It’s never easy going on the road to Western Pennsylvania but having to go out there late in the Northeast Conference season and needing to come back to Brooklyn with at least a win was the task at hand for LIU Brooklyn.
After losing a tough one on Thursday night to Robert Morris, LIU Brooklyn showed major grit and perseverance in getting a huge 94-89 overtime win at Saint Francis U. Saturday afternoon. The win clinches LIU the final spot in the field of eight for the NEC tournament.
The Blackbirds led for just under three minutes of total game time in the first half during the first four minutes of the game. That was it prior to the game going to overtime.
LIU had to fight from behind the majority of this game and came back from twelve points in the second half and down seven with 4:32 to go in regulation to force overtime. LIU can thank to a switch to a zone defense by LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri midway through the second half that helped slow down SFU scoring attack and got LIU within striking distance to make the comeback.
LIU forced overtime thanks to a 11-4 run in that final 4:32, capped off by a tough left-handed Joel Hernandez layup with 20.2 seconds remaining to tie the game at 80. SFU missed two late chances to win the game in regulation including an open layup chance by Basil Thompson who shot it hard and wide.
The Blackbirds started the overtime period on a 11-4 run including nine straight LIU points scored by both Martin Hermannsson and Aakim Saintil which helped put the game away. Hermannsson and Saintil scored the last twelve of LIU’s fourteen overtime points. LIU was also near-perfect in the overtime session, going 4 of 4 from the field including a big three by Saintil and 5 of 6 from the foul line to clinch the victory. LIU held SFU to 4 of 10 shooting in overtime. LIU was also fortunate in the fact that SFU didn’t have Josh Nebo who had six blocks or Ronnie Drinnon who had a tremendous game, had fouled out.
LIU’s starting five scored 89 of their 94 points. LIU as a team shot over 51 percent from the field and nearly 43 percent from three. The Blackbirds offense recovered their tough scoring night on Thursday versus RMU by scoring 1.168 points per possession on 80 possessions. They also held SFU to 43 percent from the field and 11 of 30 from three. LIU also scored 52 of their points from in the paint.
LIU had three players score over 20 points for them, becoming the first NEC team this season to have three guys score 20 or more in a game this season. Martin Hermannsson finished with 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. He scored seven of his 25 in overtime. He has finished with 20 or more points six times this season and five times in his last eight games. Jerome Frink finished 21 points and 10 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the season and eighth 20-plus scoring game of the season. Aakim Saintil finished with 20 points, including five big points in overtime. It was his sixth 20-plus game of the season.
Joel Hernandez got his third double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Nura Zanna just missed a double-double of his own with 12 points and 9 rebounds.
SFU were led by senior Ronnie Drinnon on SFU Senior Day. He finished with a career-high 28 points in the losing effort before fouling out in the final minute of the second half. He had a tremendous first half with 15 points. SFU has now lost three straight and pretty much killed their chances at a number one seed to the upcoming NEC tournament.
LIU finish their final three-game road trip at 2-1 and end their regular season road record at very respectable 7-8. They are now 8-8 in the NEC with two home games remaining on the regular season schedule. With the loss on Saturday by Robert Morris, LIU regains the seven-seed in the NEC standings. The Blackbirds still remain one game behind a group of three teams in FDU, SFU and St. Francis Brooklyn, all at 9-7 and tied for fourth-place.
LIU now returns home for the final week of the regular season and will face Central Connecticut and Bryant, the two teams who are both officially eliminated from NEC tournament contention and will look to play spoiler.
Although, LIU still mathematically can get themselves into the top four seed with two wins the final two games, they are going to need several results from the other games go their way. Yet, it is still a possibility.
The thing now for the Blackbirds is to end the season off strong and not worry about where they land since they don’t have their own control for the top four. LIU has won three of four and four of their last six. They have a strong chance of finishing off the regular season on a high and with momentum going into the NEC tournament. If LIU can finish off this season right and get a favorable first round matchup, whether on the road or at home, I wouldn’t be surprised if things get really interesting for them first week of March.
The madness time is approaching. Things are going to get crazy and fun I believe. Let’s get ready to witness it all.