It wasn’t pretty at times but LIU Brooklyn got a desperately needed NEC win at Fairleigh Dickinson as they held off the Knights to win 80-76 on Saturday afternoon.
The Blackbirds used another strong start to the game to get out in front by thirteen at 25-12 with over eight minutes left in the first half. FDU would hang tough and get back into it but LIU still held an eight point lead with 4:46 left. FDU would finish the half strong with a 9-3 run to close the half and LIU would go into the locker room with just a 37-35 lead at the break.
FDU would continue their run into the second half by scoring the first six points to take a four-point lead and Blackbirds fan had to be thinking, ‘here we go again’. This time, LIU had an answer and responded. They took the lead back but FDU came back to tie the game up at 65 with 6:05 left.
Now, the Blackbirds fans were really nervous as LIU has not feared well in these situation in NEC play this season.
This time, LIU didn’t let that get into their heads and went on a 8-2 run to go ahead by six with under two minutes to play. FDU would fight back to get within three with 49 seconds remaining. Then came the biggest play of the game.
Elvar Friðriksson would get into the lane on a drive and get off a layup attempt but missed it and out of nowhere Joel Hernandez came flying and slammed down the follow to put LIU up five with 24 seconds left. Gerrell Martin and Martin Hermannsson would hit their free throws down the stretch to give LIU their much-needed third NEC win of the season.
It was nice to see LIU, at least for one game, break the cycle of getting up by double-digits and then losing even though FDU didn’t make it easy for the Blackbirds. LIU really needed to work in the second half. Luckily, the offense pulled through with 43 second half points because for the third straight game, LIU allowed over 40 points to their opponents in the second half as they gave up 41 points to the Knights.
In fact, LIU scored 1.06 points per possession for the second consecutive game (80 points in 75 possessions) and allowed just 0.99 points per possession (76 points in 77 possessions) to the Knights. LIU allowed FDU to shot just 38.7% in the first half but the Knights shot 56% in the second half which keep them in the game.
The difference was LIU was able to get to the free throw line 45 times which was a season-high. They were +20 in the free throw attempts differential. LIU nearly cost themselves by missing 16 free throws, ten of those in the second half when the game was getting tight. LIU did help themselves by only committing just nine turnovers while FDU committed 15 turnovers.
The Blackbirds got a career-high performance from freshman Martin Hermannsson who scored 21 points, 18 of those points came in the second half. He scored those 21 points on just six shots attempts. That is because Hermannsson went to the free throw line 15 times and made twelve. He also added four rebounds, four assists and five steals. This was easily his best game of the season. Hermannsson has scored in double-figures in six of the eight NEC games and is now averaging over ten points per game for the season at 10.3.
Gerrell Martin had a solid game with 17 points on eleven shots. Joel Hernandez scored nine but no two points were bigger than the two he got on that follow dunk. Hernandez though struggled mightily from the free throw going 3 for 10. I thought Perri should have taken him out late in the game because of his free throw struggles but Hernandez rewarded Perri for his faith in him with that big dunk play late in the game.
Two Blackbirds who had surprising games were Glenn Feidanga and Trevon Woods. Feidanga in his second game back of his second return stint, nearly got a double-double off the bench with nine points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes. Woods scored a season-high seven points on 3 of 4 shooting in just five minutes of playing time.
FDU got 21 points from Mustafaa Jones who scored 16 of his points in the second half. Xavier Harris finished with a double-double 13 points and ten rebounds. Freshman Darian Anderson, who killed LIU in the first meeting, didn’t have the same impact in this game as he finished seven points before fouling out. FDU has now lost six straight games and fall to 2-6 in the NEC.
With the win, LIU Brooklyn is now 3-5 in the NEC and in a tie with Sacred Heart for seventh place in the NEC standings. By virtue of their head-to-head win, LIU has the tiebreaker for now with Sacred Heart. Now, they are just one game behind of fifth-place teams, Saint Francis U. and Wagner who both lost on Saturday and two games behind Mount St. Mary’s for fourth and that final first round home game spot.
Up next is Central Connecticut who LIU has already beaten on the road and who just got their first NEC win of the season in dramatic fashion in beating Wagner at home on Saturday.
That game looms large because after that game, LIU’s schedule get a lot more difficult with games versus St. Francis Brooklyn, a pair against both Robert Morris and Saint Francis U. and a road game at Mount St. Mary’s who are difficult to beat on at their place. LIU needs to build off this victory and try and take care of business on Thursday. For now, they get the win they badly needed and have a chance to get some momentum going before they head into the toughest portion of their conference season.