Monday, March 05, 2012

LIU Blackbirds ~ The WRAC Attack is Back in the NEC Finals

From the desl of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

LIU-BROOKLYN BLACKBIRDS:   A Late Second Half Surge Overtakes Quinnipiac 78-75 in Semifinals.   Robert Morris Outplays #2 Wagner to Set Up Rematch of Last Season's NEC Championship Game.

The LIU Blackbirds did what the Wagner Seahawks couldn't.  They won at home, and if only barely, staved off a big tournament upset.  And so, there will be no highly anticipated showdown like so many predicted between Coach Danny Hurley's Seahawks, who had the Conference's best overall record, and Coach Jim Ferry's Blackbirds, who led the Conference and won their second consecutive regular season title.

Many prognosticators predicted a Wagner victory over LIU in the Conference Tournament finals assuming both teams advanced, of course.  But that will all have to wait for another time now.  Robert Morris pulled off a 71-64 upset of the number two seeded Wagner Seahawks in Sunday's early game in Staten Island.  The LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds will now face the Colonials in a rematch of last season's NEC Championship game.  As we know, LIU came out on top last season, and will try to defend that title on Wednesday, March 7th, at the WRAC.

In Sunday's late game, Quinnipiac shot slightly better from the field and from beyond the arch than Flatbush did.  And in most aspects, played very evenly with LIU.  But Flatbush flexed a season long strength against the Bobcats with their ability to get to the free throw line.  As they have done to many an opponent this season, the Blackbirds punished Quinnipiac from the line.  Although their touch cooled off a bit in the second half, overall, they outscored the Hawks 22-5 from the stripe.

After pushing his fellow Blackbirds passed Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals, Jamal Olasewere played in foul trouble and was limited to nineteen minutes.  Off the bench, Brandon Thompson and Kenny Onyechi were held in check as well and could to little to offset Olasewere's caution.  However, all three still figured in with key free throws down the stretch.  What LIU did have going for them Sunday was the NEC player of the Year.  Julian Boyd, punched in to lead his mates with a game high twenty-one points, to go along with a game high nine rebounds, with eight of those boards coming on the defensive end.

The lead in this game changed hands thirteen times.  LIU led by as many as ten points in the first half but settled for a 40-36 lead at the break.  Quinnipiac worked to overcome that lead over the first five minutes of the second half, and by the 7:36 mark, were up by eight points.

From then on, Julian Boyd scored eight of his twenty-one points and pulled down five rebounds.  At 4:16, Boyd nailed a jumper to get the Blackbirds to within one point, then tied the game at 69-69 on the ensuing free throw.   At 3:36, Boyd's lay-up made the score 71-69, putting the Blackbirds up again for good.  Kenny Onyechi and Jason Brickman then hit some key free throws to put LIU ahead by six.  Quinnipiac buried one last three-pointer before the buzzer sounded on a 78-75 Blackbird win.

That was the Blackbirds' twenty-sixth consecutive win inside their downtown Ashland Place gym.  The streak now ranks second in the nation only to Kentucky's current streak of fifty-two consecutive home wins.


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