If St. Francis Brooklyn was going to have any chance of upsetting its crosstown rival LIU Brooklyn in the NEC Tournament quarterfinals the Terriers had to shoot well.
SFC, which had been picked last in the preseason coach’s poll had risen all the way up to fifth thanks to a sweet-shooting freshman class, but the Steinberg Center, just a mile down the road from the Terriers’ cozy home confines of the Pope Center was a house of horrors. St. Francis had shot just 36%, including 4-30 from 3, in a 5-point loss to LIU six days before.
The night before the quarterfinal the Terriers decamped for LIU in hopes of finding their shooting rhythm in their opponent’s building before a do-or-die tournament game.
It didn’t help.
St. Francis shot just 28% from the field, including 4-21 from three-point range, as LIU Brooklyn captured a 73-50 victory behind 26 points from senior star Joel Hernandez.
The fifth-year senior has been through these types of games before.
“We have three fifth-year guys, so I just try to make sure I’m talking to the guys whenever they make a mistake or something like that,” Hernandez said. “Try to talk to them and bring them back down.”
The Terriers seemed unable to match the intensity of the veteran Blackbirds. This is what Derek Kellogg envisioned when he convinced Jashaun Agosto and Julian Batts to return to LIU after he took over from Jack Perri. The sophomore guards flew all over the court. Agosto had 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists while barely ever taking a break.
“I’m pretty much the fastest on the court,” Agosto said. “With [Kellogg’s] play style that’s all we do. We try to get easy shots. If we get easy shots all we have to do is knock them down. If we knock them down no one can stop us.”
Raiquan Clark also helped out offensively. The versatile forward scored 10 points and grabbed 5 rebounds despite some second half foul trouble. Zach Coleman, another big body that SFC couldn’t match up against, added 7 points and 10 rebounds. Both Clark and Coleman each blocked two shots as well.
The Terriers shot poorly across the board, as the length of LIU bothered almost every shot. But even the few open looks just didn’t want to go down. Jalen Jordan had a chance to cut the LIU lead to six on a good look from the left wing with 15:31 remaining, but it went in and lipped back out. The freshman shooting guard could only smirk with incredulity as he got back on defense. Clark’s dunk on the next possession pushed the LIU lead to 11. The Terriers would get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
After the game Glenn Braica said that he thought his team lacked energy on the court.
“We didn’t have any juice today,” Braica said. “We looked tired.”
Foul trouble also cost the Terriers their most important piece. Rasheem Dunn drew the unenviable task of attempting to shut down All-NEC First Team swingman Hernandez. Dunn’s effectiveness was limited and he ended up on the bench for the final nine minutes of the first half with two fouls. While SFC was already down 10 at the time, it was nine minutes where the Terriers were merely forced to hold on instead of chipping into the LIU lead.
“It affected it us. I thought the guys hung in there,” Braica said about Dunn’s foul trouble. “That did hurt us.”
While the St. Francis lineup is young, including three freshman who played prominent roles this season, the Terriers do say goodbye to a few contributors. Jagos Lasic finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds in his final collegiate game. Gunnar Olafsson played 17 minutes due to Dunn’s foul trouble and scored 4 points, while D.J. Porter added 4 points and 5 boards off the bench in 9 minutes.
“Porter really didn’t play last year, on a really bad team,” Braica said. “He came back this year and contributed to a lot of wins and did a great job.”
“Same thing with Jagos Lasic,” Braica contined. “He didn’t play much his first two years and we threw him in there this year. Both those guys helped us win a lot of games. Both of those guys hung in there and in this age of instant gratification they didn’t get that and they kept working and they were able to carve out a pretty good niche for themselves this year.”
LIU was one of only two home teams to take care of business in the NEC quarterfinals and unexpectedly finds itself with another home game at noon on Saturday in the semifinals against Fairleigh Dickinson. The Knights upset Saint Francis U. behind 21 points from Kaleb Bishop.
“It’s amazing that we’ve ended up with another home game on Saturday,” Kellogg said. “I’m anticipating that will be another big boost and we’re expecting another big crowd like we had tonight.”