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November 12, 2013
'This is an NCAA tournament team'
The Indiana staff has a little first-hand knowledge of the LIU-Brooklyn team that invades Assembly Hall tonight for a 6 p.m. game in the second battle of the season for both teams.
The Hoosier coaches traveled to Dayton last March to scout the Blackbirds as they faced James Madison in one of the "play-in" games traditionally held at the UD Arena. What they witnessed was an LIU team that fought back from a 12-point first half deficit to lead with 15 minutes to play only to falter down the stretch in a 68-55 loss.
Making it to the NCAA tournament was nothing new for the Blackbirds as LIU has for three years running taken home the Northeast Conference postseason tournament title. It was the first NCAA tourney under head coach Jack Perri as the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year was promoted up from assistant at the Brooklyn campus just before last season.
"This is an NCAA tournament team," said IU coach Tom Crean yesterday. "If they had beaten James Madison this is the team we would have faced in the tournament. They have won three straight league titles."
Like Indiana, Perri and his team are trying to replace four starters including a pair of stars. Gone are NEC Player of the Year Jamal Olasewere (18.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and NEC tournament MVP C.J. Garner (16.1 ppg).
The good news for the Blackbirds is the return of point guard Jason Brickman. The 6-foot-0 guard dished out 8.5 assists per game last year, best in the entire nation.
Last week in LIU's season opening 87-80 win over St. Peter's, Brickman doled out 14 assists.
"I think getting ready for him is like getting ready for Aaron Craft," said Crean. "He knows how to find people and he makes everyone on the court better."
You can't slack too far off Brickman as last season he hit 46.2 percent from beyond the arc and averaged 9.5 points a game.
"He is a capable scorer and shooter," said Crean. "They have great spacing. They have mid-season form spacing. They have a great coach and they continue to get better."
The big shooter in LIU's opener was 6-foot-2 junior Gerrell Martin. He came out on fire, knocking down 6-for-8 from beyond the arc and finished with a career high 24 points. 6-foot-6 soph E.J. Reed was also a big contributor, adding 17 points, six boards and a pair of blocks from his forward spot.
The Blackbirds will probably run with Indiana. A year ago Perri's squad played uptempo, averaging just under 79 points per game and the St. Peter's opener shows no change from that philosophy.
It is not a big LIU Brooklyn team. Among the seven players that saw the most minutes in the opener, no player is over 6-foot-6. Perri did give 13 minutes to frosh newcomer Glenn Feidanga, a 6-foot-8, 240-pounder originally from the Central African Republic.
"They score a lot of points. They get to the rim. They make the next pass and get back in transition," said Crean. "This will be a good game for us. The new guys will see more pick and roll and more screen action than they have seen in their entire lives. It will be a great test for us."
Unlike the two exhibition games and Friday night's opener against Chicago State, the Big Ten Network will carry this live nationwide at 6:00 p.m ET.
Projected LIU-Brooklyn starters and key reserves with opening game stats: