Chris Wray’s buzzer-beater sinks LIU Brooklyn in NEC opener

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Chris Wray just got the game-winning layup up over the outstretch hand of Raiquan Clark to beat LIU 67-65 at the Steinberg Wellness Center in the NEC opener for both teams. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

In what was a tight and at times a chippy affair between Mount St. Mary’s and LIU Brooklyn at the Steinberg Wellness Center in the 2016-17 Northeast Conference opener, it came down to the final 4.2 seconds to determine a winner.

Mount St. Mary’s junior forward Chris Wray went coast-to-coast and put in a layup high off the glass and possibly off the fingertips of LIU’s Raiquan Clark to beat the Blackbirds on the road 67-65 in a heartbreaking fashion.

LIU Brooklyn couldn’t hold on to a nine-point halftime lead and that built up to eleven after a Nura Zanna dunk to start the second half scoring. 

The Mount would then lead a charge by hitting a barrage of threes, four straight in fact, three of those by Mount guard Elijah Long to cut the deficit to three in a span of just over four minutes.

With the game tied at 59 with 3:06 left to play, Mount went on 6-2 run to take a four-point lead with 53 seconds remaining. LIU sophomore Raiquan Clark hit a driving layup with 45 seconds to go to put LIU down two and then Nura Zanna would complete a terrific game for him with a layup to tie with 4.2 seconds remaining that would set up Wray game-winning heroics.

“I think the reality is with that, I thought Robinson was more of the guy,” Perri said about the final possession. “All we really talked about was whoever was guarding the inbounder, whoever was guarding Robinson to be able to slow him down…Everybody was supposed to be much further back than they were… Obviously, it’s disappointing because (van Sauers) is riding him the whole way and then he throw that up and I think Raquian actually tipped it and it went in. Great play by Wray. Obviously disappointed.”

LIU Brooklyn didn’t have the services of starting point guard Jashaun Agosto who dressed but didn’t play. He suffered an apparent knee injury in practice the day before and tested the knee in warmups but was unable able to go which lead to LIU head coach Jack Perri giving Julian Batts his first career collegiate start.

“Without Jashaun, Batts was our only point guard we have in the program. So that certainly hurt us.” Perri said. “But we were down four and we were able to make plays. Raiquan makes a great play. Nura makes the great offensive rebound put back to give us a chance to get us into overtime. Obviously, it was just disappointing not to get into overtime.”

Freshman Julian Batts got his first career start for LIU against Mount. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

Freshman Julian Batts got his first career start for LIU against Mount. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

Batts, with some early hiccups, played relatively well, finishing with six points and three assists and only two turnovers against the Mount full court press.

The problem though, in what was a chippy game that features two separate occasions in which officials had to step in and separate players and handled out three technical fouls, Batts who hit with a tech after a double technical was given to both him and Elijah Long after a mid-court feet tangling that led to a hard stare down and a couple of words exchanging. Batts would foul out with 2:09 remaining.

The Mount bench was also hit with a tech after head coach Jamion Christian came onto the court to protest a non-immediate flagrant call that would eventually be accessed to Nura Zanna who would also eventually land himself into foul trouble late in the game.

Zanna had himself a career game with a career-high 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season and fourth in his last five games.

Nura Zanna had a career day with 21 points and 17 rebounds. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

Nura Zanna had a career day with 21 points and 17 rebounds. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

A big reason why Zanna was able to have such a huge game was because senior Jerome Frink was seeing a constant double team and that left Zanna free to crash the boards and make several putbacks. Frink was held to 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds but committed a game-high six turnovers.

“He knew he is going to see (the double teams),” Perri said of Frink’s seeing constant double teams. “We work on it in practice and how they come at him. They just kind of sandwiched him from the get-go and it was hard to get him touches. He is going to see that and other guys are going to have to step up and make plays. Nura obviously did. If they are doubling off of him, he was open for some offensive rebounds which helped us dramatically.”

Mount got 21 points from their leading scorer Elijah Long and 13 points from Junior Robinson who got their third win of the season and start NEC play at 1-0 as they head back home for their NEC home opener against Wagner Saturday.

Iverson Fleming, who took on more point guard duties in this game with Agosto being out, didn’t have a good shooting game as he went 3 for 21 from the field and scored 12 points.

LIU Brooklyn committed just 13 turnovers against the Mount Mayhem press while forcing 16 turnovers on the Mount. Credit has to go to Batts, Fleming as well as Julias van Sauers, Raul Frias and Mitchell McMullen who played for the first time in five games in light of Agosto’s absence, did a nice job assisting in breaking the Mount press. Van Sauers, Frias, and McMullen combined for zero turnovers.

Jerome Frink finished with 14 points while facing constant double teams from Mount. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

Jerome Frink finished with 14 points while facing constant double teams from Mount. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

LIU Brooklyn has now dropped four straight and six of their last seven games and fall to 1-6 in December and fall to .500 at 7-7 for the season and 0-1 to begin league play.

The Blackbirds will look to salvage a win from this four-game homestand as they welcome Bryant, who also suffered a heartbreaking loss in overtime at St. Francis Brooklyn, 80-77, as both teams look not to fall to 0-2 to start NEC play.

Perri hopes Agosto is able to play Saturday versus Bryant, if not Batts will likely get the start once again.

LIU doesn’t want to go 0-2 right before they head out for the annual Western Pennsylvania trip which is usually one of the toughest road trips of the season with the long bus rides to Robert Morris and St. Francis U. which aren’t easy places to win at. LIU would hope to end this ugly month of December with one more win before entering the new year.

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