Joel Hernandez's transition game keyed LIU Brooklyn's upset of Robert Morris. (Photo courtesy of Bob Dea for Nelson Castillo's Blackbirds Hoops Journal)
A 12-1 run in the early portion of the second half provided LIU Brooklyn with the boost it needed to eclipse perennial Northeast Conference power Robert Morris by the final of 72-65 at the Steinberg Wellness Center in Brooklyn. Here's a look at the final tempo-free numbers:
Possessions: LIU 74, Robert Morris 74
Offensive Efficiency: LIU 97, (0.97 points per possession) Robert Morris 88 (0.88 PPP)
eFG%: Robert Morris 48, LIU 41
FT Rate: LIU 50, Robert Morris 21
OREB%: LIU 43, Robert Morris 22
TO Rate: LIU 23, Robert Morris 23
What LIU did well: Take advantage of an undersized Robert Morris lineup, which was without the services of leading rebounder Lucky Jones and backup point guard David Appolon. Not only did the Blackbirds end the evening with a plus-10 offensive rebound margin by imposing their larger, more physical style upon the Colonials, they were able to get to the free throw line seemingly at will, with 30 attempts at the charity stripe. What is even more impressive is that LIU seemed to do all of this at Robert Morris' pace, adjusting to a slower style than what Jack Perri's offense has been accustomed to over the years.
What Robert Morris did well: Defend, at least in the first half. Andy Toole's trademark zone defense caught LIU off guard for most of the opening stanza, which ended with the Colonials taking a 27-24 cushion into the locker room. Furthermore, two guards took control at different stages for Robert Morris, with Marcquise Reed setting the tone with 14 points in the first half before Rodney Pryor scored 15 of his 17 after the intermission.
Leading scorers: Robert Morris, Marcquise Reed (game-high 22 points)
LIU Brooklyn, Martin Hermannsson (17 points)
Nuggets of Note:
- Despite shooting only 38 percent from the field for the night, LIU Brooklyn (9-13, 5-6 NEC) used a stifling transition defense that harkened back to the three consecutive Northeast Conference championships won by the core of Julian Boyd, Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner and Jason Brickman. The Blackbirds managed to procure 10 steals against Robert Morris, (11-12, 7-4) and turned 17 Colonial turnovers into 23 points. Dunks by Joel Hernandez and Gerrell Martin (15 points apiece) in the latter stages of the first half proved that LIU was more than competitive enough to stay with the Colonials, and the aforementioned 12-1 run approaching the midpoint of the second half effectively decided the proceedings.
- The win for LIU was their first over Robert Morris since a 90-73 victory on March 7, 2012, the night where the Blackbirds won their second NEC crown one year after needing overtime and a 31-point, 11-rebound masterpiece from Jamal Olasewere to dispose of the Colonials. It was also the third win in the last four games for Jack Perri's team, who remains at home this Saturday to take on a Saint Francis University team that has won three straight, including their most recent contest Thursday evening against Fairleigh Dickinson. If the season ended today, the Blackbirds would meet Bryant University in the No. 2 vs. No. 7 quarterfinal matchup of the Northeast Conference tournament.
- For every bit as impressive as Marcquise Reed was on the offensive end, he was just as careless when holding on to the ball. The freshman, who is a frontrunner for NEC Rookie of the Year honors, ended the night with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting, doing his No. 2 previously worn by all-time Colonial great Velton Jones proud. However, Reed also committed nine turnovers, or 53 percent of the total Robert Morris miscues.
- Four LIU players ended the night in double figures, led by 17 points from Martin Hermannsson. Besides the 15 points from Hernandez and Martin, respectively, Nura Zanna also contributed 10 points to a cause in which he added six rebounds as well.
- Although both point guards shot a combined 1-for-14 from the field, Robert Morris' Kavon Stewart and Elvar Fridriksson of LIU Brooklyn proved adept in the facilitator department, with Stewart's eight assists just one helper better than the seven posted by Fridriksson.
- Last, but not least, Thursday night's upset was good news not just for the Blackbirds, but for their crosstown rivals as well. Not too long after defeating Central Connecticut State behind 35 points and 13 rebounds from Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn saw perhaps their stiffest competition fall two games behind the surging Terriers when LIU closed the Colonials out.
"We knew what was at stake, so we came out hungry, we just had that aggression. That was probably our best second half of the year." - LIU Brooklyn guard Gerrell Martin