More times than not, it is just good to be home.
Five LIU Brooklyn players scored in double-figures as the Blackbirds snapped their two-game losing streak in defeating UMass Lowell at the Steinberg Wellness Center 84-72 Thursday night.
It was nice to see LIU Brooklyn get off to a good start as the Blackbirds quickly got out in front to a 16-5 lead and used that early momentum to carry them to a 47-34 lead at the half.
It was no secret LIU has been struggling from three coming into the game. LIU came in shooting 24.5% from three before the game and then went out and shot the lights out from deep, hitting on 8 of 11 threes in the first half. They shot 56% as team in the first half and had 11 assists on their 17 made shots. It was as cohesive a half as they have play all season.
LIU would start the second half on a 11-2 run to take a 22-point lead but UMass Lowell would response to get within seven with 7:47 left. Martin Hermannsson would get a big three to give LIU a double-digit lead back and stop the River Hawks momentum and coast the rest of the way to a twelve-point victory.
The Blackbirds had their best three-point shooting game of the season making 12 of 26 threes and defensively they were able to turn around their struggling three-point defense holding UMass Lowell to just 5 of 21 from three.
“We needed to play better defensively than we have played in the first five games.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri. “That was a tough road trip, going down to FIU and then going straight New Hampshire (to play Dartmouth). There was no reason (for it). Our field goal defense and three-point field goal defense has not been good and I think we are better than that. Today, we had much better effort. We knew what UMass Lowell was. They like to spread you out, they are a great three-point shooting team. We took away their threes, they average nine per game. We did a good job with that.”
For the second straight game, the Blackbirds were led by junior guard Iverson Fleming who played terrific once again and has shown much more confidence in his shooting ability through the first few games of this season. Fleming finished with 17 points on 50% shooting along with three three-pointers.
“My coaches just keep telling me to keep shooting.” said Fleming. “Sometimes you get in a drought and the best thing is to just get in extra work in the late nights, put in that time, just getting a rhythm back and it really helped tonight.”
“It’s awesome. I’m happy for him that he made shots.” said Perri of Fleming’s recent run of play. “You can tell, even in practice when he misses some shots, he starts getting a little bit down on himself. He has been before the game, locked in. He gets the guys. He is aware of the players around him, if somebody is not focused, he snaps. It is awesome to see. I have an appreciation for Iverson that way and I’m glad I was able to stick with him and for him to play the way he did. I’m happy for him.”
Junior guard Joel Hernandez responded from a scoreless outing against Dartmouth on Sunday with a terrific game, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds while hitting on seven of his ten shots. Minus that game to Dartmouth and a four-point game versus Maine, Hernandez has scored in double-figures in every other game this season. Hernandez knows his leadership is important if the team wants to make forward strides this season.
“I just want to lead by showing by example.” said Hernandez. “On the court, I want to help the young guys (on the team) by playing hard so they can see that when you are on the court you have to play hard every time, on defense and offense.”
The Blackbirds were able to hold UMass Lowell’s top player coming in, sophomore Jahad Thomas to just four points and 1 of 8 shooting.
“The kid Jahad Thomas is a tank.” said Perri. “We did a tremendous job on him. We frustrated him. I thought (Nura) Zanna did a really good job limiting him going to his left. He struggled and got frustrated and then got into foul trouble and that helped.”
Keith Thomas II led UMass Lowell with 20 points off the bench and Tyler Livingston put in 12 points as UMass Lowell falls to 3-3 on the season.
It was a nice rebound game also for junior Jerome Frink who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Aakim Saintil, who is become a model of consistency thus far this season, finished with 13 points and 6 assists. Martin Hermannsson had his lowest scoring output of the season with ten points but he handed out six assists as well. Nura Zanna finished with five points and eight boards and had a good night defensively. Freshman Raul Frias scored his first points as a Blackbird with a made three.
LIU is now 2-0 this season against teams from the America East conference with wins over Maine and UMass Lowell.
With the win, LIU moves to 4-2 and now begins to get themselves prepared for what should be an interesting game against the upstart Fordham Rams who are off to a flying start under new head coach Jeff Neubauer. The Rams are currently 5-1 with their only loss coming on the road to UT-Arlington. The Rams will play Central Connecticut on Saturday before taking on LIU on Tuesday. This should be a good early season gauge for LIU against one of the better local team in the area.
“I’m glad we got a win after that road trip.” said Perri. “Looking forward to Fordham, it is going to be a great challenge obviously. I haven’t seen any of their games but I’ve seen their scores and they have been pounding teams. We have some pieces that hopefully can counter act their press. We’ll get prepared for it but we understand it is not going to be an easy task. It will be a good test for us and we’ll see how it goes.”
We shall see if LIU can step up and issue a challenge to the Rams on their home floor and pick up what would be a nice upset victory on the road and send a statement through the NEC that the Blackbirds are indeed back this season and they are for real.