It was a tough one to swallow Thursday night. LIU Brooklyn had Fordham on the ropes in the second half with a eleven-point lead but just couldn’t hang on as Fordham come back and beat LIU in overtime 89-84 at Rose Hill Gym.
Junior Jerome Frink nearly willed his team to a victory by putting on a virtuoso performance. Frink finished with a career-high 30 points to go along with nine rebounds and made two clutch three-point baskets in the final 2:01 of regulation including one from the left corner with 21 seconds left to force overtime at 72-all.
In the end, Fordham was able to make enough big shots and free throws to send their winning streak to seven in a row.
LIU head coach Jack Perri made his first starting lineup change of the season, moving Nura Zanna to the bench and starting Aakim Saintil for a four-guard lineup as Joel Hernandez slid over to play the four-position.
“We have some injuries with (Glenn) Feidanga and (Julius) van Sauers. I was worried about foul trouble and also two guys getting tired at the same time at the beginning of the game with Frink and (Nura) Zanna.” said Perri. “Also, their pressure, it allows us to spread the floor a little bit. Eventually, we did fine but it didn’t work at the beginning of the game.”
The small lineup for LIU resulted in a hot start for the Rams who began the game on a 10-0 run before Perri could get Zanna and Trevin Woods into the game. After the 10-0 run, LIU would go on a 26-5 run which included a 19-0 run in which Fordham went scoreless for nearly nine minutes.
“We got more aggressive to stop the ball and just continued to ball also.” said Frink on LIU’s first half. “We contained their bigs and grabbed rebounds and just moved and scored on the offensive end.”
“We defended the way we were suppose to defend. We calmed down.” said Perri. “(Fordham) are a unique style of play so it takes a little bit of an adjustment so I think it took our guys a little bit. Once we did, we did a really good job. Our philosophy in this game was to take away their three-point shooting, they were 1 for 7 at half. We kind of took them out of their stuff a little bit.”
LIU’s defense in the first half after the first three or four minutes of the game, was the best defense LIU played to this point this season. A lot of that credit has to go to Nura Zanna who held Fordham’s big man Ryan Rhoomes who came in average 15.7 ppg to just four points at the half. Rhoomes didn’t play a huge factor in the game as he finished with just a season-low six points. In fact, LIU held Fordham to just 22 points in the first half.
“I was so happy for Z. His defensive rebounding was awesome.” said Perri of Zanna. “He came in focused and did what he was suppose to. We wanted to take away their threes, so we had to be extended (on defense) so he had to be solo on Rhoomes. I wasn’t going to send help to him. If Rhoomes was going to score 30, that was that and Z did a really good job.”
After halftime, Fordham began picking up their play thanks to big second halves by senior Mandell Thomas and junior Jon Severe. The Fordham guards started attacking LIU defense and got the Blackbirds in foul trouble and got themselves to the free throw line and starting making free throws. The Rams made 11 of 15 free throws after going 1 for 7 in the first half. Fordham rang up 50 second half points on LIU and 17 more in the extra session.
Yet, it was both Frink and junior Aakim Saintil, who refused to see LIU fall. Both made big plays all second half and Frink nearly became the hero of the night with his huge three-pointers which sent the game to overtime. Understandably, even with their great game, neither were happy with the result.
“We’re disappointed but it also shows that we played well.” said Saintil. “We were up eleven, we had the lead, we let them get it back. They change up some things on their offensive end and we didn’t adjust on the defensive end. We know where we messed up at so I feel like if it wasn’t for us we would have this one.”
LIU played it even on the boards with the bigger Rams yet LIU committed 27 fouls which sent Fordham to the line 33 times.
Along with the big nights from Frink and Saintil, Martin Hermannsson put in 15 including a three late in overtime which gave LIU a glimmer of hope. Zanna grabbed ten rebounds to along with his solid defensive game. Trevon Woods had a solid contribution in his 25 minutes of play with nine points and was 3 of 5 from three. It was an off-night offensively for juniors Iverson Fleming and Joel Hernandez who both combined for just six points.
Glenn Feidanga did not dress for this game with an illness. Julius van Sauers missed his second straight game with a high ankle sprain.
It was also a career-high night for the Fordham backcourt. Thomas Mandell finished with a career-high 28 points and Jon Severe scored a career-high 26 points in the win.
The loss drops LIU to 4-3 on the season as this two-game road trip continues on Buffalo/Niagara Falls area which LIU will face Niagara on Saturday afternoon.
Even though, a loss like this hurts when you lose, a game like this against an opponent like this, cements the fact that LIU is indeed for real this season and that they are going to be players in the NEC once conference play rolls around in January.
“(We showed) toughness. They made runs and we made runs.” said Saintil. “We didn’t give up, we didn’t waver, we didn’t get down on ourselves. We stayed positive. We stayed together and I think that was the main positive.”
A game like this will only surely help them grow as a team and make them more battle-tested for conference play.