In order to become champions a team must defeat those that have climbed the mountain before them. St. Francis Brooklyn started its ascent up the NEC standings with an impressive 78-64 victory over LIU Brooklyn at the Pope Athletic Center in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday.
The Terriers had lost the past six time they played their Brooklyn neighbors as LIU captured three straight NEC titles. This season though the tables have turned. An athletic Terriers team is 10-6 overall and now tied for first in the NEC standings at 1-0.
“You do want to beat them, but I want to beat everybody,” said St. Francis head coach Glenn Braica. “That’s not our ultimate goal to beat them, but it’s part of it. They’re a very good team. They’ve had a great run in the league the last three years.”
After battling teams such as Miami (FL) and Syracuse during non-conference the Terriers got to play someone their own size and dominated on the glass. Jalen Cannon nearly had a double-double at halftime and finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Overall SFC grabbed 26 offensive rebounds on 42 misses. Pounding the Blackbirds on the glass forced LIU to eventually abandon its matchup zone defense.
“Coach told me before practice the other day, ‘There’s points on the boards, just keep going to the boards,'” Cannon said. “They play a zone, so there are going to be easy rebounds on the glass.”
It wasn’t just big men like Cannon that hurt the Blackbirds on the boards. SFC point guard Brent Jones earned his first start of the season and just missed a triple-double with 8 points, 7 rebounds, and a career-high 12 assists. The junior was poised during the entire game and his penetration into the teeth of the LIU defense opened up the court for his teammates.
“I thought his leadership was needed the way we’ve been starting games,” Braica said about the decision to put Jones in from the opening tip. “It turned out very well for us.”
One of the main beneficiaries was Ben Mockford. The Terriers’ British sharp-shooter knocked down 8-14 threes and scored a career-high 30 points. He was a perfect 6-6 from three during the second half as the Terriers extended a 10-point halftime advantage to a comfortable victory.
“All my shots were in rhythm,” Mockford said. “Normally I take some crazy ones here and there, but my feet were set today and I was knocking them down.”
Part of LIU’s rebounding struggles in the first half came from playing zone, but the fact that sophomore forward EJ Reed picked up his second foul on a double-technical certainly didn’t help. Reed had just three rebounds in the game along with 11 points.
There were a few emotional exchanges between the two local rivals in the game. Mockford even took the time to look over at the LIU bench after a few of his second-half threes.
Landon Atterberry led LIU with 19 points, but only grabbed four boards. Even LIU’s virtuoso point guard Jason Brickman struggled. He had 11 assists, but also 4 turnovers and just 6 points on 3-10 shooting. The Terriers were often able to create a wall on the baseline that prevented Brickman from finding his teammates.
LIU is still trying to get healthy, but the Blackbirds don’t have a break on Saturday. Jack Perri said that he had just five healthy, fully practicing players last Saturday and now his embattled group heads to Staten Island to play a revitalized Wagner team. (More on the Seahawks and the entire NEC in Ryan’s league recap.) The Blackbirds started NEC play 0-2 a season ago, but unlike last year there are no reinforcements coming. This is the roster LIU has to work with and it’s going to be a hard battle to stay on top.
One thought on “St. Francis Brooklyn 78, LIU Brooklyn 64”
With the way the Terriers performed vs Miami FL and Syracuse, aggressively attacking the boards against much bigger front lines, think that a lot of SFC fans were envisioning solid wins vs teams which had similar size. Hopefully, this is just the start of a successful run through their like-sized NEC opponents. The difference in this game, though, was their ability to present a consistent scoring threat from outside. It’s that balance (or lack of it), along with its high-energy defensive efforts, which will spell out the rest of the conference slate. Looking over the rebounding and shot blocking stats so far this season, the mere fact that the Terriers up-front guys go no bigger than 6-6 for most of the game is pretty impressive.