Well, what is a good way to ruin LIU Homecoming and LIU Hall of Fame Day? Have what is probably THE worst loss of the season as LIU Brooklyn falls to the surging Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers 61-54 at the Barclays Center on Saturday afternoon. LIU blew an early 21 point lead and then a 17-point second half lead and give up a huge opportunity to get back to .500 in NEC play.
“That is a disappointing one.” said LIU head coach Jack Perri after the loss. For the LIU coaches, players and fans, a loss like this really stings especially to a conference opponent.
The game couldn’t have started any worst for the Mount as they started the game missing fourteen of their first fifteen shots from the field and were down 25-4 with over six minutes left in the first half. But once again, the cold shooting would arrive for the Blackbirds and the Mount would get it together to close out the half with a 15-4 run to close within ten at 29-19.
It has been a consistent problem for LIU this season in which they start off the game well and then midway through the half they just can’t score for long stretches and it allows the opposition to get back in the game.
With Mount not being able to score and LIU flying high, LIU didn’t feel too much of Mount’s Mayhem pressure full-court defense. LIU only turned the ball over five times in the first half. But LIU shot just 39% from the field and the cold spell late in the half helped the Mount get back into the game. LIU failed to once again put a team away when they had the chance.
The second half started with LIU going on a 7-0 run to get the lead up to 17 with 16:40 left in the game as Mount started the half 0 for 5 from the field. After that point, all the momentum went to the Mount and it was mostly led by the smallest player on the court in Mount’s 5’5” freshman point guard Junior Robinson. The Mount would outscore LIU 42-18 from that point on and go from a 17-point lead to a 7-point defeat.
The Mount’s pressure defense finally broke LIU in the second half. The Blackbirds committed eleven second-half turnovers which led to fifteen Mount points. Perri tried seemingly every combination of players to try and get the momentum back but the relentless Mount pressure, which most of LIU’s guys either have never seen before or have played very little against, broke them down and they had no way of finding an answer.
“There were portions of time where we did a really poor job of handling that pressure.” said Perri on his team’s turnover troubles after the game. “We (also) did a poor job of contesting threes.” said Perri.
Two of the killer plays came in crunch time as the Mount was putting the finishing pieces to an incredible second-half comeback . The first dagger came from Chris Martin who beat out two Blackbirds for a 50/50 loose ball near midcourt, and put up a three-point prayer with the shot clock about to expire and drains it to put the Mount up seven with 3:49 to go. “That was a huge play.” said Perri.
The final dagger came from the miniature Robinson who beat Landon Atterberry who ended up being the one guarding him after a defensive switch and drove on Atterberry and hit a layup and was fouled by Joel Hernandez for a three-point play that sealed LIU’s fate.
“That is a little bit frustrating, to play like we played in the first half. It has been pretty consistent for us, our first halves have been pretty good.” said Perri. “Again, I thought we probably should have been up more at halftime, we missed some easy ones. In the second half, the game plan is not real difficult to know what you are suppose to do against a team like this. You got to take care of the basketball and we did not do that. We did a really poor job in the second half of keeping our composure where we did a great job in the first half. (Mount St. Mary’s) did nothing different.”
So far in NEC play, in all four of their losses, LIU Brooklyn has not been able to take advantage of either a double-digit lead in the game or hold on to a slight lead heading into the closing minutes. This though was by far their worst.
Chris Martin led the Mount with 15 points coming of the bench. Junior Robinson finished with 12 points, all in the second half. Bryon Ashe and Will Miller each scored nine. With the win, Mount is 4-2 in the NEC and are now on a four-game winning streak and are one game back of the leading two-team pack. The win broke a seven-game losing streak at LIU.
Gerrell Martin led LIU with 20 points. It is his third game in NEC play of 20 or more points. Martin Hermannsson scored ten. Joel Hernandez scored eight.
Nura Zanna who was hampered by two very quick fouls early on, couldn’t get going at all and scored just one point in 12 minutes. The struggles for Elvar Friðriksson continues. He went scoreless for the second time in NEC play and played a season-low 19 minutes. The Friðriksson struggles is becoming alarming considering he was probably LIU’s best player in November and December but since the Hofstra game with the exception of one game, he has not been the same player we saw early on.
With Zanna and Friðriksson struggles, Trevin Woods and Jamil Hood got significant minutes off the bench. Woods though went scoreless but Hood had his most effective game in conference play with 5 points and 3 rebounds in a season-high 16 minutes.
Freshman Trevon Woods scored his first basket as a Blackbird on his only attempt after going 0 for his first eight shots from the field in his previous nine appearances.
With this loss, LIU drops to 2-4 in the NEC and are tied with FDU for seventh place in the standings through six games. LIU dropped a golden opportunity to go to .500 and stay within striking distance of the top tier teams. They also have to head right back on the road for another pair of games and their next game is against Bryant who already has beaten LIU and is tied with St. Francis Brooklyn for first place in the NEC at 5-1.
There is no question, the lack of total experience by this group has greatly affected their conference record up to this point. They easily could be .500 or better team in the NEC at this point.
So far, there has been just one change with Hernandez starting and Atterberry coming off the bench to help spell Zanna and get more production off the bench. Are more changes probably imminent to start shaking things up a bit and get back on track? Usually a loss like this would cause for some shake up. It will be interesting to see how Perri decides to move forward come Thursday, if he decides to stand pat with his starters or make another move.