Three Thoughts: LIU Brooklyn 63, St. Francis Brooklyn 58

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.

Nura Zanna had 12 points and 11 rebounds for LIU against St. Francis Brooklyn. Photo credit: Bob Dea

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.

Iverson Fleming scored a team-high 16 points for LIU on Saturday. Photo credit: Bob Dea

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.

2 thoughts on “Three Thoughts: LIU Brooklyn 63, St. Francis Brooklyn 58

  1. LIU Fan

    SFBK came out and really tried to muddy up the game with physical defense. The Terriers did not turn the ball over (7), and hung with the Blackbirds on the boards but could not hit a shot.

    Credit a very good LIU defense. They contested everything, made it tough for Hopkinson all game long and I thought Clark did a great job on Dunn in the second half to help limit his quality opportunities after he had started to get hot.

    Frink didn’t play great, and I didn’t think Zanna was great either (4 turnovers, 2-8 FT), but the Blackbirds found a way. That’s what good teams do – find a way to win when they aren’t playing their best.

    This next week (Wagner at home, FDU on the road) will tell us a lot about LIU’s prospects moving forward. Wagner matches up well inside and could have better guard play though I will say without Saunders they are missing a piece. FDU has the best offense in the league, LIU the best statistical defense.

    Should be interesting to see how next week unfolds.

  2. Dan from Staten Island

    Was a bit surprised how the Terriers were able to hang in there with the Blackbirds on the boards. Had anticipated a much greater advantage for LIU, given the significant size and experience factor favoring the Blackbirds. Looks like SFC’s Glenn Sanabria was a bit handicapped for that rivalry game due to a foot injury, but that happens during the course of a season and that’s where roster depth comes in. Can’t help but wonder how the SFC season would have turned out had the Terriers not lost 6-9, 270-pound presence Cori Johnson to a pre-season knee injury. Johnson’s return next season, along with the return of a more experienced front line, certainly would support the comment that the SFC apparently has all the pieces to be dangerous at some time in the future. Johnson’s season-ending injury hurt the Terriers badly in the one area they couldn’t afford an injury — an inexperienced frontcourt. SFC fans are also hopeful of seeing a bit more of freshman Gianni Ford, who arrived on Remsen Street with a reputation as an outstanding scoring guard from Boys & Girls High School, which plays in the ultra-competitive PSAL Brooklyn AA Division. He’s another outstanding guard waiting in the wings.

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