Friday, January 25, 2013

LIU's Garner Once Again A Silent Assassin

C.J. Garner has big game against St. Francis once again, scoring 17 of his 22 points in second half as LIU Brooklyn uses 57-point final stanza to defeat Terriers 78-68.  (Photo courtesy of Nelson Castillo via Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

Sometimes, it is just inevitable for certain players to dominate a particular team.  For example, Chipper Jones and Pat Burrell earned reputations early and often in their stellar careers for repeated success against the New York Mets, while Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz did the same for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees.

Add LIU Brooklyn's C.J. Garner to that list, especially when the senior plays archrival St. Francis in the two-part "Battle of Brooklyn" between the two schools every season.

Two years ago, Garner's first season with the Blackbirds after transferring from South Alabama saw him rise to the occasion with a 17-point performance in his first game against the Terriers, only to follow that up three days later with his dramatic mid-range jumper with a half-second left to lift LIU past St. Francis once again after the officials missed a timeout call by St. Francis coach Glenn Braica on the ensuing possession.  Garner's flair for the dramatic may have since subsided, but his penchant for career nights against the team located a mere ten-minute walk from LIU's Wellness Center has continued on, growing larger with each collision between LIU and St. Francis.

Following a first half in which the Blackbirds trailed 33-21 after being limited to a 7-of-28 effort from the field by the St. Francis defense in the opening stanza, Garner took matters into his own hands; tallying 17 of his game-high 22 points after the intermission and making all but one of the seven field goals he attempted in the second half as LIU outscored the Terriers 57-35 en route to a 78-68 victory, the fifth consecutive victory for the two-time reigning Northeast Conference champions over their bitter adversary.

The night, and big stage for that matter, belonged to Garner; who picked up his second Lai-Lynch Battle of Brooklyn Most Valuable Player award in three seasons, but the man largely responsible for the Blackbirds' comeback credited his backcourt partner for starting the resurgence.

"In the second half, (Jason) Brickman really got going, and that's what helped us," Garner said of LIU's junior floor general, whose 11 assists tied a season-high.  "He's such a great passer, the best I've ever played with and one of the best I've ever seen."  Brickman also had nine points and four steals for the Blackbirds, while Jamal Olasewere added a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.  Jalen Cannon led St. Francis with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort, while Brent Jones chipped in with 14 points and eight assists for a Terrier team that held a 14-point lead with 16:05 remaining, only to be done in by a 36-10 Blackbird run over the next twelve minutes.

LIU improved to 9-10 with the win, their fourth consecutive after an 0-3 start in NEC play; and Garner's 22 points give him an average of 17 in five career contests against St. Francis, with his worst outing against the Terriers being a mere 12-point afternoon whose relative anonymity was upstaged by his aforementioned game-winning shot.  With another intraborough collision awaiting him on February 10th at the Barclays Center, odds are that the one-time transfer has one more big game in him.

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