LIU Brooklyn 79 Saint Francis U. 74 (Overtime)

How sweep it is! LIU Brooklyn make it a very happy Valentine’s day as they go out to Western Pennsylvania and as big underdog (according to kenpom.com) and first beats Robert Morris on Thursday and then gets another huge road victory in defeating Saint Francis U. 79-74 in overtime to get their fourth straight victory and sixth win in their last seven games. They sweep both Western Pennsylvania games for the first time since the 2002-03 season which was former head coach Jim Ferry’s first season at the helm.

It wasn’t without a scare as SFU came back from 11 points down about midway through the second half to eventually tied the game with five minutes left in the second half. They would eventually force overtime after a Ronnie Drinnon went one of two from free throw line and last second buzzer-beater by Malik Harmon was well off the mark.

SFU twice took two-point leads in the overtime period but LIU used a 7-0 run to regain the lead that they would not relinquish and made their free throws when it really counts to get the five-point win.

The Blackbirds led at the half by one, 32-31 even though they looked very disjointed on both ends. LIU did make 56% of their shots in the first half and held SFU to 44% shooting in the half but wasn’t playing with a lot of flow to their game.

“I don’t think we played really well and we were still up by one (at the half).” said LIU head coach Jack Perri. “We wanted to get back to doing a better job rebounding the ball. We didn’t get to the foul line in the first half. We settled for some jump shots in that first half. We didn’t handle the ball well, they had eight steals on us in the first half. We shot well and that kind of kept going in the second half.”

LIU had to play shorthanded as neither Trevin Woods or Trevon Woods were available or even at the game as they had to attended to a family emergency. That meant some more playing time for other players off the LIU bench. Landon Atterberry was a big recipient of the addition minutes and he played well in his 22 minutes as he lead the team in scoring with 15 points before he fouled out.

In fact, LIU finished with five players scoring in double digits led by Atterberry. Martin Hermannson finished with 13 points. Joel Hernandez, who had another strong game for the Blackbirds finished with 11 points before fouling out of the game late in the second half. Elvar Friðriksson also scored 11 points and dished out four assists. Friðriksson got hurt late in the overtime and was seen grabbing on his ankle/leg. Reports are is that he got kneed in the calf and that he should be alright which is very good news.

Another key component to the win was the play of sophomore Iverson Fleming who got his first start of the season in place of Gerrell Martin and was huge late in the game. He hit a three with 1:07 remaining in overtime to put LIU up four and then sunk two free throws to ice the game.

“Our guys hung in there, they have been a resilient group. They really did a good job, guys stepped up.” said Perri. “Iverson Fleming, wow, he made some huge plays, he made a huge three and made those two free throws down the stretch. I was really happy with that and really happy we got some stops late.”

SFU got another double-double from Earl Brown who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds on SFU senior day. Greg Brown and Ronnie Drinnon both finished with 12 points. Dominique Major finished with 11. SFU falls to 8-6 in the NEC and now LIU holds the tiebreaker over both Robert Morris and Saint Francis U. if it comes to that at the end of the season by virtue of sweeping both season series.

LIU is now 8-6 and just one game under .500 for the season at 12-13. With more NEC results pending, LIU will likely finish the day with SFU and Mount St. Mary’s in fourth-place with identical records. The win for LIU clinches an NEC tournament spot no matter how the final four games fares for them. Their first goal of the season has been achieved. LIU is also one game back of Bryant and Robert Morris who are tied for second place.

Even though, LIU is riding this hot streak, Perri wants his young team to stay level-headed as they head into the final two weeks of the regular season.

“We got to keep our heads basically. We really talked about, just keep getting better.” said Perri. “Again, we’re so young. (I’ve told my team) don’t worry about the standings. We’ll see where he at (at season’s end). Everybody plays 18 (games), everybody plays the same amount of teams. We got four (games) left, let’s take the next one and see how that goes. Really work on preparation this week and prepare the best we can and hopefully we can continue to play as well as we’ve been playing.”

The Blackbirds will next head into one more tough road environment as they head to Knott Arena in Emmitsburg, Maryland to close out their three-game road trip. With two wins out of two games on this trip, LIU is now in position to possibly snag a first-round home game for the NEC tournament.

This has been quite a turnaround for this young Blackbirds team who were once 2-5 in the NEC and looking like they were in danger of missing out of another NEC tournament to now putting themselves in position to get a top four spot for the NEC tournament has been truly remarkable. Head coach Jack Perri now has to be in the conversation for NEC Coach of the Year at this point.

Still, there are four games remaining and still some tough games left to play. LIU has a ton to play for down the stretch. A unlikely first-round home game is in their sight. Who would have thought that a month ago? These young Blackbirds hopefully are not done soaring just yet, there are still bigger heights to reach and with this newfound confidence they have right now, whose to tell them they can’t reach get there.

Comments

  1. Michael Hernandez says:

    Nelson,
    How’bout those LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds!!! Sweeping two in Western Pa. And we won the last game with the Woods’ twins unavailable. Winning on the road is tough, no matter the quality of the opponent. Happens to be these two are quality NEC opponents. To me, it’s all about the “D”–contest the shot, deny the pass, take away passing lanes, block-out and avoid stupid fouls. Lock’em down and get the stops. Hopefully, we’ll be at full strength for our next game.
    Mike Hernandez

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