After finishing off their non-conference schedule with a winning record for the first time since the 2010-11 season, the first of an unprecedented three consecutive Northeast Conference championship campaigns, the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds men’s basketball team fell flat in this year’s league opener.
But head coach Jack Perri’s crew quickly rebounded from Saturday’s 79-63 loss at Mount St. Mary’s by leading from start to finish in a 79-67 victory over Central Connecticut State on Monday night in front of 1,067 fans at New Britain’s Detrick Gymnasium.
Junior transfer Jerome Frink continued to be the Blackbirds’ driving force, scoring 19 points, blocking three shots and picking up three steals as LIU (7-6 overall) evened its conference mark at 1-1.
Sophomore guard Martin Hermannsson added 17 points, six assists and three more steals for the Blackbirds, who will be back in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday night, when they host NEC rival Robert Morris at the Steinberg Wellness Center in their first league home game of the season.
Third-year guard Aakim Saintil, another of Perri’s key pickups via transfer, contributed 16 points, five assists and two steals as LIU built a 17-point second-half lead before holding off the Blue Devils down the stretch.
“We were excited to be able to get him,” Perri recently said of Saintil, who hails from West Orange, N.J., but spent a season at Williston State College in North Dakota before finding his way back to the tristate area.
“He’s a very talented kid,” Perri noted. “He has the ability to play really fast. He’s been tremendous. He takes over practices at time with his talent.”
Tip-off vs. Robert Morris on Thursday night is slated for 7 p.m.
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The men’s basketball team of St. Francis Brooklyn, who missed out on its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth by a whisker last season, will still be seeking its first NEC victory of the year when it hosts St. Francis University (Pa.) on Thursday night at the Pope Center on Remsen Street.
SFC dropped its fourth in a row overall and fell to 0-2 in league action with Monday night’s frustrating 44-40 overtime defeat at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
The Terriers appeared to be on the verge of pulling out the win in regulation when Hopkinson made a run for the basket with three ticks left on the clock. But he was whistled for an offensive foul, and SFC was outscored, 8-4, in the extra session.
The 44 points by Mount St. Mary’s were the least by any team to post a victory on the NCAA Division I circuit this season.
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Perhaps buoyed by a new voice in the locker room, as well as the development of young talent, the LIU-Brooklyn women’s hoops squad is off to a 2-0 start in NEC play for the first time since 2009-10.
First-year coach Stephanie Oliver watched her suddenly surging Blackbirds (4-9) top CCSU, 59-45, on Monday afternoon at Detrick Gymnasium behind 19 points from junior Shanovia Dove, 12 by sophomore Stylz Sanders and 10 out of second-year guard Paris Jones.
LIU, which opened the league slate with a 61-51 win at Mount St. Mary’s, will begin the home portion of its NEC schedule by hosting St. Francis (Pa.) on Saturday and perennial league powerhouse Robert Morris on Monday.
The Saturday game is scheduled to tip-off at 2 p.m., while Monday’s contest will start at 7 p.m.
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Coming off the first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in SFC Brooklyn basketball history, the women’s team fell to a disappointing 3-10 on the season and 0-2 in conference play with Monday night’s 66-56 loss at Mount St. Mary’s.
Senior guard Leah Fechko, one of the key returnees from last year’s history-making squad, poured in a career-high 25 points for the Terriers, who will get their next shot at NEC win No. 1 on Saturday afternoon, when they host Robert Morris in a rematch of last season’s NEC title game, which SFC won, 77-62, to earn a first-round NCAA Tournament date with eventual national champion UConn.
“[Fechko] competed on every play, she was all over the court,” said SFC head coach John Thurston. “I thought Leah had an incredible performance.”