It was the annual Battle of Brooklyn. It was a battle of experience versus youth. For 19 minutes, youth was game but for the other 21 minutes experience had its way. That sums up the dominating second half performance for the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers as they defeated LIU Brooklyn 81-64 in the 40th edition of the Battle of Brooklyn at the Pope Physical Education Center on Saturday.
The Blackbirds actually played a very good first half. Most of their offense came from the only player who has played in this game for four years in senior Gerrell Martin. He was pretty much the offense for LIU Brooklyn in the first half with 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting.
Martin’s hot half gave LIU a lead through the majority of the first half although it was mostly a one-possession game.
With under two minutes to go in the half, it was another Icelandic import who gave the Terriers a big lift to close the half. Gunnar Olafsson, who hails from the same Iceland town as Martin Hermannsson, scored all six of his points in the final two minutes including five straight points in the final 47 seconds which gave the Terriers a six-point halftime lead and the separation they needed to take control of the game. Olafsson’s three right before the half was a killer.
“The last four minutes span (in the first half) I thought was big.” said Perri. “We couldn’t get stops. The tide kind of turn a little bit after that.”
LIU closed to within five in the early portions of the second half but then the St. Francis Brooklyn’s poise and experience did the youthful Blackbirds in.
A 13-4 run by the Terriers gave them their first double-digit lead of the game and then the Terriers defense carried them the rest of the way in particularly junior forward Amdy Fall who added to his defensive player of the year résumé with four second-half blocks as LIU tried going to the rim to get back into the game.
“That is a really good team (in St. Francis Brooklyn). They showed why they are in first place right now.” said Perri after the loss. “I thought it was more of our defensive lapses that was the difference in the game, not so much our offense.”
One frustrating factor for the Blackbirds was watching Nura Zanna have to sit with two fouls not even two minutes into the game. Then Zanna was LIU’s biggest offense threat in the second half, scoring all 11 of his points and grabbing six rebounds.
“Yes, it is frustrating and it is not the first time.” said Perri. “Obviously, I think the world in Zanna and I think he could be a really good player. I think he showed some of that in the second half. Those games he can stay on the floor more, we’re a lot different team.”
The Terriers did a good job of shutting Gerrell Martin down to just two second-half points and allowing him to just shoot just two shots after his sizzling first half.
“They didn’t let me get the ball. They didn’t let me even breathe at times.” said Martin. “I give credit to them.”
LIU couldn’t get anything going in the second half against St. Francis Brooklyn’s stingy defense. LIU shot 35% in the second half and couldn’t make a three while St. Francis Brooklyn shot 52% and made four threes.
Another factor was that St. Francis Brooklyn’s bench was able to make major contributions, led by Amdy Fall. Antonio Jenifer, Gunnar Olafsson and Glenn Sanabria along with Fall scored 34 points for the Terriers. They outscored LIU’s bench by twenty.
“We talked about having to focus on (Jalen) Cannon and (Brent) Jones and other guys stepped up for them. They had a lot of guys step up for them.” said Perri.
Brent Jones was named the Battle of Brooklyn Most Valuable Player with his 18 points and eight rebounds in his 36 minutes. He helped bring the Terriers their first Battle of Brooklyn win in five seasons and it was a first for the outgoing seniors.
“It is a great experience to play in the Battle of Brooklyn.” said Jones. “It is another milestone that (we) wanted. It is an accomplishment.”
Four Terriers finished in double-figures. Along with Jones’ 18 points, Amdy Fall finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Senior Jalen Cannon finished just short of another double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Tyreek Jewell finished with 12 points.
With the win and a Robert Morris to Bryant on Saturday, St. Francis Brooklyn is now is sole possession of first place in the Northeast Conference with a 8-2 mark.
After Martin’s team-leading 18 points and Zanna’s 11 points, Elvar Friðriksson was the only other double-digit scorer for the Blackbirds. He finished with 12 points.
The loss puts LIU Brooklyn at 4-6 in the NEC but with losses to all the teams below them in the standings, they remain in seventh place in the standings. The gap to next spot in the standings got one game further out as a the trio of fourth place teams are now all with a 6-4 record.
The tough stretch of competition continues on for LIU as things don’t get any easier next week with Robert Morris and St. Francis U. coming into Brooklyn with winning conference records. If LIU wants to see themselves back in the NEC tournament, they are going to need to get some upsets wins along the way and there are nothing but opportunities heading at them in the coming games.