LIU Gameday Preview – Game 25 (NEC Game 14) – Saint Francis U.

Opponent: Saint Francis U.

Record: 14-10, 8-5 NEC (Last game: W at Fairleigh Dickinson, 64-60
KenPom Ranking: 216
Tip-Off Time: 1:00pm
Location: DeGol Arena – Loretto, PA
Media Game Coverage: Online: NEC Front Row
Meeting History: 69th all-time meeting. Series tied at 34 wins each. LIU Brooklyn won the first meeting of the season last week, 66-60.

Projected Starting Lineups:

LIU Brooklyn: Elvar Friðriksson (G), Gerrell Martin (G), Martin Hermannsson (G), Joel Hernandez (F), Nura Zanna (F)

Saint Francis U.: Malik Harmon (G), Ollie Jackson (G), Greg Brown (G), Ronnie Drinnon (F), Earl Brown (F)

Opponent Preview:

Last week, LIU Brooklyn used a strong second half and helped erase a 15-point deficit to beat Saint Francis U. 66-60 at home. This time, the two teams in Loretto, PA at the DeGol Arena where the Red Flash are a near perfect 9-1 this season. Their only home loss came against St. Francis Brooklyn who used a miraculous buzzer-beater to get the win.

The loss to LIU last week halted a three-game winning streak. SFU has won four of their last five game entering this contest.

In their last meeting, SFU shot 36 three-pointers in 52 shot attempts. They made just eleven. Nearly 42% of their shots this season are three-pointers. They are 31st in the nation in three-point attempts per field goal attempts. They live and die by the three. The only that does this more so than SFU is of course Mount St. Mary’s.

Senior Earl Brown was held to just 12 points in the last meeting although he did his eighth double-double of the season in the game with 10 rebounds. He now has nine double-doubles this season and collected double-doubles in four straight games and five out of his last six. Brown has gotten five of those nine double-double at home. He is still in the top five in the NEC is scoring (15.3 ppg), rebounding (7.6 rpg), field goal percentage (54.1%) and is in the top ten in blocks.

Junior forward Ronnie Drinnon returned to the starting lineup in SFU’s last game against CCSU. He grabbed his second double-double of the season (15 pts/11 rebs) in the win. In last week’s game, Drinnon came off the bench after missing the two previous games with an injury. He only played 17 minutes and scored eight points. He will likely be a much bigger factor in this game.

It was interesting that SFU head coach Rob Krimmel gave Dominique Major the start against LIU in the first meeting. It was only Major’s second start of the season. Major played well enough to justify the start with 12 points in 33 minutes although he was just 4 of 10 from the field. He went back to the bench versus CCSU and went scoreless in 13 minutes. It will be interesting to see if Major gets the minutes once again against LIU or if he will be reverted back to playing small minutes off the bench. I think with Drinnon back, I might look for the latter.

Sophomore point guard Malik Harmon who played against LIU last season but finished with six points and three assists against LIU last week, had a solid 11-point, four-assist game against CCSU on Thursday. Played with some foul trouble in the first half of the first game. Always a player that cause damage, LIU will have to be on alert with him.

Guards Ben Millaud-Meunier and Ollie Jackson will both look to score from deep. Combined they have taken nearly 200 three-pointers taken this season. Millaud-Meunier was 3 of 10 from three last week versus LIU while Jackson was 1 for 3. Greg Brown rounds out a deep SFU back court. Brown will also look to launch from deep, was 1 for 4 from three in the meeting last week.

LIU Spotlight:

Freshman forward Nura Zanna has risen his game over the last five games. During that span, Zanna is averaging 11.2 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game (over 3 per game on the offensive glass) while making 50% of his field goals.

More important for Zanna, he has not fouled out of a game in that five-game span making it the longest stretch this season in which he has gone without fouling out. Zanna had fouled out of nine contests this season and leads the team in fouls with 92.

Zanna leads LIU in rebounding with 6.3 rebounds per game and is up to third on the team in scoring with 9.3 points per game. In NEC games, he is tied for 25th in scoring at 10.4 points per game, tenth in rebounding at 6.8 rebounds per game and seventh in field goal percentage at 52.7%.

You can see Zanna growing in confidence with each passing game and it is becoming evident that NEC teams are going to have a very hard time stopping him in the paint one-on-one. Teams are already using double-teams and in some cases a triple-team to get the ball out of his hands but Zanna has shown some escapability to get free and still score down low. Once he gets better at getting position and continues working on his low post moves and footwork, the sky is the limit. He is starting to see that the only person that can stop him is himself with the fouls. He is slowly learning and that is another sign in the continual maturation of this Blackbird team.

LIU’s Keys to the Game:

Watch out for the threes: As I noted earlier, SFU loves the three and will shoot it early and often. LIU will need to keep the shooters in sight. SFU will look to move the ball around quickly to give their guys open looks.

Use the inside-out game: SFU doesn’t have a lot of interior defense other than Earl Brown and Ronnie Drinnon. LIU should continue to look inside to Zanna, Feidanga and Atterberry and work some inside-out especially with Zanna if SFU looks to double the post.

Protect the rock once again: LIU did a great job of protecting the basketball in the last meeting, committing only seven turnovers (LIU averages 12.2 TO/gm). If they can get another near 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio on SFU like they nearly got last time out, they should be in the game.

KenPom Game Prediction: Saint Francis U., 68-61. LIU win probability: 76%.

Next Up: 

The Blackbirds finish off their three-game road trip with a bus ride down to Emmitsburg, MD to face Mount St. Mary’s on Thursday, February 19 as LIU try to gain some measure of revenge for the Mount’s big come-from-behind win at the Barclays Center last month. Tip-off time is scheduled for 7pm.

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