It wasn’t “the” Battle of Brooklyn game but it was another great installment in the St. Francis Brooklyn-LIU Brooklyn rivalry as the Terriers stormed back from a three-point deficit in the final 39 seconds of regulation to force overtime and defeated the Blackbirds for the second time this season in a wild 74-69 game on LIU’s senior night at the Steinberg Wellness Center on Thursday night.
The Blackbirds who were coming off a pair of miserable performances last week came out of the gate looking re-energized and playing with purpose and intensity, stormed out in front to take a ten-point lead midway through the first half. It was looking like a night LIU would be getting back into the win column.
“It’s a big week for us.” said LIU head coach Jack Perri after the game. “I think our guys really responded (from the Wagner game). They needed to. Our guys did a really good job competing.”
St. Francis Brooklyn (21-9, 15-2 in the NEC) had nothing to gain standings-wise as they had already clinched home court throughout the NEC tournament by virtue of being regular season champions with two games to spear.
Coming in to the game, it was hard to tell if the Terriers would play the game like they needed it or decide to rest up some of the starters and get the reserves a little more playing time and start getting ready for the NEC tournament next week. SFBK head coach Glenn Briaca decided on the latter.
The Terriers’ three big players in seniors Jalen Cannon, Brent Jones and junior Amdy Fall all played over 30 minutes and all were big part in helping get the Terriers this win. Cannon scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and in the process became St. Francis Brooklyn’s all-time career leading scorer with 1,666 points in his great career. Cannon also played a game-high 41 minutes.
“I’m just so happy for Jalen.” said Braica after the win. “I’ve had the amount of points he needed (to get the SFBK record) on my phone for about a month and a half. He is a great kid.”
Jones scored 12 points in 36 minutes and scored five big points down the stretch in regulation. Fall was pretty quiet until overtime in which he came up huge defensively with three big blocks in the closing minutes. He scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked six shots in 31 minutes to help get the Terriers their 21st win of the season.
“It’s a typical LIU-St. Francis game, when you come to these games anything can happen.” said Braica. “These games are great. They’re not pretty but they’re great.”
Meanwhile, it was another rough loss for the Blackbirds who have now lost three straight and are in danger of falling to the eight-seed for next week’s NEC tournament and possibly face this same Terriers team back at the Pope Center for the third time this season.
It looked like LIU’s defense in the second half which held the Terriers to a poor 23% shooting was going to be enough to get them by even though their own offense wasn’t that much better. LIU shot 32% for the game (18 of 56 shots) and made just 4 of 19 threes but it looked like it might be just enough until a wild closing minute of regulation saw a three-point LIU lead turn into a three-point SFBK lead which turned into an overtime game after Martin Hermannsson calmly sunk three free-throws after begin fouled on a three-point attempt with four seconds left.
LIU had a chance to win it in regulation after Brent Jones turned the ball over off his leg dribbling the ball in LIU’s front court. LIU senior Gerrell Martin looked to play the hero but his three at the horn fell way short and the game went to overtime. From there, Fall and Cannon took over for the Terriers, as one by one a LIU player kept fouling out and they couldn’t get a key basket to fall.
LIU committed a season-high 27 turnovers. Once again, LIU was getting pressure from a press defense that the Terriers utilized. In this recent three-game losing streak, LIU has averaged 20 turnovers per game and that is with their opponents going to a press and giving the LIU guards a ton of difficulty. LIU also committed 35 fouls in this game, sending the Terriers to the free throw line 54 times.
“The reality is we fouled too much and we turned the ball over against the press.” said Perri. “It wasn’t a press that we should turn the ball over against. It’s unfortunate. We got to pick each other up and stick together and go from here and try and get one on the road against Sacred Heart.”
Gerrell Martin in likely his final home game of his LIU career finished with a team-high 12 points. Redshirt freshman Nura Zanna also scored 12 for LIU and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds before fouling out in overtime. Four other Blackbirds finished with seven points including senior Landon Atterberry who got his first start since January 5th for senior night. Glenn Feidanga scored eight.
“I give credit to my teammate, they competed like coach said.” said Martin. “We prepared right for the last two days. We just got to fine tune some things. I don’t think it was effort at all. Everybody stepped up. We just got to get back into that practice mode, we don’t have a lot of time because we play Sacred Heart Saturday and just found how we can eliminate some turnovers we had today.”
The LIU loss coupled with SFU’s win, Wagner’s loss to RMU, and Sacred Heart’s win put LIU in a three-way tie for sixth with Sacred Heart and Wagner at 8-9 in the NEC standings. Due to tiebreakers, Wagner would get the six-seed while LIU is currently the seven-seed and Sacred Heart is the eight-seed. On Saturday, LIU heads to Sacred Heart and the winner will be no worse than a seven-seed.
LIU can still get to a five-seed if they win against Sacred Heart and SFU loses at RMU and Wagner loses at Mount St. Mary’s. If LIU loses at Sacred Heart, LIU gets the eight-seed and a third game against St. Francis Brooklyn on Wednesday in the NEC quarterfinals. The winner of Saturday’s LIU-Sacred Heart game avoids playing the Terriers.
It was a playoff like atmosphere on Thursday and it was likely be the same on Saturday as that game will have big stakes in avoiding having to face the mighty Terriers in their tiny but loud gym. LIU will need to quickly put this loss and this losing streak in the rear-view mirror and get ready for another heated game on Saturday because for intents and purposes, their playoffs have begun.