LIU-Brooklyn upset bid at Indiana falls just short in one-point loss
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
For a few fleeting moments Tuesday night in Bloomington, Ind., Downtown Brooklyn appeared on the cusp of being renamed Upset Central.
LIU-Brooklyn senior point guard Jason Brickman's buzzer-beating 30-footer fell just short of the rim at Indiana's hallowed Assembly Hall, leaving the three-time defending Northeast Conference champion Blackbirds with a 73-72 loss against the 23rd-ranked Hoosiers.
More than a 20-point underdog heading into the contest, the Blackbirds (1-1) were trying to follow neighborhood rival St. Francis Brooklyn in posting our borough's second major upset of a national powerhouse in the past five days.
The Terriers (2-0) opened their season with a stunning 66-62 overtime triumph at defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion and Sweet Sixteen entrant Miami on Friday night in Coral Gables, Fla.
LIU-Brooklyn, which began its campaign with an impressive 87-80 win over Saint Peter's at Downtown's Barclays Center on Saturday afternoon, was in position to knock off last year's top seed in the East Region and a team that also qualified for the Sweet 16 during the NCAA Tournament in March.
Coach Jack Perri's determined unit led by as many as eight points in the first half, forged a 70-70 tie with just over two minutes to play and appeared poised to send the crowd of 17, 472 Hoosier fans home unhappy when Brickman picked up a loose ball off a missed free throw and began his mad dash toward potential glory.
The 6-foot playmaker, named the NEC Player of the Week for his 14-assist performance against the Peacocks three days earlier, sped past halfcourt and launched a final prayer toward the Indiana rim.
But that prayer went unanswered as the ball, seemingly on course for the net, sunk just below the front rim as time expired.
"Jason Brickman is a superstar," Perri gushed in the aftermath of his team's most impressive effort against a major program since the Blackbirds gave North Carolina a second-half scare during their opening-round game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
"He is a big-time player and there is no one in the country you want to have the ball other than Jason Brickman. He makes the right play 95 percent of the time. He got some looks. He just didn't make the shot. That last attempt was a hard shot to make."
Brickman posted his second straight double-double with 11 points and 11 assists, junior swingman Troy Joseph netted a team-high 16 points and junior-college transfer Gilbert Parga and sophomore forward E.J. Reed added 15 points apiece for the Blackbirds, who pushed IU to the limit only to settle for an encouraging, albeit hard-to-swallow defeat.
"I'm really proud of my team," Perri added. "I didn't quite know what to expect from our guys because we have a lot of new players, but they really competed and stuck to the game plan. I was proud of how they fought and I thought we did a tremendous job competing for 40 minutes."
After leading the nation in assists last season, Brickman has been mentioned among the best point men in the nation. He also is Perri's self-proclaimed "security blanket" in the Blackbirds' bid for a fourth consecutive conference crown following the departures of C.J. Garner and Jamal Olasewere.
Perri strongly believes that having Brickman on the floor will enable LIU to compete with any and all opponents they face this season.
The speedy San Antonio native nearly pulled off the biggest upset in recent Blackbirds history Tuesday night.
"I think having a point guard who's a superstar helped control everything," Perri noted. "Even when Indiana took the lead, he stayed cool. He got the ball to the right guys and they got the shots. We had a lot of turnovers and I think that had to do with having so many new players."
Will Sheehey led Indiana with 19 points and Noah Vonleh and Yogi Ferrell added 17 each for the Hoosiers, who breathed a collective sigh of relief after Brickman's potential game-winner fell short.
"We played against a very good team," IU coach Tom Crean said. "And fortunately for us, with as many mistakes as we made, we had enough things to get us over the top and this team found a way to win."
With former NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd expected to return in January from a re-tear of the ACL in his right knee, the Blackbirds will make a serious push for an unprecedented fourth straight trip to the NCAAs.
Judging from their performance in Indiana, these Blackbirds aren't waiting for Boyd to make them whole.
Not when Brickman is running through opposing defenses and finding his finishers under and around the basket.
"The game plan for him: we were just trying to take away his outlets," said Ferrell, who was guarding Brickman for most of the night. "We knew he was the returning leading assist guy from last year. We were just trying to take away his outlets because he's such a great passer. So we wanted to level him off. Not over-help too much on him. We did that a couple times. He hit a couple threes, but he's a good player."
LIU will get a 10-day break before visiting UC Irvine on Nov. 22 as part of the Subregional Round of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.
The LIU-Brooklyn women will be back in action Thursday at Rider in Lawrenceville, N.J., after opening their season with a tough 62-59 loss to Columbia last Friday night on their home floor.
Senior Cleandra Roberts scored a career-high 23 points and Letavy Whippy added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Blackbirds (0-1), who missed four critical free throws in the final minute to cost themselves a shot at a non-conference win.
The ladies squad at St. Francis Brooklyn continued its strong start to the campaign with Monday's home-opening 56-53 victory over Army at Remsen Street's Pope Center.
The Terriers (2-0), who opened the year with Saturday's 56-51 win at Penn in Philadelphia, got 10 points and 10 rebounds from junior forward Jaymee Veney against the Black Knights.
Third-year guard Eilidh Simpson added 10 points and a team-high five assists for St. Francis, which held its second straight opponent under 55 points, earning the Terriers high praise from coach John Thurston.
"[Monday's] game was a battle on both sides of the ball," Thurston said. "Both teams played extremely well. I just have to tip my hat to our team. We have been playing great defense against really good offensive teams. We are more aggressive on the boards and we are making smarter plays in crucial situations.
"Army pressed us much of the latter part of the game, and in years past, we might have faltered but I thought we did a great job expecting the pressure and making the right adjustments. I am very proud of our kids. This game is in the books and we got the victory. They can't take that away from us, we're happy and it's on to the next game."
The Terriers will visit St. John's in Jamaica, N.Y., on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m., looking to improve to 3-0.