LIU Brooklyn looked lost and listless as it allowed 51 second half points against St. Peter’s in an 80-67 loss in Jersey City on Wednesday night.
“I could tell in our guys’ eyes before the game,” said LIU head coach Jack Perri. “There was a totally different look on our guys’ faces before the game. There was a different kind of sweat. The was lack of sweat in pre-game. I warned them.”
The Blackbirds allowed 80 points in just 64 possessions (which is awful). The Peacocks guards consistently went right past LIU’s defenders. That allowed them to get to the rim or dish off for easy shots. The starting guard trio of Desi Washingon (28 points), Yvon Raymond (14 points) and Blaise Ffrench (12 points) combined for 54 points and eight assists.
“We talked about containing it,” Perri said. “Contain, contain, contain and we didn’t.”
Amongst the most egregious offenders was Jason Brickman. Even late in the first half he was struggling to stay in front of his man in one-on-one match ups. Players got by him, exposing LIU’s lackluster help defense, which did little to prevent guards from getting to the rim once they had gotten past the first line of defense. While Brickman had a solid game offensively with 10 points, seven assists and just two turnovers, it wasn’t enough to offset his, or the team’s, defensive struggles.
Part of the problem was that LIU struggled in transition defense. The Peacocks were opportunistic offensively, with 10 points in transition and another 21 off of LIU’s 14 turnovers. Washington in particular was able to get into a rhythm thanks to some open looks in transition.
“He’s a great player,” said St. Peter’s head coach John Dunne about Washington. “If I wasn’t preaching share, share, share he could probably average 20 a game. He opens up lanes for Yvon Raymond and Blaise Ffrench, so he’s not only getting his own points, but opening up opportunities for them.”
The Blackbirds failed to match SPU’s offense at the other end. Four players scored in double-figures, but on one was particularly effective. Jamal Olasewere pressed more as the game went on, but the Peacocks were insistent on shutting down his drives to the basket. Without Julian Boyd on the court LIU couldn’t find any offense in the paint. The Blackbirds scored just 10 points in the paint in the second half and were outscored 40-28 in there for the game. LIU got just eight points from the bench and six of those came in the first few minutes of the game.
“That’s going to be a theme that we’ve got to figure out,” Perri said about the points in the paint. “I thought Khalil Murphy actually showed some things. He actually played with some energy.”
Once again Olasewere’s foul trouble was a big issue for the Blackbirds. While he finished with just three fouls in the game and played 30 minutes, he picked up his second with 6:28 remaining in the half and the Blackbirds up 29-24. From then on they were outscored 15-6. The momentum that St. Peter’s gained during that run seemed to frustrate the Blackbirds and took them out of the game, which enabled the Peacocks to go on their large second half runs to put the game away.
“I thought once we got up their energy kind of left the building,” Dunne said. “At that point it was just closing out the game even though it was choppy at times.”
LIU isn’t the first team this season that has looked lost when facing Dunne’s defensive schemes. It was his decision to switch from man to zone in the second half to take away Brickman’s offense that helped St. Peter’s expand its lead. But once the Peacocks got that lead the Blackbirds really struggled to close the gap. An inability to get stops – SPU hit 52% of its shots in the second half – made it nearly impossible to get back into the game. It’s obvious that LIU is still a team that likes to play with the lead. Given a bit of adversity against a decent team on the road, LIU faltered in its first post-Boyd test.
“It’s hard to win on the road,” Perri said. “You have to defend and you have to rebound and we did neither of those.”
One other factor might’ve been that LIU was just finishing a hectic week of games and finals, whereas St. Peter’s had been off for the past 11 days. It may have contributed to the energy on Wednesday. Exams will be over by the time the Blackbirds take on Seton Hall on Saturday night. If anything, playing a Big East opponent in an NBA arena calls for a bit of energy. LIU will need it to avoid a repeat performance.