LIU Brooklyn had found their winning ways back in the friendly confines of the Steinberg Wellness Center in Brooklyn and got to .500 in the NEC. Now, the Blackbirds had to start a tough three-game road trip out to Western Pennsylvania and Maryland and it began with a doozy as they start with out at Robert Morris. It didn’t look like it would be LIU Brooklyn game at the start but the Blackbirds used the same formula they have now used for three straight games. Another come-from-behind victory.
They had a tremendous second half especially on the defensive end and leave the Sewall Center for the first time since 2010-11 with a win after defeating the Colonials 63-62 on Thursday night. LIU swept the regular season series from RMU for the first since the 1997-98 season.
The start of this game played nearly identical to the start of the game they played against RMU last week at home. RMU got off to a good start and got up to a eight-point lead (14-6) over four minutes in.
LIU’s cold shooting would continue as RMU seemed like they couldn’t miss in particular freshman Marcquise Reed who was red-hot in the first half. RMU would go on a 12-0 run in a span of three minutes and get their largest lead of the game of fifteen (31-16). This was starting to look eerily similar to LIU’s last game versus SFU where they would down 15 (with almost an eerily identical score, 30-15) in the first half.
LIU though once again would chip away and creep back in the game. They would go on an important 9-3 run right before the half but a Reed layup with 36 seconds left put LIU down double-digit, 40-30 at the break. The thing you could see as I was watching on NEC Front Row and the RMU announcers made note of it as well, RMU was looking gassed. They were winded.
RMU is not as deep with just nine available players due to senior David Appolon being out with a shoulder injury. Plus senior Lucky Jones had to leave the game briefly in the first half after rolling up his injured ankle.
RMU shot the lights out in the first half by hitting 17 of their 26 shots from the floor (65.4%) while LIU could just muster 12 of 34 shooting (35.3%). LIU was fortunate they did get nine offensive rebounds that they were able to make good on or else the RMU would have probably been insurmountable.
The second half was a different story, offensively and most importantly defensively for the Blackbirds. LIU would use a 19-4 run after the under 16 minute media timeout to go from 12 to up three, all 19 of those points scored by either Trevin Woods, Nura Zanna and Martin Hermannsson.
The Colonials fought back to regain the lead and go up four with nearly five minutes left to go. LIU would close with a 7-2 run with some spectacular defensive play in the last five minutes.
On one possession, LIU played what I thought was their best defensive possession all year as a team in forcing RMU to a shot clock violation. Elvar Friðriksson, who is slowly becoming known for his strong defensively play, had a tremendous second half defensively along with Joel Hernandez, who each took turns guarding Marcquise Reed and both did a great job holding him to just two points in the second half.
LIU though nearly gave the game away. After a tremendous steal by Hernandez on Reed with RMU down one with the ball with 12 seconds left, Martin Hermannsson would eventually get fouled and tried to make it a three-point game at the free throw line. Hermannsson, an 85% free throw shooter coming into the game and who was 6 for 6 from the line in the game, shockingly missed both free throws and gave RMU a final chance for the win.
Once again, Joel Hernandez locked up with Marcquise Reed one-on-one and again Hernandez was able to force Reed to a tough attempt as Reed was hoping to get the foul call and none would come. RMU would not even get off one final attempt with 0.7 second left and LIU would leave with the victory.
The Blackbirds held RMU to 7 of 29 shooting in the second half (24%) while they shot 10 of 19 from the floor (52.6%). LIU held RMU to 0.936 points per possession (62 points/66 possessions), it is LIU’s third straight game in which they held their opponent to under a point per possession defensively and ninth time in conference play.
RMU got 14 points from Marcquise Reed although like I mentioned earlier, two of those came in the second half. After hitting 5 of 6 in the first half, Reed was 1 of 5 in the second. Lucky Jones was just 4 of 13 from the field for 12 points. Aaron Tate had a good game for RMU with 12 points although eight of those points came in the first four minutes of the game. Elijah Minnie scored nine and Kavon Stewart once again had a quiet night with just four points on 1 of 5 shooting with six assists but five turnovers. RMU falls to 8-5 in the NEC and falls into a tie for third-place in the NEC standings.
It was another strong team effort for LIU. Nura Zanna has a strong game. He led LIU with 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks and only committed two fouls in 26 minutes. Trevin Woods tied a season-high with 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting along with five rebounds and a block. Martin Hermannsson scored 12 on five shots along with five assists and five rebounds. Joel Hernandez only scored two points but grabbed 7 boards and played outstanding defense. Same goes for Elvar Friðriksson who finished with just four points. Iverson Fleming had four points and four assists off the bench and Trevon Woods scored six on a pair of threes.
Underclassmen scored 57 of LIU’s 63 points in this game. Senior Gerrell Martin only scored six and senior Landon Atterberry did not score. In fact, they played just 20 minutes total (8 in the second half) as LIU head coach Jack Perri rode the hot hands of the underclassmen. In a week where the maturity of this team was being applauded (by yours truly), this was most poised and most mature this team had looked this season especially since it was coming on the road against a team LIU has a hard time beating and in a gym LIU has a hard time winning at.
This was a tremendous game and outstanding effort by this team as a whole and now they got the big win out of the way early. Now, they head over to Saint Francis U. on Saturday with a three-game winning streak and winners of five of their last six games.
LIU is 7-6 in the NEC and 11-13 overall. At 7-6, LIU is now tied with Mount St. Mary’s, who was also upset by Sacred Heart at home, for fifth place in the NEC standings. LIU is now one game behind of SFU and RMU for third place and with a win on Saturday versus SFU, would hold tiebreakers against both teams. They are also just two games behind Bryant for second-place but Bryant holds the tiebreaker over LIU with their season sweep over the Blackbirds.
We’ll see if LIU can keep this winning streak going come Valentine’s Day. It could be a lovely weekend if they can get another 2-0 week and improbable one at that and creep closer to a top-four spot and earn a home playoff game in the first round. First things first, just keep the winning streak going.