BETHLEHEM, Pa. (by Josh Verlin, City of Basketball Love) — LIU Brooklyn’s woes away from home continue. The Blackbirds battled Lehigh close the entire game but couldn’t get the run they needed, falling short to the Mountain Hawks 76-69 at Stabler Arena on Monday night.
Aside from a brief, 43-second span in the first half, Lehigh (6-5) was ahead from tipoff until the final buzzer, never leading by more than nine points but keeping LIU at a safe enough distance for the entire second half. Every time the Blackbirds would close to within a couple of buckets, the Mountain Hawks would get a necessary response on the other end of the court.
The Blackbirds looked like they might finally have a chance to put a real scare into the Mountain Hawks in the final minute of play after Shane Whitfield missed a pair of free throws that would have put his team up six, but a key turnover with 20 seconds remaining ensured that the visitors would never have a possession with a chance to tie or take the lead.
LIU Brooklyn (2-6) got into foul trouble quickly in the second half, picking up six fouls in the first four minutes after intermission after drawing 11 infractions over the opening 20 minutes. That played a role in allowing Lehigh to get to the line 35 times (22 makes) to LIU’s 25 (17 makes), though neither team shot above 70 percent on their freebies.
“I thought we had the right mentality coming out to start the game, and we needed to have that on the road here, but it translated into fouling,” said LIU head coach Jack Perri.
Fouls hurt the team early as well. Sophomore forward E.J. Reed picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game and then was whistled for a technical after arguing the second. He would end up playing just 10 minutes, scoring three points, before fouling out.
“I’m not sure why he got the technical foul,” Perri said, “but getting three real quick, that put us in such a hole.”
It was Reed’s third foul-out in the last five games and second in a row.
“He’s still young, we knew this going in, he’s got to make better decisions, he’s a kid that plays hard but it’s such a focus of ours to try and play with discipline,” Perri said.
Blackbird point guard Jason Brickman, the nations’ leader in assists per game (10.1) coming into play, had nine dishes against just one turnover in the first half alone, but the Mountain Hawks would limit his effectiveness in the second. The senior point guard finished with 12 assists against two turnovers, but the rest of his teammates combined for five assists against 13 turnovers.
Perri’s squad was paced by Landon Atterberry, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the opening half, while Gilbert Parga added 13 on 4-of-5 shooting. Brickman and Glenn Feidanga scored 10 apiece, and Gerrell Martin and Troy Joseph each had eight.
Lehigh continued to benefit from strong play by its talented freshman class. Tim Kempton, a 6’11” center whose father played eight years in the NBA, finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for his second-double double of the season, while Austin Price matched his scoring effort in 23 minutes off the bench and Shane Whitfield notched nine points and three rebounds.
Sophomore Jesse Chuku finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for his third such effort of the year for the Mountain Hawks.
LIU Brooklyn is back in action on Dec. 12 when they have another road game at NJIT.