If this would have been a 36-minute game, LIU would right now be looking at a 7-1 record. But college hoops is still a 40-minute game and the last four minutes for LIU spelled their demise as the Blackbirds fell at Incarnate Word Saturday afternoon, 90-79, and thus snapping their three-game win streak.
LIU lead for most of the first 36 minutes but the lead never got above eight and it never got above six in the second half as the two teams played a rather close and entertaining game.
After LIU took a two-point lead after a pair of Nura Zanna free throws with 4:47 remaining, the Cardinals would end the game outscoring the Blackbirds 22-8 and used a 17-4 run in a span of 3:09 to turn a close game into a bit of a laugher.
LIU gave this game away with bad D, turnovers and fouls. This will be one of the games when you look back in March and say LIU should have won that game. LIU’s defensive effort was pretty poor. They allowed 1.22 points per possession against Incarnate Word and allow them to shoot 54 percent from the field. Those numbers are not going to win you many games. Plus LIU committed eleven of their fourteen turnovers in the second half as well as 17 of their incredibly high 27 fouls coming in the second half. Just another sloppy second half performance for the second straight game. This time it came back to bite them.
Jerome Frink gave Blackbird Nation a scare. Frink went down after what looked like an attempted follow slam off a LIU missed shot and came down and immediately went to the floor and stayed there for a couple of minutes, appearing in anguish. Fortunately for Frink and for LIU Brooklyn, Frink walked off the court under his own power and a few minutes later returned back into the game. LIU can ill-afford to lose Frink for any length of time especially with Joel Hernandez already out for the season due to injury. Frink ended up playing 35 minutes and finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
Jashaun Agosto busted out of his shooting slump. Agosto came into the game on a two-game shooting slump but broke out in a big way as he went for a season-high 22 points, knocking down 8 of 12 shots including 4 of 5 from deep. He was easily the best guard out on the floor for LIU in this game.
Nice moment for Mitchell McMullen. McMullen, the redshirt freshman preferred walk-on from Schertz, Texas, just outside of San Antonio where this game was played, was inserted into the game at 9:16 mark of the first half to a very audible ovation from his family and friends. It took him all of thirteen seconds for McMullen to get open near the top of the key and drain a three, his only shot of the game. That had to be a huge moment for him. McMullen played four minutes in front his hometown crowd.
Finally, Joel Hernandez was missed in this game. For the first time since Hernandez went down with his injury, I felt LIU really could have used his presence especially in guarding 6’4” Shawn Johnson. Johnson is a big, strong, athletic guard that LIU didn’t have anyone to really match up with him. This would have been a perfect assignment for Hernandez to match up against. Johnson finished with 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting but his presence was especially felt late in the second half when he was imposing his will and LIU really didn’t have a defender that could contain him.
11 LIU Players played, 10 scored. Head coach Jack Perri went eleven players deep into his bench, mainly due to what else, foul trouble. Zanna played just 22 minutes before fouling out. Julian Batts and Raiquan Clark each finished with four fouls apiece. LIU’s bench was outscored 19-17 in this game.
It would have been great for LIU to have gotten a win before entering what is likely going to be the hardest part of their non-conference schedule in the next three games.
LIU next heads to North Carolina Central on Tuesday to close out their seven-game road trip before returning to Brooklyn to face St. John’s next week Sunday and then heading right back out on the road to face their most difficult non-conference opponent of the season at Minnesota.
The North Carolina Central will be a challenging game for LIU as they are 5-3 after losing to East Carolina on the road on Saturday but are 2-0 at home and have a road win at Northern Kentucky and a big upset road win at Missouri.
Still at 6-2, LIU is in nice shape as they move along into December and at 4-2 on their current seven-game road trip, they are already assured of a winning trip.