It may be a new year, but LIU Brooklyn looked very similar to its counterpart that we saw last season. The good news is that team went to the NCAA tournament. The bad news is that it struggled in non-conference.
The Blackbirds couldn’t find their shooting touch and didn’t manage to climb out of a late 11-point deficit in falling to Morehead St. 77-74 at the first ever college basketball game in the Barclays Center on Friday.
Even though LIU hadn’t shot at the Barclays before Friday morning’s shoot around, the loss ended the Blackbirds’ 27-game home winning streak (the rest of which had come at the WRAC).
The points that the Blackbirds left on the table thanks to 11 missed free throws and going 2-16 from three were daggers. (Brandon Thompson was 0-6 and 0-5 from three in his role as floor spacer.) It was more than enough to offset the good things LIU did, like forcing 19 Morehead St. turnovers and allowing just eight free throws.
“Those two stats right there are big,” said LIU head coach Jack Perri. “Maybe we were a little rusty.”
Jamal Olaswere led the Blackbirds with 26 points, but he shot just 6-16 from the field. Julian Boyd was 8-13 from the field and scored 19 points. He only played 26 minutes after cramping up late in the game. Boyd wasn’t reinserted into the lineup later in the game because of his heart condition. LIU head coach Jack Perri said that anytime Boyd cramps up he wants to avoid further health risks.
Part of the cramping was due to the fast pace the game was played at for an early season opener. New Morehead St. head coach Sean Woods is looking to get his team running more on offense and the Eagles certainly ran right at LIU. Some of the Blackbirds’ stars like Olasewere and Jason Brickman (12 points, 8 assists, 6 turnovers) appeared to tire as the game went on. Brickman said it affected LIU “a little bit.”
“There were too many turnovers and not taking care of the ball,” Brickman said. “It hurt us in the second half.”
The Blackbirds had actually prepared for even more running. While the Eagles occasionally applied some token pressure, it was nothing like the pressing, trapping style Woods ran at Mississippi Valley State. Perri said that he was a little surprised MSU didn’t try it defensively. The other surprise was the three-point shooting of Milton Chavis. The 6’6″ forward scored 24 points and looked right at home, knocking down four of six three-point attempts. He went just 3-5 from three during the entire 2011-12 season.
LIU though definitely could’ve controlled the boards better. Morehead St. had 16 offensive rebounds and an offensive rebound percentage of 43%. That type of performance isn’t going to cut it on the glass against many opponents. 6’7″ forward Khalil Owens came off the bench for the Eagles and had 12 points and 12 boards in 27 minutes.
The Blackbirds (should) have three more games at the Barclays Center to develop that home court advantage. They’ve also got another winnable non-conference game comming up against Lafayette. Rebounding quickly is important, as is adjusted to the current forward situation. Kenny Onyechi (foot) is out until at least Nov. 23 against Kentucky. Booker Hucks also missed the game with a shoulder injury.
That opened the way for lots of playing time for freshman E.J. Reed, who definitely impressed during his 19 minutes. Reed scored five points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked a shot. While he was out of position a few times, he showed a hard-nosed edge for the ball.
“EJ has a great motor and he’s had a great preseason,” Perri said. “He’s going to be a great player. … He’s a talented kid who has got some ability not just on the defensive end, but he does have some ability on the offensive too. Yeah, I’m excited about him.”
A lineup with Olaswere, Reed and Boyd at the forward spots would also give LIU some more size. Perri said that it’s something he’s considered, but hasn’t had a ton of time to work on because of front court bodies in practice.
Reed could give this team another front court dimension, which would certainly be useful. Because change can be for the better.
LIU Offense: 74 points / 75 possessions (0.98 points per possession), 44% eFG%, 21% TO%, 39% OR%, 56 FTR
LIU Defense: 77 points / 75 possessions (1.03 points per possession), 53% eFG%, 25% TO%, 43% OR%, 12 FTR