Not many people imagined LIU Brooklyn would start the NEC season 1-3 but here they are after yet another disappointing performance losing to Saint Francis U., 72-65, at the Steinberg Wellness Center Saturday afternoon.
“It was not a good weekend.” said LIU head coach Jack Perri after LIU’s third consecutive loss at the Steinberg Wellness Center. “I thought we played harder than we did against Robert Morris, now we got to play with an identity. Our identity is not to lose the glass by eleven.”
The Blackbirds struggled mightily to keep the Red Flash off the boards in particular on the defensive end in which SFU grabbed 13 offensive rebounds that led to fifteen second chance points. LIU was out-rebounded 40 to 29.
LIU got off to good start to the game. Their energy level was much better to start than it was against Robert Morris Thursday night. LIU led 12-8 to start but unfortunately for them, that would be their biggest lead of the entire game. The game stayed close through the first half and a Greg Brown jumper at the halftime buzzer gave the Red Flash a 32-30 going into the break.
Coming out of the locker room, SFU started off hot and went on a 14-0 run to take a 46-33 lead and LIU could get nothing going. After an Aakim Saintil three-point play to stop the run, LIU would score 20 of the next 28 points in the game to get within one of SFU with 5:48 left. But LIU wouldn’t get any closer as SFU promptly went on a 6-0 and built the lead back up to seven. LIU got the deficit back down to two with 48 seconds left but SFU sealed things at the free throw line with eight straight free throws made.
“Give Saint Francis credit, they blocked out, they played hard.” said Perri. “They came in, they came off a bad loss themselves that they felt they should have won and I knew they would come out hungry too. It is no different, we’re all in the same boat. Right now, I felt we competed but we have to get better. We just have to get better and I think we have good pieces.”
LIU was held to 40% shooting in the game and once again, couldn’t hit a good number of their three-pointers as they went 6 for 22 from three while allowing SFU to shot 47.2% and make 6 of 15 threes. Perri know his team can’t afford to struggle in the areas they are struggling if they want to succeed in conference play.
“If you going to shoot 40% and 27% (from three), you got to dominate the glass.” said Perri. “You got make sure you get the foul line. Our whole philosophy has gone to the garbage right now. There is not enough of a focus to it. It is back to basics, back again to watching film, seeing which guys can do what I’m asking to do and who is going to that to the best that they can and then you got to make shots. We got to get back to the gym and make shots because right now, our three-point shooting is woeful. We can’t shot in the twenties at home two games in a row. We have better shooters than that.”
Once again, it was Jerome Frink who led the charge for LIU offensively with 18 points and seven rebounds. He was an efficient 6 of 10 shooting from the field and made two of three from deep. Martin Hermannsson scored 17 for LIU and hit three threes and between these two guys, they made five of LIU’s six threes in the game. The rest of the team went 1 for 14 from behind the arc.
Joel Hernandez played well, he finished with 13 points on 6 of 12 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds along with two blocks and two steals. Nura Zanna finished with eight points and ten rebounds.
Aakim Saintil’s foul woes and bad shooting continued as he was 3 of 12 from the floor and missed all five of his three-point attempts. Saintil in his last six games is shooting 22% from the field and 16% from three. His stock is free falling after the awesome start to the season he had. It could be time to consider a move back off the bench for Saintil where he excelled earlier this season.
LIU’s bench was a total non-factor, going a combined 1 of 8 from the field for grand total of two points.
Trevin Woods, who had a good game for LIU versus RMU, re-aggravated his knee injury during pregame warmups Perri told me after the game and tried to give it a go and played two minutes but couldn’t really play. Julius van Sauers, who would be getting some valuable playing time if he was healthy, has now missed nine straight games with his high ankle sprain.
SFU moved to 3-1 with the win and join a five-way tie for first place with Mount St. Mary’s, Wagner, Bryant, and Fairleigh Dickinson at the top of the NEC standings at the end of this four-game in eight days sprint. Five players finished in double-digits with Greg Brown leading the way with 14 points. Ronnie Drinnon finished with sixth double-double and third straight with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
With this loss, LIU is now under .500 for the season at 7-8 and are 4-8 since starting the season 3-0. LIU has lost three of their last four home games including their last three at the Steinberg Wellness Center and are just 4-3 at home this season.
Here is the NEC standings through the first four games of the NEC season:
LIU is in a three-way tie for seventh at 1-3, already two games back of the front runners. There is still plenty of season remaining and lot of time for LIU to get things together and climb back up in the standings but this is definitely not the start many people including myself envisioned the Blackbirds would get off to.
LIU now has to try to solve their woes on the road as they begin a tough three-game road trip that takes them to three of the five current first-place teams in Wagner (Thursday), Bryant (Saturday) and FDU (next Thursday). It could be an early sink or swim time for the Blackbirds. A bad road swing in the next week and a half could put LIU out of the top four running completely and begin to put them in danger of having to fight just to get into the NEC tournament in March.
At 1-3, it may not yet be panic time but it could be time to make some lineup changes and shake things up a bit. I believe in what Jack Perri says. I think guys like Saintil, Fleming, the Woods twins need to step up and play better and shot better. These guys right now are not just missing on their perimeter shots, they are missing badly. They got to get in the gym and shot their way out of it or else, defenses are just going to continue to key on Frink and Hermannsson and collapse on them and force anyone else to beat them. Right now, that strategy is working and these guys have got to start making teams pay and take much better shots.
The climb back up will be a challenge and we will quickly see if this team sold us fools gold in non-conference play and are just not the team some of us thought they might be this season or they are actually a good team who are just struggling at the moment and are capable of playing up to their potential. The proof will show in the coming days.