LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY-BROOKLYN BLACKBIRDS
Northeast Conference Champions
March Madness, Here We Come!
For the second time in as many years, the LIU Blackbirds repeated as Northeast Conference Champions and are headed to the NCAA Tournament. In a rematch of last year's NEC title game, Brooklyn's own, Spike Lee, was on hand to help cheer-on his neighborhood collegians to a convincing 90-73 victory over #3 Robert Morris at the WRAC. This was LIU's fourth overall Conference championship.
The Blackbirds have now won twenty-seven consecutive games at the Ashland Place gym. It's the second such longest streak in the country behind Kentucky's mark. But now, they will have to say good-bye to their home court advantage, for they are going to partake in some good 'ol March Madness.
Julian Boyd scored eighteen points and pulled down a game high ten rebounds. Jason Brickman also scored eighteen points and issued a game high eleven assists. But it was C.J. Garner who led all scorers Wednesday night with twenty-one points.
Make no mistake, Robert Morris' big bodies didn't make anything easy for the home team. They scored sixteen points off turnovers; had more second chance points; and their bench outscored Brooklyn's by eighteen points. After Jamal Olasewere led Brooklyn with eleven first half points, the Colonials had Brooklyn's junior forward in foul trouble and limited him to two points and eleven minutes in the second half.
If you watched on TV or were at the Wellness Center, then you know this game was a most physical contest. Either team's interior was not an area for the weak. Several times the game was paused to attend to players laying horizontally on the floor. Almost every attempt to drive the basket was met with a body and resulted in impact. And that all played right into LIU's hands. Combined, seventy-four points were scored down low. But that was LIU's battle to win. Coach Ferry and Jason Brickman high screened and low screened the Colonials silly, in order to create just enough space for Flatbush to outscore Robert Morris 40-34 inside the paint. Jamal Olasewere set one high pic in particular which the replay showed to be a clean pic, but wound up being a rough one on the fallen Colonial cager.
Once again, Flatbush absolutely dominated their opponent with, A) - their ability to get to the line, and, B) - by burying free throws. The Blackbirds visited the line nearly twice as many times as the Colonials 40-21, and outscored them 31-14 once there. In the second half, LIU went to the line ten more times than Robert Morris, and outscored them 23-12. The Colonials disappointingly shot an overall 66% from the stripe versus Brooklyn's 77%; and more importantly for LIU, 82% in the second half. C. J. Garner was brilliant with a perfect 10/10 shooting. And Jason Brickman was equally accurate shooting 8/8 from the line.
But chalk one up for the home crowd and head cheerleader; Spike Lee. Downtown Brooklyn was a lively place to be. And perhaps that had as much to do with the lack of scoring touch on the Colonials' part, not only from the line, but from the field as well. After surrendering a 19-17 lead at 7:49 of the first half, their scoring touch faded away and they'd never lead again. For the game, Robert Morris shot a regrettable 27 of 73 from the field for a 37% night. While Flatbush shot nearly 60% from the field, making 27 of 51 shots.
The Blackbirds won the first half by eight points and the second half by nine. Once they re-established a double-digit 65-54 lead with 7:14 left in the game, the Colonials would never get within a single digit again. Instead, Brooklyn pulled away down the stretch and closed out the game up by seventeen points to win their second consecutive NEC title.
Robert Morris Colonials 73
LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds 90
What next? Selection Sunday!