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Weak end to non-conference schedule for Long Island University Blackbirds

Blackbirds suffer third-straight loss

Swarmed: Blackbirds guard Iverson Fleming tries to go up towards the basket against a pair of Niagara defenders at Barclays Center on Dec. 21.
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The ball just wouldn’t bounce the Blackbirds’ way.

The Long Island University men’s basketball team wrapped its non-conference schedule on Dec. 21 with a 75–66 loss to Niagara University at Barclays Center. It was the third-straight loss for the Blackbirds as the squad shot just 34.2 percent in the second half.

“I know our guys were frustrated by that,” Blackbirds coach Jack Perri said. “But you’ve got to keep your poise in those situations. This game was more about effort, focus, and not getting back on defense.”

It’s been a long and winding non-conference road for Long Island University as the Blackbirds have struggled to find consistency over the last few weeks. The squad played just two true home games in its first 13 match-ups and sometimes spent more time traveling than practicing.

It’s final exam season, and Perri is certain that exhaustion caused the latest loss.

“This was a tough stretch. There’s been no break,” Perri said. “It’s been travel, practice, prepare, game — and it’s been consistent. Now you throw in finals too and you could tell that played a factor.”

The Blackbirds struggled to put the ball in the hoop throughout the night — the team was unable to find a rhythm as poor shots and miscues plagued them early in the game. The Blackbirds notched seven turnovers in the first 20 minutes of play, and despite taking a 12–5 lead six minutes into the game, the squad went into the break down two.

Long Island University’s game plan this season has been to work the ball down low while relying the squad’s collective size advantage to create easy offense. That was the game plan against the Purple Eagles as well, but it didn’t quite work out.

Dominic Robb racked up seven blocked shots and hauled in a team-high 11 rebounds for Niagara, keeping the Blackbirds off the block.

“I thought we had an advantage in size, and I thought we could take it at Robb,” Perri said. “Good for him. He completely shut Jerome out of the game, created guys traveling, and intimidated guys.”

The Purple Eagles padded its lead throughout the second half — sparked by a 15-rebound cushion on the glass — but it was one late-game moment that defined the match-up. Robb missed three straight chip-shots in the post, grabbed his own rebound on each miss, and pushed the ball back out to Chris Barton, who was fouled on his shot attempt. He made both free throws, and Long Island University was left visibly shocked.

“The effort was not there on the glass,” Perri said. “Guys’ mouths were wide open and standing straight up. It’s not what I was used to seeing out of this group. I’m disappointed with that.”

The Blackbirds took 70 shots by the final whistle — the desperation started to creep into the offense as the squad continued to try and mount a comeback.

It’s a disappointing showing for the squad, and one that Perri hopes will shift players’ mindsets heading into Northeast Conference play. Long Island University hosts Mount St. Mary’s on Dec. 29 in the opener, but first the Blackbirds are taking some much-needed time off.

“We need this bad. They all need it, they’re mentally shot,” Perri said. “Regardless of what happened in these games, our focus is league. We want to try and win the league.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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