LIU Brooklyn doesn’t have a single senior on its roster and sometimes that inexperience really shows. Such as when the Blackbirds allow Mount St. Mary’s to grab 44% of its offensive rebounds during the first half.
“They wanted it more than us and I was really frustrated with that,” said LIU head coach Jack Perri about his team’s first half rebounding effort. “[The Mount] got easy tip ins because we stood around and watched.”
LIU Brooklyn also has a lot of talent. Jerome Frink and Martin Hermannsson are all-conference talents. Aakim Saintil, Nura Zanna and Joel Hernandez are excellent players in their own right. Sometimes all that talent comes together, as it did for LIU during a second half in which the Blackbirds scored 43 points. LIU committed only three turnovers and went to the free throw line 31 times during those second 20 minutes.
Ultimately the second half performance was enough as LIU pulled out a 77-74 home victory thanks to 21 points from Hermannsson and 19 points and nine rebounds from Frink.
But it’s that yin and yang though that Perri has had to navigate the entire season. Coming into the game the Blackbirds were the third most inconsistent team in the NEC according to my metrics. Because of their styles of play Mount St. Mary’s and St. Francis Brooklyn had been more inconsistent. Unlike SFC or the Mount though LIU’s inconsistencies don’t stem from shooting a ton of threes or pressing all game. Nope, it’s because sometimes the effort is there and sometimes it’s much harder to find.
Perri is still trying to figure out exactly how to get all that effort out of his team on a consistent basis. Playing against a Mount St. Mary’s team that could’ve stayed in first place with a victory on Thursday night—and that beat the Blackbirds by 16 in Emmittsburg, MD—Perri was extremely animated on the sidelines.
“If I have to I will,” Perri said about trying to provide extra energy for his team from the bench. “Our guys have to be more consistent with effort, focus and discpline.”
That focus is why LIU is now 5-6 in the NEC and currently tied with St. Francis Brooklyn for sixth in the NEC. Four of LIU’s six losses were at home. And that has left LIU with an uphill battle to close out the NEC season. Four of the next five are on the road, with the lone home game coming next Thursday against Wagner. Will the talented team that outscored Mount St. Mary’s by four in the second half show up? Or will the undisciplined first half dig the Blackbirds into too many holes?
Three other quick thoughts:
1. Perri said he looks for his team to grab 35% to 40% of its misses each game: First off, huzzah for tempo-free statistics in press conferences! Secondly, the Blackbirds aren’t living up to Perri’s goal. LIU is grabbing just 31.2% of its misses during NEC play, seventh in the conference. LIU has only reached the 35% mark three times during conference play and two of those were losses. (In their best offensive rebounding performance of the NEC season the Blackbirds grabbed 41% of their misses, and scored 1.17 points per possession in a 92-84 victory over Sacred Heart.) Let’s see if the Blackbirds can improve that mark during the rest of the season.
2. Foul trouble really hurt Mount St. Mary’s: The Mount seemed to have an opportunity to break this game wide open during LIU’s lackluster first half, but foul trouble for BK Ashe and Justin Robinson limited the explosiveness of MSM’s attack. Ashe had 11 points in 12 minutes in the first half. Robinson scored 15 in the second half when he could actually get into the flow of the game.
3. The development of Joel Hernandez is a key for LIU: The 6’3″ junior guard looks much more comfortable now that he’s playing the wing instead of in the paint. Hernandez had an excellent offensive rebound and dunk off a missed free throw. Overall he helped overwhelm MSM’s smaller backcourt and scored 14 points with six rebounds in 29 minutes. “He’s been great,” Perri said about Hernandez. “Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to get him touches.” Two areas where Hernandez can still improve? Free throw shooting, though he has made 63% of his FTs this season after connecting on only 52% last season, and offensive rebounding.
— LIU Basketball (@LIUBasketball) February 5, 2016