Clutch shooting gives LIU Brooklyn the 74-73 upset victory over St. John’s

Seniors Jerome Frink and Iverson Fleming getting a congratulatory five from injured senior Joel Hernandez after the 74-73 victory over St. John’s Sunday afternoon. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

It had been 86 years since LIU Brooklyn last hosted their in-city rivals from Queens and twenty years since LIU got to experience a victory over their Big East foes.

On Sunday, LIU with some clutch shot making from senior guard Iverson Fleming (21 points, 7/17 FG) got the biggest win of their non-conference season as the Blackbirds withstood a Shamorie Ponds’ last-second jumper to defeat St. John’s by the final of 74-73 at the Barclays Center.

LIU and St. John’s could not have been coming into this game in more opposite fashion. St. John’s were winners of three-straight and fresh off of two home wins including a 90-62 annihilation of Fordham Thursday night. LIU were coming off of two straight losses including an ugly 79-56 loss at a North Carolina Central.

The story coming in was the emergence of St. John’s freshman sensation Shamorie Ponds out of Brooklyn and his and St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin’s homecoming. But LIU Brooklyn was back home after 25 days away and with a bitter taste in their mouths after the NCCU drubbing didn’t care for giving St. John’s an easy time.

LIU got off to an 18-8 lead to start and fought through fifteen first-half fouls to go into the break tied at 42.

It looked like St. John’s was about to take control in the second half as the Red Storm outscored LIU 16-9 in the first seven minutes but a 9-0 LIU run helped the Blackbirds regain the lead and put St. John’s on upset alert.

In the final 94 seconds, it got nuts. St. John’s Federico Mussini canned a three from the corner which gave the Red Storm a four-point lead and it looked that was probably the dagger but Fleming started his heroics with a huge three near the top of the key to get LIU within one and then after a Ponds turnover, Fleming made the biggest of the game, a double-clutch bank shot from the side to put LIU ahead 74-73 with 26 seconds left.


Fleming taking his game-winning double clutch banker vs St. John’s (Photos: Bob Dea – BHJ)

St. John’s Federico Mussini canned a three from the corner which gave the Red Storm a four-point lead and it looked that was probably the dagger blow for the Blackbirds but Fleming started his heroics with a huge three near the top of the key to getting LIU within one and then after a Ponds turnover, Fleming made the biggest shot of the game, a double-clutch bank shot from the side to put LIU ahead 74-73 with 26 seconds left.

“It’s a mindset and our coach preaches to us to have ‘the will to win.’ That’s what I try to do every day I step on the court; have the will to win and to help my teammates as best as I can.” Fleming said. “At that point in time, I was just trying to be aggressive and get the best shot possible and it fell.”

The Blackbirds defense which played well especially in crunch time forced a Ponds turnover from a Nura Zanna steal in which LIU couldn’t corral and then forced another St. John’s turnover from Malik Ellison, once again the doing of Zanna.

Yet, LIU turned the ball over with 3.2 seconds left and St. John’s got one last look. Ponds jumper just missed and LIU got the victory twenty years in the making.

“Obviously that was an exciting game. Tremendous job by our guys.” said a joyous Jack Perri after the win. “I was just so proud of our guys. We really were able to sustain things pretty well to keep that game close…It’s such a huge win. It doesn’t compare to making the NCAA tournament when we won a championship to get there, but it definitely puts us in a place we want to be.”

It definitely wasn’t the homecoming that Chris Mullin and Shamorie Ponds had envisioned when they came into the Barclays Center.


Jerome Frink was a problem for St. Johns all game long, finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

“These things happen. I give all the credit to LIU.” Mullin said. “They took it to us from the start. They led 18-7 and pretty much control the whole game…We were very careless and nonchalant.”

“I feel like we didn’t carry the energy over that we had the last couple of games.” Ponds said. “I feel like we came out too nonchalant and flat…It was good coming back home. Mostly, I wanted to come out with a win. I feel like we were supposed to win this game.”

For the Blackbirds, it was a kind of game they really needed after the two losses at the end of the seven-game road trip and senior Jerome Frink (20 points, 12 rebounds, third double-double of the season) felt the need to come out of the gate strong against NYC’s team from the Big East.

“I was looking forward to this game because we were on the road and lost (our last two) games. We didn’t play as hard and I brought the team together and said, ‘we need this win.’ We just got through a tough stretch together and we came up with the win.”

Another key contributor was Zanna whose inconsistency due to foul trouble has hampered him this season. Zanna got his third double-double of the season, 13 points, and 11 rebounds after Perri had a heart-to-heart conversation with the 6’7” big man after the loss at NCCU last week.

“I had a conversation with him after the North Carolina Central game and we had a really good talk, where it is like you’ve had a few games where you double-double but you’re better than that,” Perri said of Zanna. “You’re better than the five and five’s. You’re too talented, you’re too big and strong. You’re too much of a problem for opposing guys. One, we got to keep him out of foul trouble and two, he just got to have that mindset. I think he has been more consistent in practice. I think that helps and if he can sustain that intensity day in and day out, you’re going to see that more of this more consistently.”


Nura Zanna going two of his 13 points on his way to his third double-double of the season. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

The other key yet underrated factor to the LIU victory was the play of freshman point guard Jashaun Agosto. Although, his stat line won’t blow anyone away, (10 points, two assists, 4/9 FGs), Agosto was a great orchestrator on the offensive end. He had LIU settled on offense and was disruptive enough on defense to hold Ponds to 6 of 16 shooting.

After two fouls in the first half, Perri put Agosto back in the game after LIU lost the early lead and he helped settle things back down for the Blackbirds in just of a couple of minutes to help LIU get to the break tied. Agosto didn’t come off the floor at all in the second half.

Sophomore Raiquan Clark has a huge second half for the Blackbirds especially after Julian van Sauers fouled out with 5:49 left to play. He finished with seven points and three rebounds in 19 minutes and had a big dunk in the closing minutes.

The upset win pushes LIU’s record to 7-3 and drops St. John’s to under .500 at 5-6.

LIU Brooklyn next heads back on the road for one last non-conference road game at Minnesota which was a game Perri scheduled for Jerome Frink to go against his former Florida International head coach Richard Pitino. After that, LIU returns back to Brooklyn to play their final two non-conference games as well as their first two NEC games last week of December.

After a win like this one, LIU probably won’t be seeing St. John’s in Brooklyn for another 86 years.


  1. Nelson – thanks for the updates and such. Been a fun year to follow so far.

    Couple things:

    1) No more negativity on your blog, even after losses. Tells me all I need to know about the players that were on the team last year and the people surrounding them. A lot of negativity for no good reason, name calling, racially charged words. Don’t know who it came from, but it was uncalled for and unwarranted. Woods twins are playing at Arkansas Tech and only Trevin is seeing consistent minutes (no surprise there). Saintil is not on any rosters to my knowledge (even though there were rumors he was going to Iona – he may well be there but he’s not listed on the roster). Addition by subtraction, in my opinion.

    2) Imagine this team with Hernandez & Hermannsson? Tough to say how it would translate, and I don’t think Fleming would be playing nearly as much, but Hernandez in place of van Sauers would be an upgrade, no question. Not sure it gets us a better record (the three losses were pretty emphatic, minus the Incarnate Word game), but it could have. Hermannsson’s loss was viewed as very large prior to the season started, and I think it could show more in league play than in non-league as teams are more familiar. But you have to be encourage by the way Fleming, Agosto and to a little bit lesser of an extent Batts have stepped up.

    3) At the risk of sounding crazy, I think Jerome Frink might be the best player to play at LIU since Charles Jones. All due respect to Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd, great, great players, but they had a lot of help around them, and all-league players to do it with. Brickman & Garner were two of the top 5 guards in the league when they played. Frink is carrying this team on his back and has a lot of supporting cast members around him. The three he hit when the lead was 7 against St. John’s was probably the biggest shot of the game. One thing that is an underrated aspect of basketball is hand strength and the ability to catch the ball. It’s a basic fundamental thing, but Frink is up there with Boyd as having the best hands for a big guy in recent times at LIU.

    4) Jack Perri deserves all the credit in the world, and then some, for the way that this season has played out thus far. There’s still a long way to go and who knows how the NEC season will go. But the kids are playing hard, playing smart (for the most part) and showing the ability to come up with big plays down the stretch of games. Zanna is playing the best basketball of his career, and there are any number of guys who have come up big in different games (Raiquan Clark being the most recent). LIU played 11 guys against St. John’s, nine guys have played in all 10 games and another guy (Askew) has played in nine of the 10. This helps build depth for this year and in future years. It’s going to be tough to replace Frink and a senior version of Fleming from this year’s team, but with Hernandez due to come back next year following a redshirt season, with Zanna returning and Agosto & Batts ready to step into larger roles (not to mention Bradley, Clark, Frias & van Sauers), I think the future is bright and the culture is starting to shift a little bit in Brooklyn.

    • First of all, thanks for checking in. Always appreciated.

      About the points you made, 1) really no need to bring up the negativity that has happily disappeared from the comments section of the blog. It was no secret where it was coming from and I know everyone is glad to see it gone. 2) I personally think had Hermannsson returned and Hernandez had not gotten injured, this team as scary as it is to think, would probably have been even better than they are right now. You have had a starting five of Hermannsson, Fleming, Hernandez, Frink and Zanna from 1 to 5. That would have been a heck of a starting five. Now if Hermannsson had stayed, Agosto wouldn’t be here and I always felt had Hermannsson not left over the summer, he would have likely left after this season anyway so LIU would have gotten just one more season of Hermannsson anyway. Now LIU has four years (hopefully) of Agosto and Agosto has been really good for LIU so far. So the loss of Hermannsson hasn’t been as impact just yet but I agree with you, that might come during NEC play. 3) Frink has been great and LIU wouldn’t be 7-3 right now without him. I don’t want to take anything away from him. I still believe Julian Boyd has been the best LIU player in the last 20 years or so. I would go 1. Boyd 2. Frink 3. Olasewere 4. Brickman in that order. If Frink had been a four-year LIU player like all those other guys were maybe I would have put Frink at 1 but for my money, Julian Boyd is still at the top. 4) Perri has really done a nice job rebuilding the program and this roster since the championship run ended. When he knew LIU was lacking in depth in the frontcourt, he went out and recruited several front court guys and now you’re starting to see the payoff. It will be interesting to see how things go once NEC play begins. The NEC is going to be more competitive this season I believe so even with the great start in non-conference, the true test is coming in a couple of weeks.

  2. Michael Hernandez'71 says:

    Helloooooooooooooo Nelson,
    For every alum and/or person who’s part of Blackbird Nation, the win yesterday affirms that this is a good team. Saw very little of the game. This was a city game! And we won! We’re lucky? Well, maybe, but we win. You make your own luck. You put yourself in a situation to be lucky to win. We stayed with SJU and wouldn’t go away. We didn’t have much of a chance according to the pundits and prognostication services. Shows us how worthless they are. Student athletes play the game not pundits or the numbers. One thing about this team: they know to win.
    While this win is a milestone, at the end of the day, for us, winning the NEC Tournament is far more important. Also, winning league play puts us in a better position to win the tournament.
    But, let me tell you, this win feels real good.
    A very tough game coming up on Wednesday. Playing a team that probably hasn’t played away from home yet. Williams Arena–loud, fans are on top of you, AND it has a raised floor. A cathedral of college basketball.
    Just another game in preparation for the NEC wars.
    Truly enjoy your articles and Bob Dea’s pictures.

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