LIU Brooklyn was eleven minutes away from a perfect 3-0 road trip. They had a ten-point lead, they were once up fourteen points and things looked good for the Blackbirds.
Unfortunately, Fairleigh Dickinson went back to a tactic that was successful in the first half. The full court press. FDU caused LIU to commit twelve second half turnovers and shot 58 percent from the floor in their 101-95 come-from-behind win at Stratis Arena Thursday night.
FDU scored 62 points on the Blackbirds’ defense in the second half and the 101 points the Knights poured out was the most points scored in an NEC game this season.
LIU, for the second time this conference season, was hurt by the opponent’s press. Mount St. Mary’s hurt LIU with it in the NEC opener and FDU hurt them with it Thursday night as the Blackbirds imploded on themselves.
“Imploded is probably a good word.” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri. “It wasn’t one guy. We were throwing one-handed passes. We were loose with our decisions. We tried to over-dribble sometimes so it was a multitude of sins with that. That is the frustrating part because you work on something and if you go to your spacing and get the ball to the middle and make your looks. We just didn’t do that. It created turnovers and obviously that was huge.”
LIU committed eighteen turnovers which turned into 27 FDU points. FDU converted the twelve LIU turnovers in the second half into 20 points. “That was an enormous number.” said Perri on FDU’s points off turnovers. Also, FDU scored eleven second chance points in the second half while holding LIU to just four.
The Blackbirds couldn’t repeat their play of the first twenty minutes which saw them score 51 points which was the most points scored in any half for them this season and help build a twelve-point halftime lead. The LIU lead could have been bigger but FDU shot 62.5 percent from the floor in the first half to keep them within striking distance for the second half.
FDU stopped fouling and turning the ball over in the second half and forced LIU to foul and turn the ball over themselves in the second half. FDU sophomore guard Darian Anderson, who killed LIU for 26 points in Brooklyn last season, scored a career-high 32 points, 28 of those points in the second half alone.
“I felt we should have had a little more energy to us defensively.” said Perri. “They beat us to some 50/50 balls, each one of those times they beat us to an offensive rebound or to a 50/50 ball, they hit a deep three and they hit a lot of deep threes in the second half to their credit. The kid Anderson was tremendous. He did that to us last year at our place.”
LIU wasted a terrific effort from junior guard Joel Hernandez who scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed ten rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Aakim Saintil scored 22 and dished out seven assists.
Although Jerome Frink had a productive game on the offensive end with 17 points and seven rebounds, he committed a team-high five turnovers along with Saintil.
Trevin Woods continued his hot shooting from deep going 5 for 7 and finished with 17 points. He is now 11 for 17 from three in his last two games. Martin Hermannsson scored 12 points and dished out eight assists.
“You’re not going to win if you have 19 turnovers, you allow a team to have 13 steals.” said Perri. “We shot fine. You shoot 51% on the road and you make eleven threes, you should win. You should win if you playing the right way and unfortunately, we didn’t. We didn’t deserve to win because we didn’t do the things that we were suppose to do.”
Stephan Jiggetts finished with 20 for the Knights as five players finished in double figures for FDU who are now 5-2 in the NEC and back in a first-place tie with Mount and Wagner.
LIU complete their three-game road trip at 2-1 and will return back to Brooklyn to start a four-game home stand with the annual Battle of Brooklyn against St. Francis Brooklyn in a nationally broadcast game on ESPN3 Saturday night. That game will take place as scheduled even with the impending blizzard that is suppose to hit New York City on Saturday.
At 3-4, LIU is now a four-way tie for third with St. Francis Brooklyn, Robert Morris, and Sacred Heart. LIU now have to start taking care of games at home and get back to home-court dominance. LIU has lost their last three at the Steinberg Wellness Center and have to get back to winning ways at home if they want a chance at hosting at least one NEC tournament game in March.
As disappointing of a loss to FDU was, the positives are LIU did have a winning road trip and they are still two games back of the cluster of first-place teams so they are still very much in the race for a top four spot.
They have to play with more consistency and more urgency the remaining eleven conference games and the schedule is at the point where they need to beginning to make their move. The next four games for the Blackbirds will be critical.