On a cool late autumn, Monday evening in the Bronx, LIU Brooklyn and Fordham matched up in a battle of 0-1 teams looking for that first early season victory. LIU Brooklyn was coming off their high-scoring 102-96 loss to Tulane on Friday night while Fordham lost a one-point heartbreaker at home to Miami (OH) that same night.
It was a different story for both teams Monday night as Fordham got up ahead 14-4 to start the game and shot the ball extremely well while frustrating LIU on the offensive end and essentially cruised to an 81-68 wire-to-wire victory over the Blackbirds to go to 1-1 while dropping LIU to 0-2 on the young season.
Here are some observations I left Rose Hill Gymnasium with after watching this one:
1. Fordham’s shooting turned around in a big way and got big nights from their bigs
Friday night versus Miami (OH), the Rams struggled shooting the ball in particularly from the three-point line. Against Miami, the Rams shot just 39 percent and were a woeful 3 for 24 from the three-point line and 7 of 14 from the charity stripe. Against LIU Brooklyn, they came out of opening tip drilling their first two three-point attempts and that was just a sign of things to come. They went on to make 11 of their 24 three-point attempts.
“We are really proud of our team,” said Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer. “One of the big concepts in college basketball that is consistent around the country is, you got to be a bounce-back team because there is no team in the country that is going to go undefeated. Every team is going to lose and it how you respond and how you learn. So our team really, you know, we competed on Friday night but we didn’t come up with that win that we were hoping for, and so for our guys to be able to say, you know what, we will do better on Monday, we certainly did that.”
Freshman Ivan Raut in just his second collegiate game went off for an early career-high of 21 points including making his first seven shots, all for three-point land. His eighth attempt (from three of course) rattled halfway in and bounced out. He ended the night 7 of 10 from three.
“Ivan is a great shooter,” said Neubauer. “I did tell Ivan and the rest of the team in this very room yesterday during our film session that I literally expect him to become one of the best shooters in Fordham basketball history and tonight he certainly made believers out of a lot of us.”
The Rams also got a big night from 6-foot-10 junior Prokop Slanina who got his first start of the season and dropped 19 points on the Blackbirds, going 3 of 4 from three. He finished with a double-double by also grabbing 11 rebounds. It was quite a shooting exhibition from Fordham two starting bigs.
“I didn’t anticipate two of their guys going 10 for 13 from three. I haven’t seen that,” said LIU Brooklyn head coach Derek Kellogg. “I know the big kid (Slanina), he hurt us (when I was at UMass) a little bit last year but the kid Raut, I haven’t heard that too much or seen it in their first game, so kudos to him for going 7 for 10 from the floor. I thought that was the difference in the game.”
2. LIU Brooklyn can’t afford to get themselves to get into early foul trouble.
It was a rough night for LIU Brooklyn with the whistle, especially for their best players. LIU collected eleven first-half fouls but ten of those were against Zach Coleman (3), Raiquan Clark (3), Joel Hernandez (2) and Jashaun Agosto (2). A game after Clark went off for a career-high 34 points against Tulane on Friday night, it looked like he was going to have another big night with seven early points. But two first-half fouls put him on the bench and then with Kellogg sensing the game getting away from them, put him back in the game and he drew his third personal foul on an incidental trip. He ended up just playing nine minutes in the first half. He still ended up being LIU’s high-scorer with 21 points on just 11 shots but only ended up playing 27 minutes. Hernandez was also limited to 29 minutes with foul woes although he had a tough night shooting the ball, going 4 of 12 from the floor and 3 of 6 from the foul line.
For LIU to have sustained success this season, they are going to need to have at least two of the three between Clark, Hernandez, and Agosto always on the floor. They can’t afford these guys to be on the bench with foul trouble for long stretches. Fordham was able to stretch their lead out when Clark and Hernandez were off the floor together and they just couldn’t really recover all night long.
“I usually don’t play a guy when he picks up two,” said Kellogg. “But I just think where our team is right this second that there are just so valuable to have on the floor, I didn’t want it to go down to where it was and where we didn’t have a chance. So I risked it a tad and one of them picked up his third which is somewhat of a no-no. Foul trouble can plague us throughout the year especially if we are trying to be aggressive and reach and that kind of stuff. So we try to watch video and go over that.”
3. Fordham’s 2-3 zone and their size frustrated LIU Brooklyn all night long on the offensive end.
The Rams played a 2-3 zone the entire game against the Blackbirds and forced LIU to make shots from the perimeter and limited their drive game that worked so well against Tulane Friday night.
“It was the gameplan the whole way,” said Neubauer. “It really simply out of respect for LIU’s players. We’ve got great respect for Derek Kellogg. We coached against him in the A-10. They got four perimeter guys that are really hard to defend so we really just didn’t feel like we had a choice. They are so good scoring the ball that we felt like we had to go 2-3 zone.”
It was obvious by midway through the second half, LIU was clearly frustrated with not being able to penetrate as willfully as they were able to against Tulane and when they were able to get shots at the rim, Fordham’s size inside came to play and made the Blackbirds missed some shots that went down just a few nights earlier.
“They changed up their defense a little bit. They didn’t really come and run at us and trapped quite as much as I was accustomed to, said Kellogg. “They used their size and sat back in a 2-3 most of the game and we didn’t make some of the play that I thought we would make against it.”
LIU went 6 for 19 from three against the Rams’ 2-3 zone after going 9 for 26 from three Friday night versus Tulane who played mostly a man-to-man defense against them. Overall, LIU shot just 38 percent for the game and missed 9 of 27 free throws which didn’t help their cause.
“The game got moving in the second half some and I thought it had some pace to it,” said Kellogg. “We were getting up and down the floor, we just didn’t take advantage. I thought we missed some open shots. We missed a ton of layups.”
LIU Brooklyn should be able to work on some things as they next play Division III-side College of New Rochelle in their home opener at the Steinberg Wellness Center Wednesday night before their making their way to Jamaica as part of the Jamaica Classic. Fordham will next see Florida State (Friday) and Tulane (Sunday) in Jamaica this weekend as their level of competition gets ratcheted up a notch.