City Sports Report

LIU Brooklyn shows mental toughness, snaps losing streak

Jack Perri LIU

LIU Brooklyn played like a team with their backs against the wall, the result was an 82-81 double overtime victory over Sacred Heart in the Northeast Conference. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Blackbirds, it was their first conference win of the season, however it also may have given them the emotional lift they’ll need to get back on the winning track.

“It feels really good to get that first one.” LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri said after the game. “We knew guys had to step up in Landon’s absence. Our guys grinded it out and we had to play really, really small. Obviously, it was a little ugly on the rebounds. Though we got the big stops when we needed to get stops. We made some big shots, we made some big free throws. I’m really happy with our effort.”

Sophomore Joel Hernandez hit a pair of free throws with 47 seconds left in the first overtime for LIU Brooklyn to tie the game at 75-75 to force the second overtime. Hernandez came up big again in the second overtime, scoring all seven points in the period, for the Blackbirds.

It was a big night for Hernandez, he made his first career start playing in place of senior Landon Atterberry. Before tip-off, it became known that Atterberry was suspended for this game by Perri for a violation of team rules. Hernandez finished with 14 points, and six rebounds in 32 minutes played, he continues to give the Blackbirds valuable minutes this season.

“(Joel) is probably our toughest kid.” said Perri of Hernandez after the game. “I could sense his frustration (in the first half) and told him at halftime, ‘Relax man. Keep your body language and focus, you’re going to be fine.’ and once he got some free throws and he makes that huge three that puts us up, that was awesome.”

The absence of Atterberry may have influenced Perri’s substitution pattern throughout this game, freshman Trevin Woods stepped up and took full advantage once his name was called off the bench. Woods finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, his first career double-double. In the second half,where LIU Brooklyn and Sacred Heart were trading baskets throughout, Woods, who’s twin brother Trevon is also on the team and saw time in this game, scored all of his points in the second half. This included a stretch where he knocked down three consecutive threes to help keep LIU Brooklyn in it.

“Up to this point it has been really tough especially getting my shot.” said Woods after the game. “Today, especially in the second half, it was really falling. It felt great though to finally starting putting some points and contributing to my team and then on top of that I was able to rebound a good bit. It was pretty good.”

Sacred Heart came into this game with the top ranked offense in the NEC, however LIU Brooklyn held them to under 40 percent from the field. While the Pioneers did manage to have five players finish in double figures, overall it was a poor shooting night for them.  Senior Evan Kelley finished with a team-high of 17 points, freshman standout guard Cane Broome finished with 16 points. For Sacred Heart, missed free throws down the stretch contributed greatly, the Pioneers shot 9-for-23 from the foul line. Sacred Heart (7-9 Overall | 1-2 Northeast Conference) has a tough stretch of games ahead of them, this is was one they may look back on later in the season and wish they could get back.

Bright Spots

Elvar Fridriksson busted out of his three-game slump with 18 points and seven assists.

“He’s had a struggle for the last three games, starting with the Hofstra game, and then the first two games (of conference play) he really struggled shooting…” said Perri after the game. “… just talking to him, he’s a really confident kid, he’s a pro. I knew he’d come out today, he was in the gym three times a day the last two days. We’d get here 7 in the morning and he’s already in here shooting. In the afternoon, because there’s no class, he’s getting more shots up, and after practice. That’s just a tribute to him. He’s just a good kid and really good basketball player.”

The guard play for LIU Brooklyn was improved, Martin Hermannsson and Gerrell Martin added 12 points and eight points respectively for the Blackbirds.

Nura Zanna came up big in the paint for LIU Brooklyn with the team missing Atterberry. Zanna scored 13 points while grabbing eight rebounds in 35 minutes against Sacred Heart. The freshman also got to the foul line, knocking down 9-for-13, including converting on the second of two free throws with 22 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 70-70 and force the first overtime.

Work in Progress

The Blackbirds were beat up on the boards, Sacred Heart out-rebounded them 60-51. It should be noted, with Atterberry not in the lineup, that Perri did have to play small against the Pioneers. LIU Brooklyn also lost the turnover battle, committing a season-high 21.

“The twenty-one turnovers and not only that but the rebounding.” said Perri afterwards. “They beat us on 50-50 balls in the second half which we were a little slow. Probably those first ten minutes before Trevin started knocking down threes and then we kind of got our step going again. That was a little disappointing. We are trying to play fast. It is a work in progress.”

What’s Next

This was a must-win game for LIU Brooklyn (5-9 overall | 1-2 Northeast Conference), they didn’t want an 0-3 start in the NEC. The Blackbirds were also able to salvage a win from their three-game home stand to open league play. They’ll head out on the road for their next game, against Wagner, January 10. Four of their next five games are on the road, the one exception is January 17 at Barclays Center against Mount St. Mary’s.

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