A dominating performance on the glass and the defensive end earned LIU Brooklyn a convincing 82-69 victory over Wagner at the Steinberg Center on Thursday night.
The victory moved LIU to 6-7 in the NEC, while Wagner dropped to 8-5 in conference. Two of the Seahawks losses in NEC play have come at the hands of the Blackbirds, which erased a 17-point deficit last time these two teams played on Staten Island.
This time those heroics were unnecessary. The Blackbirds jumped out to a four-point lead at halftime and then pushed their advantage to as many as 21 points before Wagner cut into the lead late.
Here are two thoughts from each side of the New York City battle.
LIU was the tougher team on Thursday night. The Blackbirds dominated on the glass, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds, nearly half of their misses. Jerome Frink led the way with five offensive rebounds, but five players grabbed at least one. Frink, who scored a game-high 26 points, grabbed 15 rebounds alone.
Martin Hermannsson, even while playing with an injured hip, grabbed 11 boards, scored 17 points and dished out five assists. Considering the Blackbirds are a game under .500 in NEC play it seems strange to think that they should have two NEC first team players, but both Frink and Hermannsson do things on a nightly basis that most NEC players just can’t.
Last week against Mount St. Mary’s Jack Perri said he wanted to see his team grabbing 40-50% of its misses. That’s exactly what they did against the Seahawks because the Blackbirds constantly sent three guys to the glass.
“We send three to the glass,” Perri said. “That’s something we stress every single time. It can be different responsibility, but three guys go to the glass each time. That’s what you want. You want it to be a variety of guys.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Perri has been pushing his young team to crash the boards in practice as well.
“They’ve been preaching that a lot,” Frink said about the coaching staff’s insistence on rebounding the basketball.
“We don’t sleep man, all the time we go to the glass, especially in practice that what we do all the time,” Nura Zanna said. “As soon as you slack off coach is going to get you in practice. So all the time you have to rebound and get on the glass.”
If LIU can play that way moving forward it makes the Blackbirds, with their intimidating front line, much harder to beat.
Zanna really likes playing against Wagner. Even the redshirt sophomore doesn’t know why, but Zanna seems to save his best moments for these games. Zanna almost set a new season high with 16 points, 14 in the first half alone. He finished 7-11 from the field and only second half foul trouble seemed to slow Zanna down. Zanna had scored his previous season high earlier this season against… Wagner. And his career-high 17 points came last season against… Wagner. Thursday’s 16 points weren’t quiet either. Zanna posterized Mike Aaman on a pick-and-roll dunk in the first half. But not even Zanna knows why he steps up against the Seahawks.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I just feel good anytime we play them,” Zanna said. “I don’t know man. I just feel good about them.”
How does Wagner score when Corey Henson struggles? That’s the question that Bashir Mason is still looking to answer. Henson scored six points on 2-9 shooting and only played 19 minutes. When the breakout sophomore isn’t on the court Wagner’s offense is much more limited. JoJo Cooper and Aaren Edmead are fine reserve guards in the NEC, but neither has the shooting ability to stretch a defense that Henson possesses. Wagner went a combined 3-18 from three on Thursday as the Seahawks scored only 0.90 points per possession against what had been a porous LIU defense.
Michael Carey is the real deal. If you looked at KenPom’s NEC kPOY standings heading into Thursday—his version of the Player of the Year award—you might’ve been surprised to find Carey atop the standings (now he’s right behind Cane Broome). Sure the numbers in conference play have been impressive, but that good? Well, even in defeat Carey showed off the skills that have made him one of the best players in the NEC, even in his inaugural campaign through the league. Carey combines athleticism, a lithe build, and the ability to get the rim seemingly at will with a strong nose for the ball off the glass. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes, his 10th double-double of the season. In conference play Carey can easily move between small forward, where he starts, and power forward in Wagner’s small ball lineups. It’s no wonder he’s been so productive in conference play.