LIU Brooklyn’s experience helped the Blackbirds grind out a victory over their borough neighbor St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday, 63-58. After a three-pointer by Glenn Sanabria, his only basket of the game, the Blackbirds trailed by four with five minutes remaining but the St. Francis defense broke down the stretch to allow LIU to pull out the victory.
Unexpectedly the Terriers were able to battle on the glass with the much taller Blackbirds for the entire game, but a crucial rebound made the difference. LIU led by three when Nura Zanna missed a free throw, but the redshirt junior forward followed up his own miss for a layup that put LIU up by five, the game’s final margin.
Here are three thoughts from the game.
St. Francis battled hard on the boards, but LIU found its offense anyways. The final rebounding margin was LIU by seven, but this is a perfect example of why that stat should be thrown out a window. The Terriers missed 45 shots, giving the Blackbirds a chance to grab 32 defensive boards. Offensive rebounding percentage tells a different story. The Blackbirds had been grabbing nearly 50% of their misses in conference play, but managed just 12 offensive boards (33%) on Saturday. St. Francis grabbed 14 offensive boards (30%) of its misses, mostly by being extremely opportunistic. LIU has players who are excellent offensive rebounds such as Zanna and Raiquan Clark. They did their job, grabbing five and three offensive boards, but the Terriers were otherwise sound on the glass.
Of course LIU still managed to generate enough offense to win. A lot of it came from driving to the basket. Once again, freshman point guard Jashaun Agosto showed his value to the Blackbirds. He scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting. Iverson Fleming led LIU with 16 points. After really struggling in the first 20 minutes (1-8), Fleming shot 4-7 in the second. Those guards provided enough of a complement to Jerome Frink’s 15 points, which he earned through tough drives, baseline jumpers, and shooting 5-6 from the free throw line.
This LIU team is built to win now. The defense the Blackbirds need to compete for an NEC title has finally materialized this season. LIU held the SFBK to 0.89 points per possession on Saturday, its fourth game holding an NEC under 1 point per trip. The strong defense is what allows the Blackbirds to not fall apart despite the struggles they had with turnovers and shots during the first half. The defense will also help them grind out key victories in the NEC. After starting league play 5-1 anything less than a home quarterfinal game in the NEC tournament would be a disappointment and the Blackbird can dream even bigger given the parity throughout the league.
It might not be soon, but this St. Francis Brooklyn team has the pieces to be dangerous. Head coach Glenn Braica said it best after the game, “I think at some point with this group the light will go on and we’re going to be very good. I don’t know if it’s a week, a month, next year. I don’t know.”
And it’s true. Guards Yunus Hopkinson, Rasheem Dunn and Glenn Sanabria—who is currently playing on a bad foot—are all-conference talents and the big men are playing better every game. Right now gaining experience is a huge key for players such as Robert Montgomery, Jahmel Bodrick, and Josh Nurse. LIU’s size forced the Terriers to play a bigger lineup for the first time in awhile and the newer players to the rotation acquitted themselves alright. Montgomery needs to learn to stay out of foul trouble, but he’s shown a decent free throw stroke, touch around the basket and the ability to make plays on the defensive end during the past few games. The issue, like that of all his teammates, is that it comes in spurts. Braica is going to continue trying to unlock the key. And while it may come too late to make the NEC tournament this season, the Terriers are building a strong foundation for the future. Hopkinson is the only senior, so if things break right the Terriers could be contenders once again next season.