Well, the 43rd annual Battle of Brooklyn game between St. Francis Brooklyn and LIU Brooklyn at the Steinberg Wellness Center Thursday night had it all.
In a game of huge importance for both teams, St. Francis Brooklyn in a three-way tie for second and LIU Brooklyn, still with hope of hosting a NEC tournament quarterfinal game on Wednesday night, each brought an intensity and a desire to win that has made this rivalry between the two Division I Brooklyn schools, one of the best in the NEC if not among one of the most underrated in the nation.
In their second meeting in a span of a week, after St. Francis Brooklyn took Round One at the Pope Physical Education Center last Thursday night 84-79, LIU Brooklyn came back and took Round Two in a hard-fought 81-76 victory over the cross-borough rivals. LIU has now taken two straight Battle of Brooklyn contest and six of the last eight.
“That was great,” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Derek Kellogg after the victory. “And I said it after we lost last week so I’m not just saying it because we won, I’m not one of those guys. I thought this was good for basketball in the area, two really good games. Both teams who actually left everything they had out on the floor. I respect what (St. Francis Brooklyn head coach) Glenn (Braica) has been able to accomplish this year with a team that wasn’t thought of to be in the top whatever and they’ve played really well, so he has done a great job with their group. And I like how our guys have kind of come together.”
Here are my five takeaways from another Battle of Brooklyn classic.
1. Joel Hernandez would not be denied, not on this night.
Joel Hernandez made the first basket of the game, hitting a jumper and immediately let out a huge roar as he looked at his bench who were as fired up as he was and that set the tone for him to have a big night in his final Battle of Brooklyn game.
The redshirt senior from Teaneck finished as the Battle of Brooklyn Most Valuable Player after scoring 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting and was huge for the Blackbirds in the final twenty seconds, first by hitting a layup and drawing a foul with 17 seconds remaining and then capping the victory off with an empathic slam to close the game and take the victory.
“(This win) was very important,” said Hernandez after the game. “The season is winding down so we want to get momentum going into the playoffs especially since it was our last two games coming up so we want to go out with a bang.”
2. Rasheen Dunn is scary good.
Rasheen Dunn is only a sophomore folks. Tremendous credit has to go to St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Glenn Braica and his staff on getting this standout out of Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.
After scoring 24 points, one point shy of his career-high in the last game against LIU Brooklyn last week, Dunn once again was the man for the Terriers with his second-straight 24-point game against the Blackbirds. Dunn could have had a career-high night if he would have gotten just one of his seven three-point attempts to drop but for just the sixth time all season, he didn’t make a single three.
Although he struggled from three in Round Two of the Battle of Brooklyn, he was seven for twelve on his two-pointers and was also ten for twelve from the foul line to go with his four assists, four rebounds, and two steals.
Dunn and Hernandez went at each seemingly all game long and had some words and hard looks for one another after each made basket on the other. Both landed a technical foul in this heated contest.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if he doesn’t like me or anything but you know, we kind of did go at it but hey, I’m not complaining,” said Hernandez on the one-on-one battle with Dunn in the two games against one another this season.
Dunn though is the real deal. Expect to see his name on either the second or third All-NEC teams when they are announced next week.
3. Raquian Clark needs to have games like this one for LIU Brooklyn to make noise in the NEC Tournament.
Arguably, there is probably no bigger X-factor to his team in the NEC then Raiquan Clark is to LIU Brooklyn. When Clark brings his A-game, they are at the minimum, in any game they play.
Clark has had an outstanding season. He is very much a candidate for NEC Most Improved Player as he is averaging over seventeen points per game this season. On Thursday night, to go along with an efficient 18 points on just three of four shooting and getting to the free throw line eighteen times and making twelve, he finished with a career-high fourteen rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.
The only thing really holding Clark back is his turnovers. He had a career-high seven turnovers Thursday night and for the season is averaging over four turnovers a game. In fact, he is second in the nation in turnovers (125) to only Oklahoma’s Trae Young (142). If LIU is to make a March run, Clark has to continue being the X-factor and find a way to minimize his turnovers.
4. St. Francis Brooklyn dominated the offensive glass but had a rough night shooting.
It was weird night in the rebounding department in this Battle of Brooklyn game. St. Francis Brooklyn dominated the offensive boards, outrebounding LIU Brooklyn twenty-eight to eleven. Unfortunately for the Terriers, the plus-seventeen offensive rebound margin only ended up with thirteen second-chance points which were only one more second-chance point than what LIU scored. Conversely, LIU Brooklyn outrebounded St. Francis Brooklyn by twelve on the defensive glass and was only outrebounded in the game by six.
“We just got to grab the rebounds, that’s all,” said Clark. “We were tapping it out a lot. We just got to grab them down.”
Also, the Terriers really struggled shooting the ball from three. They were just four of thirty from deep with Dunn’s poor shooting night from beyond the arc leading the way. In their win over LIU Brooklyn last week, the Terriers were thirteen of twenty-nine from three in their five point-win. If the Terriers had made a few more three Thursday night, things might have gone a different way for them.
5. It all comes down to the final game of the regular season.
With the win over St. Francis Brooklyn and loss by Robert Morris, LIU Brooklyn stays alive to possibly move up to the four-seed and host an NEC quarterfinal game Wednesday night against either RMU or St. Francis Brooklyn.
LIU Brooklyn now needs a win over Sacred Heart on Saturday along with losses by Robert Morris to Saint Francis U. and St. Francis Brooklyn to Central Connecticut. Both RMU and St. Francis Brooklyn is on the road while LIU host the Pioneers.
If St. Francis Brooklyn wins on Saturday, the Terriers will get the final NEC quarterfinal home game next Wednesday night.
It is possible that with an LIU win, an SFBK loss and an RMU win, they will be a three-way tie for fourth and the NEC tiebreaker rules will be needed to sort it all out. Should make for a fun and wild Saturday.