WRITTEN BY DAVID MENZE
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN — St. Francis College Terriers (13-11 overall; 10-3 in NEC) fought their way back from a 13 point first half deficit and led 40-39 to start the second half but couldn’t hold off the resilient Blackbirds of LIU (18-7 overall; 12-1 in NEC) as they beat the Terriers 86-77 on Wednesday night in MSG.
Akeem Johnson scored a game-high 24 points in 27 minutes of action in the loss to LIU on Wednesday
LIU had two players record double-doubles and four reach double-figures overall in the win over St. Francis led by forward Jamal Olasewere’s 21 point 11 rebound performance. Teammate Julian Boyd tallied 17 points and 11 boards in the contest. Guard C.J Garner poured in 19 points and Jason Brickman chipped in with 13 points and a game-high eight assists. With the victory, the Blackbirds have now won four straight and also snapped the Terriers five-game winning streak.
St. Francis meanwhile, had three players account for 56 of the team’s 77 points. Junior forward Akeem Johnson led all scorers in the game with 24 points in 27 minutes of action. Sophomore guard Ben Mockford had a rough game from behind the arc making just 3-of-11 attempts but still managed to score 20 points on a 8-for-22 shooting performance overall. Second year point guard Brent Jones chipped in with 12 points, six assists, and five rebounds in the game. No other Terrier scored more than eight points in the contest.
St. Francis managed to stay in the game for a bit due to exceptional foul-shooting as they converted all 10 of their free-throw attempts in the match-up. Overall shooting was supbar at best as the Terriers took an astonishing 80 shots in the game and only connected on 30 attempts resulting in a 37.5 percent performance.
Three-point shooting was even worse for the Terriers as they made just 24.1 percent (7-of-29) from downtown including a very poor 18.2 percent (2-of-11) display in the first half. Stefan Perunicic, a fantastic performer earlier in the season, was held scoreless for the second time in three games.
LIU had a terrific shooting showcase against St. Francis as the Blackbirds made 51.9 percent (27-of-52) overall from the field, 41.7 percent from behind the arc and converted 73 percent (27-of-37) from the charity-stripe.
LIU outplayed St. Francis in the game but it was the Terriers who won the numbers battle in the stats. St. Fracnis outscored LIU in the paint by a 44-36 margin, had a 23-18 advantage in points off turnovers, demolished LIU 28-9 in second chance opportunities, had four more assists, two less miscues, and three more steals than their intra-borough rival but still couldn’t muster a victory in the World’s Most Famous Arena on Wednesday.
SFC and LIU will meet again on Sunday afternoon at 4:00pm on the Blackbirds turf when the Terriers square-off against their cross-town rivals in the 37th annual “Battle of Brooklyn” as part of Rivalry Week. The game will be televised live on MSG.
FINAL: LIU 86 – SFC 77
0:21 – LIU goes on 6-2 run in final two minutes of play.
2:11 – St. Francis stays within striking distance 78-73 after Mockford hits his third long-range bomb.
3:03 – LIU goes up 78-70 after Boyd hits one-of-two from charity-stripe. First missed free throw in 14 attempts.
LIU has four players in double-figures as Olasewe posts double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
6:05 – St. Francis cuts lead to 73-68 after Jones hits from long-range.
Johnson continues to be the only steady scorer for St. Francis as he has a game-high 22 points thus far.
7:34 – Terriers cut lead to 69-60 after Johnson’s second-chance score.
8:47 – Blackbirds lead 67-56 after Olasewe’s conventional three-point play. LIU has hit seven straight free-throws after their 5-of-12 start.
10:54 – SFC down 59-51 after Jones knocks one down from behind the arc.
12:30 – St. Francis trails 55-48 after Mockford converts conventional three-point play.
15:00 – LIU responds with 8-0 run and reclaims lead 47-40.
19:30 – Terriers take first lead of game 40-39 after Johnson’s (15pts) lay-up.
First Half Recap:
Terriers storm back from double-deficit and end first half on 12-0 run after Mockford scores five points in under a minute.
Akeem Johnson and Ben Mockford combined for 23 of the team’s 38 points.
SFC’s defense has really stepped up in the last 10 minutes of the half after LIU was shooting 64.7 percent from the floor midway through the first. They finished the half shooting 51.6 percent (16-of-31).
Boyd and Garner both have 10 points apiece for the Blackbirds.
The keys for St. Francis have been foul-shooting as they are a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity-stripe and second-chance opportunitie outscoring LIU by a 12-3 margin.
The Blackbirds are shooting 51.6 percent (16-of-31) overall and 44.4 percent from long-distance while converting 50 percent (3-of-6) of their foul-shots.
The Terriers are shooting 40 percent (14-of-35) overall and a miserable 18.2 percent (2-of-11) from dowtown but have hit all eight of their foul-shots (100%).
HALFTIME: LIU 39 – SFC 38
0:35 – Trerriers trail 39-38 as Mockford scores five points in under a minute and powers St. Francis to 12-0 run.
1:59 – SFC cuts lead to single digits (39-31) after Santavenere converts conventional three-point play.
3:19 – Blackbirds go up 39-26 after Garner sinks both free-throws.
LIU is stifling St. Francis with their fierce defense as the Terriers have struggled the entire game as they are only shooting 36.7 percent (11-of-30) from the floor.
8:00 – Blackbirds lead 35-22 after 9-2 run and take biggest lead of game (13pts) following Culpo’s first three-point make of game. LIU is shooting 57.1 percent (4-of7) from behind the arc.
9:34 – Terriers down 26-20 after lay-up by Jones.
Blackbirds have been on fire from the field shooting 64.7 percent overall on 11-of-17 attempts. Terriers are only shooting 42.1 percent (8-of 19) from the field.
12:03 – SFC down 25-18 after Milk enters game and scores four quick points off the bench.
LIU is perfect from downtown as they have knocked down all three shots from long-distance. Garner leads team with six points.
14:47 – St. Francis cuts lead 18-14 after Johnson (10pts) coverts conventional three-point play.
15:47 – Blackbirds lead 16-8 after a 7-2 run capped off by Garner’s lay-up.
17:00 – Terriers trail 9-6 after Johnson’s third bucket of the game. He has all six points for St. Francis.
19:07 – LIU takes early 5-0 lead after three-pointer from Brickma.
This is the 95th meeting between St. Francis and LIU in a series that dates back to the 1928-29 season with the Blackbirds leading the all-time series by a 58-36 margin. LIU has won two in a row and six out of seven over St. Francis. The last time the two teams squared-off was February 12, 2011 when the Terriers narrowly missed upsetting the NEC champs 82-80 at home in the Pope Physical Education Center. Julian Boyd led the Blackbirds with 19 points in the game but it was teammate C.J. Garner who scored the winning basket with less than a second left to play.
The Terriers (13-10 overall; 10-2 in NEC) currently hold the conference’s longest active win streak with five consecutive victories, and will be looking for their first six-game winning streak since the 2003-2004 season. St. Francis has already equaled their 10-game conference win total from last season with six games still to play.
The Blackbirds (17-7 overall; 11-1 in NEC) clinched a playoff berth in the NEC Tournament after beating Central Connecticut State 95-80 on Saturday. Five players scored in double figures as junior forward pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds in the contest. LIU is currently ranked No. 23 in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 poll.
Former NEC Player-of-the-Week (Dec. 19th) Ben Mockford averaged 17.5 points last week and drained 9-of-21 shots from behind the arc. Mockford, who leads the conference in made three-pointers per game (2.8), has now scored double-digit points in four straight contests.
Freshman power forward Jalen Cannon posted his sixth double-double of the season in the victory over Bryant with 11 points and 10 rebounds (seven offensive). He also added 10 boards against Central Connecticut State last Thursday. Cannon ranks 3rd in the NEC with a .581 field-goal percentage and now ranks 4th in the NEC with 7.9 rebounds per game. St. Francis is 9-2 since inserting Cannon into the starting line-up on December 31st at Army.
Junior forward Akeem Johnson continues to be one of the steadiest players on the team as he averaged 13.5 points and 5.0 rebounds last week and has tallied double-digit points in eight of his last 10 games. He also tied his career-high with three blocked shots in the victory against CCSU on Thursday. Johnson currently ranks 2nd in the NEC with a .598 field-goal percentage.
Sophomore Brent Jones has started six straight match-ups at point guard and has averaged 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists during the stretch. Jones recorded six assists in both games last week and has scored double-figures in six of his last 10 contests.
Senior swingman Stefan Perunicic ranks 2nd in the NEC with 2.7 three-pointers made per game and his three-point percentage of .440 is 3rd best in the conference. Perunicic ranks 9th on the NEC’s all-time three-point field goal list with 269 career makes. He drained 4-of-6 (66.7 percent) of his attempts in the victory against Bryant on Saturday. Perunicic needs just 25 three-pointers to become the Terriers all-time leader in the category.
Junior forward and new sixth man, Travis Nichols averaged 14.5 points in the team’s two previous victories, against Central Connecticut State and Bryant, as he erupted for 14 first-half points against CCSU, hitting 5-of-6 field goal attempts, including shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from downtown. Nichols followed up that impressive scoring performance by scoring all 13 of his points against Bryant in the second-half. Nichols has also scored double-digit points in four straight contests.
SFC and LIU will also meet at the Wellness Center on Sunday afternoon at 4:00pm when the Terriers square-off against their inter-borough rivals in the 37th annual “Battle of Brooklyn” as part of Rivalry Week. The game will be televised live on MSG.