For a year now LIU Brooklyn has been the class of the NEC. The Blackbirds haven’t lost a conference game, regular or post season, in over a 365 days with their 73-66 win over Wagner on Saturday at the Spiro Sports Center. LIU did it the same way its gotten most of its wins this season in conference play, by dominating in the paint and getting to the free throw line.
Yes, Dan Hurley is demonstrative on the sidelines, but he seemed to be extra fired up as the Blackbirds out scored the Seahawks 37-33 in the second half to seal the victory. For the game, LIU went to the free throw line 35 times, making 27. LIU starting forwards, Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd, combined to shoot more free throws than the entire Wagner team (17 to 16).
Boyd shot 6-10 from the line and scored 19 points along with 17 rebounds as once again Wagner failed to find anyone that could contain him in the paint. Naofall Folahan picked up two early fouls and never seemed to get into a rhythm in the game. But that foul trouble did open up an opportunity for Mario Moody, who showed why Hurley worked so hard to get him to Staten Island. The freshman forward delivered with a big game scored 12 points and grabbing nine boards and helping offset some of the problems inside.
But LIU was just too much in the paint. It attempted just 10 threes, but made six. The number of makes was two more than Wagner made on the night even though the Seahawks took 19. Early in the game Wagner seemed tentative to go out and guard shooters like Olasewere (who finished with 18 points) and Jason Brickman (17 points). Even though C.J. Garner finished 1-11 from the field, the scoring of those three guys was enough to carry LIU through in a hostile road environment.
This was a 74-possession game, so it’s really LIU’s defense that should be praised. Holding Wagner to 0.89 points per possession is going to help win the game. None of the Seahawks managed to get into a groove, finishing 24-65 (36.9%) from the field and turning the ball over 13 times. The Blackbirds also got some contributions from unlikely sources. Booker Hucks scored only four points, but with Olasewere saddled with foul trouble in the first half, Hucks came in and gave Jim Ferry some quality minutes on the defensive end.
One of the most important things that LIU’s constant generation of fouls does though is keep key opponent players off the court. That happened on Saturday with Folahan, but Jonathan Williams was also battling foul trouble for most of the game. When Latif Rivers (17 points, 5-15 from the field) cooled off and Tyler Murray (11 points, 3-11) struggled the Seahawks had nowhere to go for offense.
This is another good win for Long Island and it sets up a big showdown on Thursday against Robert Morris in western Pennsylvania. The Colonials had to go to overtime to beat Monmouth on Saturday night, 81-73.
St. Francis (NY) 79, Mount St. Mary’s 60 — In the other local NEC action the Terriers showed no ill affects from their loss earlier this week to Wagner. Stefan Perunicic scored 21 points in the win on just eight shots. He was 4-5 from three in the game. Jalen Cannon had another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and P.J. Santavenere added 11 points off the bench. People have noted that SFC has built its 6-2 conference record against the bottom of the league (the two losses are to Wagner), but as RMU’s narrow home escape against Monmouth proved, you’ve got to win these games too. Look for the Terriers to hang around in the conference race for much longer than people – including me – expected.