“I’m not happy. Not happy.”
That summed up the mood LIU Brooklyn head Jack Perri was after his team fell to Robert Morris at the Steinberg Wellness Center Thursday night, 70-60.
Perri knew RMU was going to come out desperate and looking to doing anything to avoid losing three straight NEC games to start the conference season, a feat they have not done since the 1995-96 season and he was disappointed with the effort his team gave.
“We didn’t compete hard enough.” said an annoyed Perri after the game. “I thought we weren’t ready. I thought our guys did a good job in practice the last few days. I knew this was going to be a great challenge because they are 0-2 and they are a great program but I don’t think it was them, I thought it was us. We just didn’t come out with enough fire, with enough focus.”
Even though LIU wasn’t playing at their best, they were still in the game and led by two at 51-49 with 9:59 remaining after a Martin Hermannsson layup after going into halftime tied at 31.
But it was RMU who starting make the plays they needed to get back the lead and eventually pull away. A three by NEC Player of the Year candidate Rodney Pryor put the Colonials up for good at 52-51. LIU would try to hang in with threes from Hermannsson and Trevin Woods but RMU’s Elijah Minnie would answer both LIU threes with threes of his own and then as an exclamation point, put on a highlight reel one-hand slam over Woods to put RMU up eight and seal their NEC win of the season.
“Our transition defense was poor. Our rebounding was lackluster at best. Our decision making wasn’t great. We were flat and that is really, really disappointing.” said Perri.
LIU were vexed by the RMU 2-3 zone which probably put forth one of their best defensive efforts of their season. LIU couldn’t get perimeter shots to fall over the zone and struggled once again with their three point shot. They were just 4 of 22 from three while RMU made 9 of 22 which turned out to be one key difference in the game.
The other was LIU got into foul problems early in the second half after playing a rather clean first half committing just four first half fouls. RMU shot just two free throws to LIU’s fifteen in the first half. It was a different story in the second half as RMU got the calls and went to the line 22 times to LIU’s three. RMU went 12 of 22 from the line while LIU was just 2 of 3 from the line in the second half.
Rodney Pryor proved why many picked him for NEC Player of the Year this season as he did it all for the Colonials. He finished with a game-high 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in 34 minutes. He also had a highlight reel dunk of his own with a one-hand tomahawk slam over 6’7″ Nura Zanna which might be playing over and over in his dreams tonight. Isaiah Still and Elijah Minnie both finished with 13 points to break a four-game losing streak and notch their first W in the NEC win column.
Junior forward Jerome Frink did everything he could to try to pull this one out for the Blackbirds. He finished with his fifth double-double of the season and third in his last four games with 20 points and 15 rebounds. He has now gone nine straight games scoring at least 12 points.
RMU did an outstanding job guarding Martin Hermannsson who they were focused on not letting him get going. Hermannsson finished with ten points and was just 3 of 9 from the field including 1 of 5 from three.
“They did a good job on him.” said Perri. “He is our main three point shooter right now and some of these other guys have got to start making some shots.”
Trevin Woods had a solid game off the bench for LIU with ten points and four rebounds in 27 minutes. He knocked down a couple of three-pointers and got a couple of steals and was the most active player off the bench for the Blackbirds.
“That was great to see Trevin do that.” praised Perri. “I thought he was starting to do some of that in the Central (Connecticut) game. I hoping that we can get to play the way he is capable of playing, that is going to help us.”
In the battle of the point guards, RMU’s Kavon Stewart outplayed LIU’s Aakim Saintil. Stewart finished with nine points and six assists to five turnovers although he was held to 3 of 11 from the field while Saintil finished with five points and three assists and committed a game-high seven turnovers. Saintil was held to 2 of 10 from the field. Each had four steals.
After an active first half, Joel Hernandez was held in check in the second half and finished with just seven points.
LIU have now lost two straight at the Steinberg Wellness Center and are now 1-2 in the NEC with St. Francis U. coming in Saturday afternoon. LIU has yet to win two straight games since their season opening three-game win streak back in November. They are back to .500 at 7-7 overall with the loss.
LIU just wasn’t the hungrier team against Robert Morris. RMU played with purpose all game long and unleashed some fury on the Blackbirds with some dunks and dagger threes that they are not going to like seeing when they watch the film.
They have to come into Saturday’s game with that type of hunger and desire that RMU came into this game with or else they are going to start falling into a hole in the NEC standings they don’t want to have to dig themselves out of.
It might be just game four of the conference season but LIU has a must-win game coming up Saturday especially as they get set to head back on the road for three more games after SFU game. They had a chance to have a solid week but now have to do all they can to get a split and not sink themselves out of the NEC race.