Right now Wagner is LIU Brooklyn’s worst nightmare and the Seahawks proved it again on Thursday night at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
Wagner led almost wire-to-wire and pulled out a 75-68 victory to complete the season sweep of the Blackbirds.
“I think they’re by far the most athletic team in the league,” LIU head coach Jack Perri said about Wagner. “That absolutely bothers us. It bothers Jason [Brickman] a little bit.”
The biggest problem the Seahawks create for the Blackbirds is how they contain Brickman on offense. LIU’s senior point guard had 13 assists, but he was just 2-8 from the floor and scored five points. He also committed seven turnovers while being fed a steady dose of Kenneth Ortiz and Dwaun Anderson, two big and athletic guards. Ortiz finished with six steals. Even when Brickman could get past those two he was funneled into the paint where his best chance of a bucket was an awkward floater. He went just 1-7 on shots inside the arc as he tried to drive into the trees.
Perri blamed the struggles on offense for much of what happened during the game. Until Wagner got hot from three late in the game LIU was at least holding down the fort on the defensive end, mostly through the liberal use of zones. Latif Rivers led the Seahawks with 18 points on 6-12 shooting, including 3-7 from beyond the arc. Jay Harris scored 10 points and hit the three that stretched Wagner’s lead to 13 points, its largest margin of the game.
LIU also had problems with Wagner inside. The Seahawks out scored the Blackbirds by eight in the paint, but also dominated on longer two-point attempts. Wagner shot 22-38 (56%) on twos as Mario Moody (14 points on 7-10 shooting) and Orlando Parker (5-8 for 14 points) dominated inside. Moody has been dominating NEC opponents, scoring in double-figures in five of his past six games including 19 points the last time these two teams met.
“I’m more comfortable with what I’m doing,” Moody said about his rise during NEC play. “Rebounding around the rim and finishes. I’m just there to help my team.”
LIU also struggled to score the ball whenever Wagner’s towering center Naofall Folahan was in the game. Folahan blocked five shots in just 16 minutes on the court.
Despite those disadvantages the Blackbirds kept the game competitive. They had the ball down four with 10:37 remaining, but Folahan blocked two shots in a single possession and Moody eventually came up with a rebound after a short miss from the wing by Gerrell Martin.
“I thought our guys were just a little pig-headed with their shot decisions interiorly,” Perri said. “We had some great offensive rebounds. Just kick the ball out.”
Perhaps the only LIU player that was particularly effective on the court was E.J. Reed. The talented Sophie scored 18 points on 7-9 shooting in 25 foul-plagued minutes. He picked up his fourth foul with 15:05 remaining in the game, forcing LIU to play a long stretch without its best option on offense.
Wagner took advantage. The Seahawks are now back to .500 overall at 10-10 and 4-3 in the NEC. They’ll take on another New York City neighbor when they play St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday in Brooklyn Heights. In an odd bit of scheduling LIU, now 2-5 in the NEC, must travel to Maryland to take on Mount St. Mary’s. A team the Blackbirds defeated just five days ago. Maybe that matchup will be a little kinder.