New coach, same story.
For the third time in as many years, the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds will be headed to the NCAA Tournament after beating Mount St. Mary’s 91-70 in the Northeast Conference championship game.
This time, first-year head coach Jack Perri led the team through its conference tournament en route to a third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Perri was previously an assistant coach for the Blackbirds under Jim Ferry.
The Blackbirds, who have been a No. 16 seed in the previous two NCAA Tournaments, clearly did not want to send their seniors out on a losing note.
In a back-and-forth first half in which both teams were getting to the rim with ease, LIU Brooklyn headed into the locker room clinging to a close 35-31 halftime lead. Then, senior guard C.J. Garner turned up the heat.
Garner was the key to the Blackbirds’ 56-point outburst in the second 20 minutes, scoring 17 of his 31 points in that half as the team pulled away from the Mountaineers, who went cold in the second half.
The Blackbirds, who are one of the best teams in the nation in shooting percentage (47.9 percent), continued to do exactly what got them to the championship game, hitting 61.4 percent of their field goals while also shooting 55.6 percent from behind the arc.
As the automatic bids continue to be claimed as the week wears on, Coach Perri and his team can relax a little, knowing they will be playing somewhere next week.
Chances are, the Blackbirds will again be taking on one of the tournament’s top seeds.
At 20-13 on the season, LIU Brooklyn struggled a bit in league play despite returning the bulk of its starters from last year’s team. At one point, the Blackbirds suffered through a six-game losing streak.
But all is forgiven now that the team has punched its bid to the Big Dance. Plus, the Blackbirds seem to have hit their stride at the right time.
LIU Brooklyn has scored at least 90 points in its last four games, including all three of its conference tournament matchups. Since the Blackbirds are the sixth-best team in the nation in scoring average (79.1 per game), it is conceivable that they can score with just about anyone in the country.
Although his team has a subpar defense, Coach Perri preaches the same uptempo style on offense that Ferry developed during his time with the program, and LIU Brooklyn’s guards have shown the ability to get to the basket and score at will.
It would not be surprising to see the Blackbirds catch a top seed sleepwalking through its first tournament game, and perhaps provide some unwanted trouble.
In fact, due to their offensive pace, they probably will.
But for now, the team can celebrate and not worry about expectations. Because for the third consecutive season, Brooklyn is back—in the Big Dance.