Blackbirds Use Experience To Win Ninth Straight at Wagner

January 25, 2012 By John Torenli Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Been there, done that.

LIU-Brooklyn’s men’s basketball team had to use all of its big-game experience to ward off a stiff challenge from red-hot Northeast Conference rival Wagner on Saturday night in Staten Island, remaining alone at the top of the standings with a 73-66 triumph before 2,412 fans at the Spiro Sports Center.

The main reason for the Blackbirds’ ninth straight win, according to the coach of the reigning NEC champions, was their poise under duress.

“Our experience playing in big games last year and winning the conference championship really helped us in the environment here tonight,” noted Jim Ferry after the Blackbirds improved to 14-6 overall, 8-0 in the NEC and stretched their league regular-season win streak to 18 games.

Junior Jamal Olasewere, who finished with 18 points, sparked a game-changing 10-0 second-half run as LIU blew past the more-than-game Seahawks (15-4, 6-2 NEC), handing coach Danny Hurley’s team its first loss in nine games.

“I thought we lacked some poise and left points out there, but you have to play in games like this before you know what it’s like,” admitted Hurley, the son of legendary New Jersey high school basketball coach Bob Hurley.

LIU junior forward Julian Boyd, a candidate for NEC Player of the Year honors, had 19 points and 15 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the campaign.

Sophomore point guard Jason Brickman continued his fast development with 17 points and eight assists for the Blackbirds, who came up huge before the biggest crowd in Seahawks’ history and a national TV audience via ESPNU.

Ferry has constantly reminded his team that it would have a big bullseye on its back after reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 14 years last March.  

The Blackbirds appear to be responding to that challenge every step of the way after being picked to finish first in the conference this year.

Olasewere, the hero of the 2011 NEC title game victory over Robert Morris, had two big steals, a layup and a free throw during LIU’s decisive burst, helping the streaking Blackbirds to a 51-41 cushion with 11:43 remaining.
Hurley’s crew did not go down easy, however, closing within four points on several occasions down the stretch. But LIU got four clutch free throws from junior C.J. Garner and Brickman to put Wagner away.

In the end, this battle between the conference’s two hottest teams was decided by experience.  LIU had it.  Wagner did not.

The Blackbirds, who climbed to No. 21 in College Insider’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll after Saturday’s win, will try to grab their 10th straight victory tomorrow night at 7 p.m., when they will visit Robert Morris in Moon Township, Pa.  

Though that contest won’t be televised nationally, Brooklyn basketball fanatics can watch it on the MSG Network on their local cable affiliate.

* * *

After having their season-high winning streak snapped at four games with a 73-61 home loss to Wagner on Thursday night, the St. Francis men’s basketball squad got back on the winning track Saturday.Junior guard Charnelle Saint Lauren helped Brooklyn College remain unbeaten in CUNYAC action Saturday before the Bulldogs topped non-conference rival NJCU on Monday.  Photo by Damion Reid.

Senior forward Stefan Perunicic scored a game-high 21 points and freshman sensation Jalen Cannon added 10 points and 11 boards for his fourth double-double as the Terriers bested visiting Mount St. Mary’s, 79-60, before a crowd of 978 at Remsen Street’s Pope Center.

St. Francis (9-10, 6-2 NEC) climbed into a four-way tie with the Seahawks, Robert Morris and Central Connecticut State for second place in the NEC behind the Blackbirds.

Picked to finish 11th in the NEC, the Terriers are very quietly putting themselves in position to make a serious run at their first NCAA Tournament berth ever.  They’re also building some serious momentum for the suddenly much-anticipated Battle of Brooklyn showdown with neighborhood rival LIU at Madison Quare Garden on Feb. 8.

Coach Glenn Braica, who has made amazing strides with the program in just his second year at the helm, watched his team take the lead early and never look back, a rarity on the Heights campus in recent seasons.
Point guard Brent Jones had 13 points and six assists and fellow sophomore P.J. Santavenere added a career-best 11 points for St. Francis, which shot a dazzling 55 percent from the floor.

The Terriers will return to the hardwood tomorrow night at St. Francis (Pa.).

* * *

The Brooklyn College men were still shaking off Saturday’s 77-66 home defeat to Baruch when they showed up in Jersey City Monday night.

The hangover just got worse.

Senior guard and South Shore grad Amil John scored a game-high 26 points and ripped down eight boards, but it wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs absorbed a heartbreaking 70-68 overtime loss to New Jersey City University.

Senior Tyshawn Russell scored 15 points and junior Kavon Baker added 12 for BC (10-6 overall), which dropped its season-high third straight game.

The Bulldogs, who are 3-3 in league play, will return to CUNYAC action tonight when they visit John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

* * *

NYU-Polytechnic men’s basketball coach Nolan Adams will never forget his first career win with the Jays, because it took so long to get.

The first-year coach watched proudly as NYU-Poly snapped a 48-game losing streak that stretched back to January 2009 with a 70-50 victory at Maritime College on Saturday.

“We had some great individual contributions, but it was a balanced team win,” said Adams, who was hired in August 2011 after a successful stint at Skyline Conference rival Mount Saint Vincent. “[I’m] very happy for the guys.”

Freshman Evan Azzam, who was named Skyline Rookie of the Week on Monday, led four Jays in double figures with 15 points and Brooklyn native Jethro Auguste added 13.  

Senior Alex Westphal notched his first career triple-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and a whopping 11 blocked shots as NYU-Poly earned its first win since a 62-46 triumph over Yeshiva University.

NYU-Poly will look to win its second straight when it hosts St. Joseph’s (LI) at Downtown’s Jacobs Gymnasium on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

* * *

In local women’s college hoops action, LIU-Brooklyn won its second straight with a 67-60 triumph at Wagner’s Spiro Center on Monday.

Junior Ebony Davis put up 17 points, eight rebounds and blocked three shots for the Blackbirds (15-5, 4-4 NEC), who got 67 points from their bench.

Sophomore reserve Cleandra Roberts led the charge by coach Gail Striegler’s supporting players, scoring all 12 of her points after intermission. Senior Kiara Evans had nine points and four assists for LIU, which evened its conference record and remained tied for fourth with five other teams in the NEC standings.

The Blackbirds will try to make it three in a row overall and two straight on the road Saturday when they visit St. Francis, Pa.

* * *

Freshmen Sarah Benedetti and Jaymee Veney scored in double figures but the St. Francis women fell to 2-17 overall and 1-7 in NEC action with Monday night’s 49-46 setback to Mount St. Mary’s at the Pope Center.

The Terriers, who snapped a 24-game NEC losing streak by topping Wagner on Saturday afternoon behind 13 points from sophomore Jasmin Robinson, will visit Robert Morris on Saturday for a 4 p.m. tipoff.

* * *

Brooklyn College women’s head coach Alex Lang knows his Bulldogs go as Justin O’Callahan goes.

The senior forward scored 15 points Monday as BC beat New Jersey City University, 58-44, for its fifth straight victory.

O’Callahan had 12 points and nine boards in Saturday’s big win over defending CUNYAC champions Baruch, earning the league’s Player of the Week award.

BC (13-5) is the lone remaining unbeaten team in CUNYAC play with a perfect 6-0 mark, thanks in large part to O’Callahan’s contributions.

“Justine is beginning to look like she did last year,” Lang said.  “She is giving us a big boost and has been a big reason for our recent success.”

Junior guard Charnelle Saint Laurent scored 14 points and freshman guard Nicole Francomanno had 11 and five assists Monday.

Brooklyn returns to action in today’s 5 p.m. tilt at John Jay College.

Lang, who led his team to the CUNYAC Tournament semifinals last year, knows the importance of grabbing the league’s top overall seed as playoff time approaches.

“[Saturday] was a big win for our program,” he said. “Baruch has been the dominant team for the past few years and we know that if we are going to have a shot at a title, we will have to go through them.”

* * *

 The NYU-Poly women opened strong and finished with a whimper Saturday afternoon, dropping a 53-47 decision to visiting Hunter College at Jacobs Gymnasium.

Junior Shelby Bruns scored 21 points for the Lady Jays, who ran out to an early 12-2 lead before fading down the stretch.

Senior Margaux Pickell added 14 points for NYU-Poly, which lost its sixth in a row — a streak the Jays will try to end tonight at St. Joseph’s (LI).First-year coach Nolan Adams motivated NYU-Polytechnic to its first win in almost two years Saturday.

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