Upon the lilly pad of the Pope Center sat the frog prince LIU Brooklyn. All the Blackbirds needed was a kiss of confidence and they were off.
After an ugly first half in which LIU scored just 21 points and trailed by 12, the Blackbirds exploded for 57 second half points on the way to a 78-68 victory over St. Francis Brooklyn in the 38th annual Battle of Brooklyn.
During a 20-4 run the Blackbirds completely dominated every facet of the game and showed in the process that they can still be a competitor in what remains a wide open NEC race.
The run was a flurry of activity, punctuated by Jason Brickman’s alley-oop to E.J. Reed and finished off by two C.J. Garner layups. Garner scored 22 points in the game and was named the game’s MVP. Reed scored five of his six points during the eight minute span.
Once LIU got the lead, 46-44, the Blackbirds never let up. By the time four minutes remained they’d seized control of a game that it looked like they’d never even be in during the first half.
LIU had struggled in the first half, shooting 1-10 from three and allowing SFC to shoot 13 free throws during a 33-possession slog. In the second half that all changed. It was driven by the aggressiveness of Brickman. From the opening possession of the second half he was more assertive. He drove LIU forward with undeniable pace and finished with 11 assists, nine in the second 20 minutes.
“It all started with our point guard Jason Brickman,” Garner said. “He really started to find everybody and he got us going so we owe a lot to him.”
That pace, which LIU kicked up to 39 possessions in the second half, helped the Blackbirds get back into their type of game. Running and gunning, LIU shot 7-11 from three in the second half and 18-24 (75%) from the field overall. There were still some mistakes – LIU did have 10 turnovers – but they were done in order to try and make something happen, not because the Blackbirds were reticent to make a move against SFC’s zone.
Jamal Olasewere also managed to stay on the court for 37 minutes and scored 20 points to go along with 11 boards.
The Blackbirds showed off their new trick, defense, during the game. The Terriers shot just 39% from the field during the game and 7-25 from three. It was good defense in the first half that made the second half possible.
“In the first half we played hard but we didn’t play with a lot of discipline,” Olasewere said. “Going into the second half we just kept playing hard and we cut down on the fouls.”
Jalen Cannon finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for SFC. He struggled a bit at times to guard Olasewere in face-up situations, but was solid in help defense. Offensively Cannon just didn’t get much help. Brent Jones scored 14 points, but took 13 shots to get there, and Lowell Ulmer added 10 points in an active 13 minutes off the bench.
While LIU will take its momentum into a big game at Bryant on Saturday, the Terriers head to Central Connecticut. The Blue Devils are coming off a difficult road loss to Quinnipiac, but SFC will be trying to write its own fairy tale.