Elvar Fridriksson didn’t let the desperate Florida International defenders redeem their mistake.
After the freshman guard completed a steal and reverse layup on a fast break, a smile crept on his face as he exhaled and lightly pounded his chest. The shot had given LIU-Brooklyn the 45-44 lead, and had forced FIU to call a timeout.
The next two trips down the court were hardly as modest. Each time,Fridriksson set his feet before knocking down 3-pointers from well behind the arc to give LIU a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I had a steal and the layup in transition,”Fridriksson said. “Then I had a wide open look — I wasn’t making them to begin with – but in the end they fell. I was happy with that.”
Fredriksson had a stretch of 10 straight points for the Blackbirds (3-6), as they pulled away late from FIU (6-5) in a 69-58 win at Barclays Center on Thursday night. The Blackbirds raced out to a 24-9 lead that included a 9-for-16 start from the field, but then they regressed.
But after letting the Panthers get ahead by as many as four, the LIU used Fridriksson’s heroics to go on an 11-2 run and pull out its third straight win.
“Woo, those were huge,” LIU head coach Jack Perri said. “He’s confident and he should be confident…Those were obviously very important.”
LIU came into Thursday having won its past two against NJIT and Maine. And after an 0-6 start to the season, the Blackbirds were somehow poised to win its third straight.
They were hitting nearly every shot and were out-rebounding a team that Perri said stunted them in height. They weren’t only winning a game that they probably shouldn’t be, but were winning by a lot.
But then the Panthers mounted a comeback. Marco Porcher cut a double-digit lead to five at halftime with two last-minute 3s. And the start of the second half FIU’s post presence became a factor. After Dennis Mavin stole an inbounds pass from Nurra Zanna, he dished it to Kris Gulley who finished a two-handed slam to give Florida International its first lead at 34-32. As he landed, he pointed his face upward and shouted.
“We came in the huddle, we all gathered and we said, ‘We aint gonna lose this game,’” Gerrell Martin said. “And we all grabbed each other and said lets start doing the things we did in the first half that got us that lead.”
And thanks in large part to Fridriksson, the Blackbirds were able to go back to what got them the lead, and allow them to keep it for good.
Perri said many of his players had finished up their last finals earlier in the afternoon and he wasn’t sure what kind of performance he’d get. But surprisingly enough, it was good enough to seal the first three-game winning streak for LIU since it defeated Mount St. Mary’s in the NEC Championship in March of 2013.
“It feels really good to get our third in a row,” Perri said. “It’s been a long time since we had that.”