LIU Brooklyn falls to Saint Francis U., lost four of their last five to slip to a tie for fourth

LIU Brooklyn in the midst of losing strecth, dropping four of their last five and falling to tie for fourth-place. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

LIU Brooklyn in the midst of losing stretch, dropping four of their last five and falling to tie for fourth-place. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

It was a matchup of two 7-4 teams in which the winner would be in a tie for second-place in the NEC standings with Fairleigh Dickinson. Saint Francis U. came in winners of four of their last five games while LIU Brooklyn entered as losers of three of their last four.

Making it even more challenging for the Blackbirds, they would not have their co-captain and leading scorer and rebounder, Jerome Frink, who would miss his first game in his two seasons with LIU after the loss of his father earlier in the week.

Although LIU gave it a valiant effort with several of the younger players stepping up and coming up big, LIU fell short in the closing minutes in losing 80-78 to the Red Flash at the Steinberg Wellness Center Saturday afternoon.

The loss dropped LIU down to a tie for fourth-place with Wagner who is both now 7-5 while pushing SFU to a tie for second-place with Fairleigh Dickinson at 8-4.

Redshirt freshman Julius van Sauers dropped a career-high 11 points in the first half vs SFU. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

Redshirt freshman Julius van Sauers dropped a career-high 11 points in the first half vs SFU. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

Without Frink, LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri started redshirt freshman Julius van Sauers in Frink’s place. The decision proved to be a wise one in the first half as van Sauers stepped up and hit all three of his shots, all from beyond the arc. He scored a career-high eleven points in the first half.

LIU as a team drained six of thirteen from deep while shutting out the Red Flash from three to take a 41-34 lead at the half.

The Red Flash came out in the second half and turned it around 180 degrees on the offensive end as they shot a scorching-hot 63 percent in the final twenty minutes including draining five of nine from three.

After LIU got the lead up 12 after an explosive baseline slam by sophomore Raiquan Clark with 14:59 left, SFU went on an 11-2 run in a span of 2:33 to get within three. Another 14-4 run by the Red Flash gave them their first lead of the second half.

The Blackbirds who have been going through free throw shooting woes in their last couple of losses got back to making their free throws as they made 24 of 31 from the charity stripe but in the final five minutes, they had two crucial misses from both Jashaun Agosto and Iverson Fleming that would have given LIU the lead.

Yet, LIU would still have a chance to pull out the big win but a very questionable fifth foul on Nura Zanna sent Isaiah Blackmon to the foul line in which he drained a pair of free throws to put SFU up two with 1:41 remaining.

On LIU’s next possession, probably the worst shot decision of the season was made when senior Glenn Feidanga, a player who was 0 for 2 from three in his college career, took a three that he missed from the top of the key that promptly caused Jack Perri to bury his head in his hands.

Feidanga would redeem himself on the defensive end, drawing a charge on Randall Gaskins Jr. but Gaskins would later redeem himself burying a wide-open three from the left corner to put SFU up five and seemingly putting this game away.

LIU was able to show some fight in the final moments as Julian Batts hit a pair of clutch three-pointer to keep LIU alive but SFU made three of four free throws in the final ten seconds, the only miss by Jamaal King was missed intentionally in the final three seconds to keep the Blackbirds from getting any kind of quality shot off.

“We fouled too much,” Perri said .”We had a lot of guys playing that normally don’t play as many minutes with the loss of Jerome and all the foul trouble that we had. There were some frustrating moments.”

SFU sophomore Josh Nebo had a great game 19 pts) vs LIU Saturday afternoon. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

SFU sophomore Josh Nebo had a great game (19 pts) vs LIU Saturday afternoon. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

SFU were led by rising sophomore forward Josh Nebo whose offensive end this season has matched his defensive game. He finished with a game-high tying 19 points. Sophomore Isaiah Blackmon finished with fifteen points as four Red Flash players finished in double-figures.

LIU were led by Jashaun Agosto who removed the facemask he wore Thursday night which hampered his play and finished with 19 points including a pair of threes which he hadn’t made a three-pointer in his last eight games. Iverson Fleming scored fifteen points. Julian Batts finished with 14 with six of those points coming in the closing moments. Julian van Sauers after a terrific first half, didn’t shoot a single shot in the second half and finished with the eleven points he scored in the first half.

“With Jerome not here, we talked about everybody stepping up and playing to the best of their ability and just be the best of what they are. I think our guys, for the most part, did that.” Perri said. “The fact we were able to compete without Jerome I think that opens a lot of eyes for ourselves and feel real good about. We got to get back on the horse and try to find a way to get a win.”

The Blackbirds now have six games remaining in their regular season with just two home games left. LIU has really no more margin for error as they are now just barely hanging on to a top four spot in the NEC standings which would reward them with at least one NEC tournament home game.

LIU freshman Jashaun Agosto shed the facemask from Thursday night to score 19 pts vs SFU Saturday. (Photo: Bob Dea - BHJ)

LIU freshman Jashaun Agosto shed the facemask from Thursday night to score 19 pts vs SFU Saturday. (Photo: Bob Dea – BHJ)

The final three weeks are now make-or-break for the Blackbirds. LIU is now 1-4 since their 6-1 start to conference play and has their play take a downturn over the last three weeks. LIU who were winning a lot of the close ones this season, have lost their last two games by four points or less.

“I’ve got to keep these guys upbeat. I want to keep these guys upbeat.” Perri said. “There is a lot of time left. There is a lot of basketball to be played. I knew when we were 7-2 that a lot can happen the rest of the year. We have six games left. We have three weeks where we got to continue to get better. We’ve relied so much on Jerome and now we see that we can compete and other guys can step up and do some really good things and I hope this gave some guys some confidence.”

This final stretch doesn’t get any easier either with games at Bryant, FDU, at St. Francis Brooklyn, Sacred Heart and then the final week at Mount St. Mary’s and at Wagner. If LIU is to stay in the top four, they are going to need to get things going in the right direction in a hurry.

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