GAME NOTES: A pair of teams off to lackluster starts get together on Thursday night, as the Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn come calling on the Seton Hall Pirates.
LIU Brooklyn opened the season with an 87-80 win over Saint Peter's, but then went out and lost four straight, among them a closer-than-expected 73-72 setback at Big Ten Conference foe Indiana on Nov. 12. The Blackbirds managed to end the skid the last time out, slipping past Norfolk State at home on Sunday, 74-72.
Seton Hall tipped off the campaign with victories in three of its first four games, but has lost two of its last three, including a 58-54 decision at home to Fairleigh Dickinson last Sunday. The Pirates, who will open Big East Conference play at Providence on New Year's Eve, will play each of their next six games in the Garden State.
The series between these two teams is knotted at 16-16, but the Pirates have won the last five meetings, including an 89-58 rout last season.
LIU Brooklyn's issues this season have primarily come at the defensive end, as the team allows 80.5 ppg with foes shooting 50.4 percent from the field while logging a substantial rebounding differential (8.8 rpg). From an offensive standpoint, the Blackbirds have four double-digit scorers in the form of E.J. Reed, Gerrell Martin, Gilbert Parga and Landon Atterberry, but the range of points from 11.2 to 12.2 ppg means that while there isn't that one guy capable of dominating a game, the balance the team displays means opposing teams can't key on anyone in particular. Unfortunately, the team is knocking down its field goals only 39.5 percent of the time, although the 3-pointers fall at a near-35 percent clip, and the Blackbirds outshoot their opponents at the free throw line, .725 to .653. Martin led all five starters in double figures in the recent win over Norfolk State, netting 16 points thanks to a 4-of-7 effort from beyond the arc. Troy Joseph also nailed four treys (12 points), and Jason Brickman logged a double-double consisting of 10 points and 14 assists.
Seton Hall is on the plus side of the ledger in nearly all statistical categories, sitting at +3.1 in scoring, +1.9 in rebounding and +0.7 in turnovers, but the team needs to tighten the reins on defense as it gives up 71.7 ppg with foes outshooting the Pirates both overall (.441 to .429) and from beyond the arc (.351 to .345). The squad boasts three double-digit scorers, with Fuquan Edwin pacing the unit with his 15.3 ppg. He is also a menace on defense, coming up with league-high 21 steals (3.0 per game). Sterling Gibbs (14.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.3 apg) and Patrik Auda (12.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg) have both been productive for SHU as well, and it was Edwin who stood tallest in the recent loss to FDU, as he recorded a line of 16 points, five boards and five steals. Brian Oliver came off the bench to add 12 points, doing so behind a 4-of-9 effort from 3-point range. Overall however, the Pirates made good on only 37.7 percent of their total shots, which included a 7-of-22 showing from downtown, and they committed 15 turnovers while being outrebounded (33-29) and outscored the charity stripe (13-7).
LIU Brooklyn is sure to put forth maximum effort, but the Blackbirds lack the talent and depth to run with most teams from bigger conferences. Expect the Pirates to have a much better showing as they try to make amends for the recent hiccup against FDU.
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