With LIU Brooklyn needing just one more win to end the season off on a high note heading into next week’s Northeast Conference Tournament, the Blackbirds had to use a furious comeback to get one final chance of sending the game into overtime but fell short in their 88-83 loss to Bryant on Saturday afternoon at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
Bryant used a pair of 12-0 run, one in the first half, the other that carried over into the start of the second half, to build a lead as high as sixteen on the Blackbirds.
LIU, who came into the game sitting as the number six seed and not knowing how the other results in the NEC were going, started playing with some desperation and LIU head coach Jack Perri went to a full court press to try and get some turnovers and get back in the game.
The press worked, as they slowly cut into their sixteen-point deficit and got into single digits. LIU got the deficit down to one possession multiple times in the final two minutes and with 21 seconds left and LIU down three, the Blackbirds got two chances to tie the game to force overtime but a Trevin Woods three missed and after a offensive rebound and a kick out to Martin Hermannsson, he also missed and Bryant made two free throws for the final score.
“Our guys didn’t give up.” said Perri. “Saintil fouling out hurt. That definitely hurt us. Our guys didn’t quit. They did show some fight and made some plays down the stretch and gave ourselves a chance to win, unfortunately we didn’t make enough plays.”
Once again, the opponent’s three ball was the enemy of LIU. Bryant shot 14 for 25 from three. Freshman guard Nisre Zouzoua was the main culprit. He came off the bench to ignite Bryant’s offense with 29 points on 10 of 15 from the field and 7 of 11 from three. Also, sophomore forward Gus Riley stepped in off the bench and nailed 4 of 5 threes and finished 16 points.
The Bulldogs shot 61.5% from the field as they missed just 20 of 52 attempts. LIU forced Bryant into 17 turnovers which led to 23 LIU points but LIU shot just 37 percent from the field and made just 9 of 23 three-pointers.
“They were very relaxed.” said Perri of the Bulldogs who will miss out on postseason basketball this season. “I told our guys that they were going to be very relaxed and they have the ability to make threes.”
Bryant’s bench outscored LIU’s bench, mostly from the exploits of Zouzoua and Riley, 47 to 9.
“Riley hasn’t played much all year, he comes in and he is banging shots. Zouzoua got too comfortable and then it didn’t matter. He hit some shots in the second half that were well-contested.” said Perri. “We are going to have to fix that. If we care enough, we are going to have to fix that. We’re going to have commit yourself to taking away threes and being more aggressive and not being soft with your ball pressure. We got to commit to that. If we do, we can make some noise. If we don’t, it is going to be a short postseason.”
Bryant with the win, snapped a twelve-game losing streak and finished their season 8-23, 4-13 in the NEC. NEC Rookie of the Year candidate Marcel Pettway finished with 19 points and senior Shane McLaughlin scored 12 points in his final game in a Bulldog uniform.
As for LIU, four players finished in double figures. Jerome Frink finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, his tenth double-double this season. Martin Hermannsson fell short for a bid of triple-double with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists with no turnovers. Joel Hernandez had 14 points and seven rebounds. Aakim Saintil scored 11 but fouling out on a brutal call by the official who bit on the acting job done by Zouzoua.
The loss completes LIU’s regular season at 15-14 and 9-9 in the NEC. Thanks to the losses by Saint Francis U. against Sacred Heart and Robert Morris against Wagner, LIU Brooklyn will head into next week’s Northeast Conference tournament as the six-seed and will head up to Fairfield, Connecticut to face the Sacred Heart Pioneers who LIU split the season series with.
“Cane Broome is a problem. He is a tough matchup.” said Perri after learning they would play Sacred Heart in the NEC tournament quarterfinals. “He played very well against us. They also have some very good players. Their front court of Jordan Allen and Tevin Falzon have been very good. They’re seniors. A senior front court which is always nice to have. The kid (Sean) Hoehm, he killed us both games, we are going to have to do a better job of containing him. (Quincy) McKnight, he is an issue. They have some good talent. They are the third-seed for a reason. It should be an interesting and fun matchup.”
Now, it all begins. The start of March Madness. LIU, unless there are upsets galore in the quarterfinal round, likely has played their final home game of the season. The only way they make it back the Steinberg Wellness Center will be by hosting either SFU or RMU in a NEC final.
This all means, if LIU is to become NEC tournament champions, they are going to likely need to win three straight games on the road which will be a difficult challenge. LIU though did have the third best road record of all the NEC teams at 7-8. Only Wagner and Fairleigh Dickinson were better on the road.
So it all begins Wednesday night. It will take three wins. One win at a time.
Let the madness begin.