matt Mobley (G), Kevin Seymour (G), Khalen Cumberlander (G), Brandon Peel (F), Faronte Drakeford (F)
To say Central Connecticut State is having a rough season is quite an understatement. The team that was picked to finish second in the NEC Coaches Poll back in October has already had a long season. First, the team lost their best player Kyle Vinales after he was arrested a couple of days after he attended NEC Media Day with head coach Howie Dickerman after he was accused with hitting his girlfriend in a car during an argument. Vinales was suspended and later decided not to return back to the team and end his college career.
Then starting guard Malcolm McMillan who averaged nearly 11 points per game last season went down with a back injury after playing just two games and speculation is that he will likely miss the rest of the season.
Without their top guards, CCSU have seen their once promising season fall apart. They are just 2-15 and have started off NEC play at 0-4, the only remaining winless team in the conference. This is after a bit of a disappointing season last season where they were 11-19 and 7-9 in the NEC and finished seventh when they were picked in finish in the top four.
This season, CCSU has had two long losing streak. They started the season 0-7 before winning a couple of games and now are on a eight-game losing streak. In this current losing streak, they have every game by at least six or more points and were walloped at the Mount by thirty-one.
Although, this season has struggled mightily this season, there have a few players on this team who can hurt you and if they can get it together, can certainly win some games. First off, they have sophomore guard Matt Mobley who is the NEC’s leading scorer at 18.4 points per game. He has had just three games this season where he didn’t reach double-digits scoring and has twice gone for 30 or more points. He leads the NEC in minutes played at over 36 minutes per game, as well as in shots made (96) and attempted (236). He also leads the NEC in free throws made (81) and attempted (105) by a pretty wide margin. Mobley shot 40.7% from the floor and 33% from three and get at least one steal per game. Recently, went for 26 versus FDU and a career-high 32 points against Sacred Heart. Far and away, the number one target on any scouting report on CCSU.
6’7″ senior forward Faronte Drakeford is a potential double-double man every time he steps on the court. He is averaging 12 points per game to go along with his 7.2 rebounds per game. He has had two double-doubles this season including a 12-point, 17-rebound performance against Mount St. Mary’s. Drakeford is shooting just 37.2% from the field and getting over 31 minutes of playing time per game. Went for 18 points in their recent loss to Robert Morris on Saturday.
Khalen Cumberlander has gotten the increased playing time with the absence of both Vinales and McMillan. He is averaging 9.7 points per game and shooting 33% from three. He has been struggling scoring over his last eight games averaging only 4 ppg in that span including a couple of goose eggs. He scored a season-high 20 points versus Northeastern this season.
Another big contributor is 6’7″ forward Brandon Peel who is averaging 8.4 ppg and 8.6 rpg which is good for the second in the NEC. Against Robert Morris when for 11 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. He has four double-doubles this season. He is a terror on the boards who has really improved his offensive game over the last couple of seasons.
CCSU is last in the NEC in scoring offense at 58.5 points per game. They score just 0.88 points per possession, last in the NEC. They are last in field goal percentage (38.7%), and two-point field goal percentage (41.7%) and seventh in three-point shooting percentage (31.1%). They are fifth in the NEC in rebounding at 30 boards per game. They are the second-worst team in the NEC in turnovers with 14 per game.
On defense, they give up 71.4 points per game and allow 1.08 points per possession, second-worst in the NEC ahead of Wagner. Opponents are making 53% of their two-point shots and 36.4% of their threes. They only force 11 turnovers per game but they do get over three blocks and five steals per game.
The spotlight will be on the LIU Brooklyn freshmen class. On this blog this week, there was a tremendous amount of debate on who should be getting minutes over who among the freshmen. Nura Zanna on Monday was named NEC Rookie of the Week after averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds including an impressive 17-point (6 for 6 from the field) performance at Wagner on Saturday. After a 16-point game versus FDU, Elvar Friðriksson scored just four in LIU’s loss to Wagner. After an outstanding first two months, Friðriksson has hit a bit of a wall of late shooting a miserable 20% from the field over the last five games although he is still the top freshmen scorer on the team at 9.9 ppg. Martin Hermannsson has still been up and down shooting wise although he has scored at least 12 points in three of the last four games. On the bench, Trevin Woods is the top freshman bench producer. He has scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds over the last two games, most of it coming from his breakout 13 points and 12 rebounds performance against Sacred Heart. Jamil Hood is coming off his second-most minutes of the season with 14 against Wagner. Trevon Woods has appeared in the last two games after not playing the first two NEC games. He has yet to hit his first collegiate field goal and all his attempts with the exception of one has all been threes.
Now that LIU’s season is past the halfway mark, these guys will likely asked to start stepping up their games even more especially after getting off to a 1-3 start in conference starting this week with games against CCSU and Mount St. Mary’s. The starters will need to play with more consistency and knock down more shots. The non-starters will need to continue providing a lift off the bench with some much needed scoring and rebounding. The defensive effort from the entire team has to pick up after allowing over 80 points in the last two games. Before that, the defense had allow 80 or more just twice the entire season.
LIU’s Keys to the Game:
– Get them into foul trouble: CCSU is short-handed with just eight players available. LIU’s depth should hopefully be an advantage. LIU should attack the rim and look for easy baskets and get to the free throw line.
– Rebound, Rebound, Rebound: LIU has not won the rebounding margin in their last six games. This is going to be a bit of a challenge going up against two of the top four rebounders in the NEC in Drakeford and Peel.
– Free throws: The Blackbirds have played in close games in the first four NEC games which means LIU has to do a better job hitting their free throws. They can’t afford to leave any free points off the scoreboard.
LIU Injury Report:
– Jonathan Tshibuy after dressing for the FDU game last week, did not dress for the Wagner game on Saturday. He has not played in a game this season due to a knee injury.
– Glenn Feidanga has now missed LIU’s last seven games due to his reoccurring ankle injury. At the moment, there is no definite timetable to his return.
KenPom Game Prediction: LIU Brooklyn, 68-66. LIU win probability: 59 %.
The Blackbirds return to the Barclays Center for the final time this season as they take on Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday, January 17. The game is the second game of women’s/men’s doubleheader. The women’s game is at 11:45am and the men’s game is expected to tip off at 2:00pm.