It sure wasn’t pretty but at the end of the day, any win is a good win and for LIU Brooklyn they made just enough plays on a night in which they didn’t play their best basketball in coming away with a 60-49 win over Central Connecticut State at the Steinberg Wellness Center Thursday night.
LIU was able to shake off a slow start in which they didn’t score their first point until four minutes had passed and didn’t get their first field goal until well over six minutes in.
The Blackbirds got going with an 8-0 run led by a pair of threes from sophomore Raul Frias but CCSU immediately answered with a 6-0 run of their own but LIU retook the lead for good following an Iverson Fleming three-pointer which put them up 14-11 with 6:43 left.
LIU closed the half on an 8-3 run to take a six-point lead in the locker room and got the lead as high as eleven in the second half before CCSU tried to make a push to get back in it late and got as close as four with 1:04 remaining after a Khalen Cumberlander layup but Fleming would make a dagger three from the wing to put the game away and coast the rest of the way at the charity stripe.
LIU was once again able to dominate the glass, they out-rebounded CCSU 44-31 and were plus-twelve on the offensive glass. The Blackbirds incredibly grabbed back half of their misses as they got 21 offensive rebounds on their 42 missed shots. That is a remarkable percentage.
“That is what we are,” Perri said after the win. “In our league, every game we are going to have that advantage. Every game we are going to try and use that to our advantage…We dominated the glass in every game we’ve played in league and we want to continue to do that. I think that’s why we won the game because we really dominated the glass.”
The Blackbirds had to play most of the first half without Jerome Frink who picked up his second foul with 11:53 remaining and sat out the rest of the half.
With Frink out, sophomore Raiquan Clark came in and played outstanding and grabbed nine rebounds in the first half on his way to a career-high eleven rebounds along with five points. Six of his rebounds came on the offensive end. He also added a career-high tying three blocks on the defensive end.
“I can’t say enough about this kid,” Perri said. “He defends. We put him on one of their best players and he did a great job on Cumberlander in the first half. His knack for offensive rebounding is so unique, he just has such a nose for the basketball. So he is a great defender and he is great at offensive rebounding. He doesn’t demand a lot of shots so he just plays off of other guys. He is a great role guy and he has been tremendous for us the last few games.”
Although LIU was having a hard time on the offensive end due in part to CCSU going zone for most of the game and LIU just flat out missing shots and shot just 35 percent, LIU was able to hold CCSU to 35 percent shooting as well and .80 points per possession.
CCSU fell to 0-5 in the NEC and lost their fifth straight overall to LIU and have now lost 14 of the last 16 games to the Blackbirds. Khalen Cumberlander and Austin Nehls each finished with 13 points to lead the Blue Devils.
Frink returned in the second half to drop in 15 of his 17 points to go along with eight boards. Iverson Fleming led the Blackbirds in scoring with 18 points but was 6 of 17 from the floor but made the big three that put the game away.
Nura Zanna fouled out with just over three minutes left but was able to collect his NEC-leading ninth double-double of the season and his seventh double-double in the last nine games with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“It was the North Carolina Central game and he was just meandering along with his five and fives,” Perri said. “We had a good talk on the way home and it was like, you’re so much better than this and I don’t know why I didn’t have the conversation with him sooner but he really sat down and had a heart-to-heart and I think he really looked at himself in the mirror and said ‘I am better than this’. It really comes down to being able to stay on the court and I know he fouled out today but when he can stay on the court he is a huge, huge plus for us.”
With the victory, LIU moves to 11-7 overall and 4-1 in the NEC and now are tied with FDU and Mount for first place in the conference standings after Mount defeated FDU at home Thursday night.
LIU Brooklyn will look to make it five-straight wins as they host St. Francis Brooklyn in their non-Battle of Brooklyn face-off at the Steinberg Wellness Center Saturday afternoon.
“You know how those games go. Glenn (Braica) does such an unbelievable job with that group. They play hard. Every game against St. Francis is a war. We’re looking forward to it. Obviously, we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves but it is going to be a battle. We’re going to put all the other games behind and really focus on playing tough, physical defense and obviously trying to do a better job shooting the basketball the next game.”
This was definitely was a game LIU might have lost last season but this season’s team recognize their advantages especially in the front court and are abusing teams in the rebounding department so far during conference play. LIU was able to do enough at both ends to pull out a win and sometimes that is just the way they have to get it done.
(Editor’s Note: Thanks to LIU’s play-by-play voice Ray Martel for providing me with Jack Perri postgame sound since I couldn’t attend the game in person but watched it on NEC Front Row.)