Well, this game had a little bit of everything. It had a little bit of good, a little bit of bad and certainly a little bit of ugly. It was like two totally different games were played but in the end, LIU’s furious comeback from a 25-point second half deficit came up short as the Blackbirds dropped their first game of the season 80-72 at the FIU Arena in Miami Wednesday night.
The Blackbirds fell behind quickly to start the game after a very cold shooting start by both teams. FIU found the range first, particularly from three and put LIU in an eleven-point hole at 17-6 nearly eight minutes into the game.
LIU struggled badly from three in the first half, going 0-9 from deep while FIU were tremendous from the outside, making 7 of 13 three-pointers to build their lead up to 24 at the half. LIU shot just 29% in the first half while allowing FIU to shot 53%.
FIU would build their lead up to 25 before LIU finally starting getting some stops on the defensive end and began making shots. A 12-3 run by the Blackbirds cut their deficit to 16 with fourteen minutes left. LIU would later get the deficit to single-digits with just over nine minutes remaining after a Joel Hernandez three.
LIU kept the charge going as FIU continue to miss shots and turn the ball over thanks to much-better ball pressure and forcing FIU into making bad passes. Junior guard Aakim Saintil, in particular, came to life in the second half scoring all 13 of his points in the final 10:26 of the game and coming up with a couple of big steals.
The Blackbirds would eventually cut FIU’s lead down to three with three minutes left after a Jerome Frink three-point play but LIU just couldn’t get a clutch basket inside of the final three minutes and FIU missed just 2 of 8 free throws down the stretch to pad their lead and win it by eight.
LIU didn’t get their first three-point make until Joel Hernandez finally hit with one with 10:44 to play in the game. They missed their first thirteen three-point attempts and finished 3 for 23 from three (13%). Their three-point shooting absolutely killed them and if they had made just a few more threes, this was a game that they might have stolen. The early-season concern of their three-point shooting is growing by the game. LIU is now shooting 21.5% from three through their first four games and no Blackbird has more than four three-pointers made this season. LIU has capable three-point shooters but shots are just not falling for them from outside.
LIU was able to turn it around defensively after a horrid first half and allowed FIU to take just 19 shots and make only six of them and hold them to 1 of 9 shooting from three while making them turn the ball over 11 times. LIU still hasn’t pulled together a full 40 minutes of defense and it finally cost them against FIU as they dug just too deep a hole they couldn’t get themselves out of although they did come close.
Junior Jerome Frink who return to FIU, the school where he played his first two seasons at, finished with his first double-double as a Blackbird with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Sophomore Martin Hermannsson finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Junior Aakim Saintil just missed a double-double with 13 points and 9 assists. Junior Joel Hernandez finished with ten points and seven rebounds.
Sophomore Nura Zanna did not have one of his better games. He didn’t look good for the most part at the either end against the bigger FIU frontline. He played in just 19 minutes and finished with 6 points and three rebounds. The Woods twins also struggled going 0-5 from three combined and scoring just two points between them. They have to find their three-point shot and find it soon. This team needs their outside scoring and right now they are not getting it much from anyone.
FIU guard Donte McGill finished with a game-high 24 points and FIU forward Daviyon Draper scored 16 points.
LIU Brooklyn will now look to put the first loss of the season behind them, try to enjoy a nice Thanksgiving meal down in Florida before traveling to New Hampshire to face Dartmouth on Sunday afternoon to complete this brief two-game Thanksgiving weekend road trip.
Hopefully they will look at the tape of this game, fix some of the defensive mistakes and get some extra three-point shots in practice and try to get their outside shot going because LIU can’t afford to continue to shoot in the low-20 percentile from three if they realistic want a chance to compete for an NEC championship this season.