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Buzzer-beater buzzkill: Blackbirds drop league opener on last-second shot

Frink-station: Blackbirds redshirt senior forward Jerome Frink faced double teams throughout the night on Dec. 29 as Long Island University fell 67–65 to Mount St. Mary’s.
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These Blackbirds were struck by a final-second shot.

Long Island University dropped its Northeast Conference opener on Dec. 29, falling 67–65 to Mount St. Mary’s as forward Chris Wray drained a layup for The Mount with just 4.2 seconds left on the clock.

The late-game play didn’t shape up the way the Blackbirds planned, as Wray weaved his way through a handful of defenders to work into the lane and net the game-winner. Long Island University coach Jack Perri said he expected Junior Robinson, not Wray, to get the ball.

“I wanted whoever was guarding the in-bounder and whoever was guarding Robinson to slow him down and get him going back that way (toward the Blackbirds’ basket),” Perri said. “Everybody else was supposed to be much further back than they were.”

It was the fourth-straight loss for the Blackbirds (7–7, 0–1) and the second-straight year the squad came up short against The Mount in the conference opener.

Long Island University squandered an 11-point cushion in the second half as The Mount (3–11, 1–0) started to hit its stride from behind the arc. Elijah Long led the charge with three shots from distance to knot the game at 59-all with a little more than three minutes left.

The Blackbirds — playing without starting point guard Jashaun Agosto, who suffered a knee injury in practice — rallied in the final minute, however, and Nura Zanna tied the game with just a few ticks left on the clock.

Long Island University’s defense couldn’t hold on the final possession, and the loss is a big-time blow to a squad that has struggled to find its rhythm in the last few weeks, winning just one game in December.

“Obviously, it’s disappoint­ing,” Perri said. “[It was] a great play by Wray. But obviously disappoint­ed.”

The Blackbirds were frustrated with the loss — and Wray’s final shot — but the squad was especially disappointed with its up-and-down offense, unable to settle into any sort of consistent groove, particularly down low.

Jerome Frink racked up 14 points on the block, but none of them came easy, as the Mount consistently brought pressure and double-teams.

“They weren’t even guarding him,” Perri said. “They just sandwiched him from the get-go, so it was hard to get him touches.”

While Frink dealt with Mount’s defensive pressure, Zanna did his best to pick up the scoring slack, racking up a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds. Iverson Fleming chipped in 12 points of his own and notched several stops on the defensive side of the ball.

The Blackbirds struggled without Agosto leading the offensive charge, but Perri was happy with his team’s collective effort.

“We were able to make plays,” he said. “[Zanna] makes the great offensive rebound put-back to give us a chance to get us into overtime. Obviously, it was just disappointing not to get into overtime.”

Long Island University has gone through its fair share of ups and downs this season — it got off to one of the best starts in program history before falling into this four-game skid. Now Perri is interested in seeing how his team responds — it’s all about the league, and there’s still plenty of basketball left to play.

“You got to keep your poise,” Perri said. “Don’t say anything to the referees, just keep playing your game and do the best you can.”

LIU 74, Bryant 63

Long Island University bounced back after the disappointing league-opener with a solid win at home on Dec. 31. The victory snapped the team’s four-game losing skid.

Jerome Frink led the charge, packing his stat line with a team-best 23 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. Freshman Jashaun Agosto chipped in 17 points of his own and dished out nine assists.

It was a back-and-forth affair early, but Long Island University hit its shooting stride and answered each one of the Bulldogs’ runs with an offensive burst of its own. Bryant notched a late 9–2 run, but couldn’t claw out of the double-digit hole down the stretch.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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