So, I haven't done one of these for the last two games, probably because of the opponent. But this time, a full report is definitely necessary.
This game will be held at the SWAGALICIOUS Barclays Center in Brooklyn as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational. For those of you heading out to the game (I believe all four of South Orange Juice's writers, including myself, will be there), let me tell you from firsthand experience that the arena itself is definitely the nicest one the Pirates will play in this season. It's built for basketball, meaning no matter where you sit, the sight lines are great. I also highly recommend the Junior's Cheesecake. It may be 8 bucks for a slice, but if you're like me and have a physical weakness for such a dessert, be sure to make plenty of time to get one- it's quite a popular item.
But enough of my sweet tooth. Here's what you need to know about LIU-Brooklyn:
2011-12 record: 25-9 (16-2 NEC, first place)
As you can see, LIU returns practically every key piece from their NEC title team last season.
But as you can also see, the Blackbirds have most definitely under-performed so far this year. They have lost to the likes of Morehead State and Lafayette this season, and also fell at Saint Peter's on Wednesday night. In between those losses (they opened the season 0-4), they beat up on 5 inferior opponents, but also were dealt a major, major blow when Julian Boyd, their leading scorer and rebounder and the defending NEC player of the year, tore his ACL.
What's left on the roster is still a lot of good talent. Jamal Olasewere is a versatile post player who is now the de-facto leading scorer and rebounder. He's also a senior now, so the Pirates must do a good job of stopping him, and more specifically preventing him from getting to the free throw line, where he's already shot ONE HUNDRED free throws in 10 games.
In the backcourt, C.J. Garner returns at the off-guard spot for his senior season. Garner does a little of everything for LIU, and has been a high-efficiency scorer, shooting 47% from the field. He isn't a three-point shooter, though, having attempted just 9 on the season.
Three players for the Blackbirds are threats from distance. Jason Brickman is the point guard and he's having an excellent season, averaging 11 PTS and 8.1 AST per contest while shooting it about as efficient as Fuquan Edwin (.524/.526/.774).
Brandon Thompson spent last season as a reserve guard, but has moved into the starting lineup this season and has been very solid. He's making 40% of his threes as the top threat on this team (57 attempts on the season).
Gerrell Martin comes off the bench as a shooter- 23 of his 37 attempts are from the great beyond, and he's making 48% of them, too.
E.J. Reed and Khalil Murphy are also seeing double-digit minutes off the bench as reserve forwards.
This is a team that plays FAST. Last season they were pretty much the fastest team in the nation, and this season, while they have toned it down a bit under new head coach Jack Perri according to friend of the Juice Jaden Daly, they still love to up the tempo. If you include Boyd, 5 players are averaging double-digits in points, so all signs point to this being a track meet if LIU has their way.
Seton Hall will win if:
- They get good point guard play. It's especially important in this game that Seton Hall takes care of the basketball, and that starts with the point guards, Tom Maayan and Aaron Cosby. Garner, Thompson and Brickman are all upperclassmen who have been around the block, so a mature game from the Hall's ballhandlers is not only key, it's paramount to winning this game.
- Gene Teague gets 15+ points. Without Boyd, LIU is rather small indeed, with the 6'7", 235-pound Olasewere representing the biggest post threat. This key is two-fold- if Big Gene is able to get 15 PTS, it will not only give the Pirates a good chance to win anyway, it will likely represent a slower pace than LIU wants the game to get into.
- Fuquan Edwin stays on the court. No one has had an answer for Edwin so far this season on either end of the court, and the only thing that's keeping him from averaging even more unbelievable numbers than he already is is some foul trouble. If he can stay on the court, his sheer talent and skill set will be tough for LIU to defend against, even with their upperclassmen-laded roster. And chances are the Hall could use his leadership if the point guards suffer a bit of a spell of sub-par play.
LIU will win if:
- The veteran backcourt play like veterans. Inside, with no Boyd, I think Seton Hall has the advantage with Teague and Brandon Mobley. Outside, LIU has a clear edge heading into this game. It's the key matchup of the night- can Seton Hall's youthful backcourt keep up with LIU's?
- They knock down threes. One area that the Pirates are struggling a little bit in this season is defending the three. They have been collapsing into the paint very nicely, but their opponents are getting a few too many made threes per game. LIU has very capable shooters, and if they get rolling, it could be a long night, even with the Pirates' shooting abilities.
- They feed off the crowd. Though many Seton Hall fans will be at this game, the Barclays Center is only a few city blocks away from the LIU campus. I expect a nice crowd for the nightcap of this tripleheader, and no doubt the Blackbirds will relish playing in such an arena.