November 12, 2011 1:47 am ET by Gary Moore
Game #8-004: Long Island Blackbirds at Hofstra PrideNovember 11, 2011 7:00 pm
When I last saw a Long Island University game live, it was the NEC championship game at the Wellness Center in Brooklyn on March 9. The Blackbirds were hosting the Colonials of Robert Morris, the defending Northeast Conference champions. I was standing in one of the LIU student sections behind the Robert Morris basket along with three thousand other fans in a sold out gym. In one of the most exciting games I witnessed last season, the Blackbirds defeated the Colonials 85-82 in overtime to win the NEC championship on their home court.
It was LIU's fourth trip to a NCAA Tournament in their storied basketball history. Under legendary coach Clair Bee, who invented the three second rule and the 1-3-1 defense, LIU won the NIT in 1939 and 1941. In the 1935-36 season, his Blackbirds went 25-0 and were the favorites to represent the United States in the Olympics. Back then, the best college teams competed in the Olympic trials to be selected as the United States representative in basketball. But before the trials, the team voted as a whole to boycott the Olympics since they were being held in Germany under Adolf Hitler's rule.
Unfortunately, not of all LIU's basketball history is as noble. The Blackbirds are also known for having several players implicated in the famous 1951 CCNY betting scandal. The scandal forced the resignation of Bee and the shutdown of the athletic program for a period of time. It also resulted in their best player, Sherman White, the nation's leading scorer in 1950-51 and a likely NBA star, serving an eight month jail sentence and being banned from the NBA for life. White, a former Haggerty Award winner and nicknamed "The virtuoso of college basketball" at Madison Square Garden's 50th College Basketball anniversary in 1984, passed away in August of this year.
I have no doubt that Sherman White and Clair Bee would like the current Blackbirds under Bruce Perry. LIU plays an exciting, up-tempo game. The Blackbirds were fourth in the nation in scoring last season, averaging 82.6 points per game. They were also fifth in the nation in possessions, averaging 70.6 per game. With six of their eight players returning from last season's conference championship team, LIU was picked in the preseason to repeat as the NEC champions. The Blackbirds' reward was to play the entire month of November on the road, starting with a game on 11-11-11 vs. The Pride of Hofstra, who were playing their first game in the post Charles Jenkins era.
My son Matthew and I got to Hofstra early last evening. The University was hosting a free FanFest before the game. Anyone that had a ticket got free entry into the FanFest. There was free food, inflatables for the kids to play in and most important to my son, the ability to shoot hoops. We left the FanFest early and made it to our seats an hour before game time. Matthew and I both wolfed down a pretzel while watching a large crowd file in to the Mack Center. The Lion's Den student section was pretty much full for the first Hofstra home game of the season.
The game started out in LIU's favor. Last season's leading scorer for the Blackbirds, Julian Boyd, scored a quick four points and LIU was up early 7-2. But it didn't take long for Hofstra to answer back. Behind David Imes and Nathaniel Lester, the Pride would outscore the Blackbirds 27-13 over the next ten minutes. Despite being down nine, 29-20, LIU rallied. The Blackbirds closed the half only down two, 32-30.
The Blackbirds had ten turnovers in the first half and shot only 6 of 13 from the free throw line. And LIU was on a pace to score twenty points below their season average from last season. Despite all that, the Blackbirds were facing only a two point halftime deficit. It seemed their luck had to change for the better in the second half.
Early on in the second half, LIU hung in there. Jason Brickman, a Joey Rodriguez clone if I ever saw one, nailed two three pointers to keep the Blackbirds within five, 47-42 with 13:10 left. The pace seem to be quickening and that favored possession happy LIU.
But Lester and Mike Moore were unconscious in the second half for Hofstra. Lester continued his torrid night with sixteen second half points, while Moore blistered the Blackbirds for twenty one second half points. Due to the scoring of Lester and Moore and a defense that forced another ten LIU turnovers in the second half, the Pride went on a 39-19 run over the next nearly eleven minutes. Even the pro Hofstra crowd of 3,589 was stunned to see their home team be so dominant over an experienced NCAA Tournament team. The Pride would eventually win the game handily 89-71.
I am sure the LIU fans that were in attendance left quite disappointed. But considering the Blackbirds' history where they have stood up to the Nazis and resurrected a program that was nearly destroyed by scandal, one loss is a mere bump in the road. A bump in a very long, historic road.
|Hickory Picket Fences||27629|
|The Hopping Cats||21526|
|Under a Blood Red Line||10379|
|Jen Folds Five||6895|