In a matchup of two three-win teams thus far, Stony Brook traveled west on the dreaded Long Island Expressway Monday night to Downtown Brooklyn to visit the Steinberg Wellness Center for the first time ever to play LIU Brooklyn in unexpectedly just the second-ever meeting between the two area schools.
In what turned out to be a tight affair pretty much throughout, LIU Brooklyn came away with a 75-71 victory behind the combination of Joel Hernandez, Raiquan Clark and a rather surprising career-high performance from Julius van Sauers. The three players combined for 59 out of LIU’s 75 points.
The biggest shot of the game though came from LIU’s Jashaun Agosto, who drained a clutch corner three with 15 seconds remaining to give LIU a four-point lead. Free throws by both Agosto and Hernandez help seal the victory.
“I had a lot of respect coming in for Stony Brook,” LIU Brooklyn head coach Derek Kellogg said after the win. “I thought they were one of the better teams that we would’ve faced all year and for us to come out and play more minutes the right way. I thought we did some good stuff. Our hustle on the defensive end was better than it has been. I thought on the offensive end when the game got into crunch time, we did some right stuff.”
Stony Brook, after trailing for most of the second half, took a one-point lead on a Bryan Sekunda three with 3:06 to play. LIU Brooklyn though would close the game on an 8-3 run capped off by Agosto’s clutch three-pointer. The sophomore point guard finished with 10 points.
Stony Brook got good games from Jaron Cornish, who finished with 15 points and six rebounds, and Junior Saintel, who scored 13 points and seven rebounds including delivering a monster facial slam on van Sauers in the second half. Sekunda scored 12 on four threes. Nine different Stony Brook players scored as the Seawolves fell to 3-6 on the season and snapped their two-game win streak.
“I thought tonight we played hard but missed too many layups and free throws,” said Stony Brook head coach Jeff Boals after the loss. “We got the ball where we wanted to offensively but weren’t able to capitalize. Our zone was effective in the second half and we cut it to one with a chance to tie at the end, and unfortunately missed it. We need to learn from this game and get ready for Thursday.”
Although van Sauers endured the Saintel facial, he would get the last laugh, as he played probably his best game in an LIU uniform, putting in a career-high 16 points on 6-7 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds to boot.
It has been a rough season so far for van Sauers, as he has been plagued by foul issues and ineffectiveness, but he finally got things to go his way and provided LIU with a big spark off the bench.
“Julius van Sauers was the difference for us tonight,” Kellogg said. “He played fantastic. His energy was great and I’ve actually as a coach been waiting for that. I’ve been kind of spending time with him and joking with him, like ‘I love you to death. I just waiting for you to break out of whatever it is’. I’m not sure what it is called. I was happy to see him keep coming in and getting extra work and then play well.”
Joel Hernandez stayed out of foul trouble for the second straight game and played 35 minutes for the Blackbirds and once again led LIU with 23 points and seven rebounds. Hernandez credits recent conversations he had with his father that has helped turn things around for him of late.
“I was very frustrated the first couple of games,” Hernandez said. “I had a couple of talks with my father and he told me just to have fun out there so the past couple of games I haven’t been worrying about that. I’ve just been playing hard, having fun and it has been working in my favor.”
Raquian Clark also got himself back on track for LIU Brooklyn. He finished with 20 points and snapped a two-game streak of sub 20-point games, as he remains in the top three among NEC scorers at 19.3 points per game.
“The Joel (Hernandez), Raquian (Clark) tandem, and Jashaun (Agosto), what they did tonight should be expected and when they don’t that way then we should be disappointed because they are capable,” Kellogg said.
For the first time this season, LIU did not score above 1.0 points per possession in a win but were able to hold Stony Brook to .92 points per possession. The win for LIU Brooklyn makes it a modest 2-game win streak and a perfect 3-0 at the Steinberg Wellness Center and 3-1 against America East competition.
LIU Brooklyn’s next two games will be played at the Barclays Center, as they host a pair of MAAC opponents in Fairfield and Saint Peter’s.
Stony Brook will make another journey into New York City on Thursday, as they head into Manhattan to face Columbia before taking on Hofstra in the Battle of Long Island next week.