SHU’s Season Ends with 80-68 NEC Tournament Loss at LIU Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, NY (March 1, 2012) – The top-seeded LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds had five players in double figures and hit six-of-13 from three in the second half en route to an 80-68 win over Sacred Heart Thursday night in the quarterfinal round of the 2012 Northeast Conference Tournament.  The Blackbirds extended the nation's second longest home winning streak to 25-straight in the Wellness Center with the win.  The Pioneers end the season 14-18 overall.

Junior Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) finished with 22 points before fouling, recording his 21st game this season with 20 or more points.  LIU's Jamal Olasewere scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Blackbirds.  LIU finished 11-of-28 from three and shot 50.0% (28-56) from the field.

The Blackbirds (23-8) opened the game with a three of the hand of Jason Brickman but then went cold from long range, missing their next six shots from beyond the arc.  The Pioneers came out looking to slow down the fourth ranked offense (81.8 ppg) in the nation and led 8-7 in the early going.  Guard C.J. Gardner converted on a three-point play and Julian Boyd ended the drought from three at 11:50 to put LIU up 12-8.  Brickman and Michael Culpo followed with three's of their own and the Blackbirds went up 18-12 at the 10 minute mark.

A SHU 6-0 spurt cuts lead to 21-20 at 7:30 but Culpo hit his second three and started LIU on a 14-0 run.  SHU would go over five minutes without a point while Olasewere helped fuel the run with consecutive lay-ups and a 35-20 lead with 2:32 left.  The Pioneers ended the drought at 2:17 as Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT) got a lay-in on a goaltending call.  The Pioneers closed out the half with a 7-0 run as Gibson hit long three and SHU trailed at the break, 35-27.

The Pioneers keep it going to start the second half pulled within within 35-30 at 18 minute mark.  Culpo hit his third three from right corner, pushing lead to eight and starting a second half three-point barrage.  Sacred Heart got hurt in the opening minutes when starting center Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ) picked up his third foul at 16:38 and his fourth at 16:31, going to the bench with LIU up 39-32.  SHU responded as senior Stan Dulaire (Bloomfield, CT) got a put-back followed by a steal and Nick Greenbacker (Coventry, CT) fast-break lay-in forced a LIU timeout at 15:22, down 39-36.

Greenbacker pulled the Pioneers within one, 41-40, at the 13:37 mark but that would be as close as SHU would get as LIU's Boyd answered with a three and Brandon Thompson caught fire from three.  Thompson hit back to back treys at 10:16 and 9:43 to push the lead back to double digits, 54-44.  The Pioneers cut the lead back in half at 5:27, 60-55, but Thompson buried his third from deep and Brickman followed suit to quickly swing the tide. 

The Blackbirds began pulling away at the free throw line and went up 70-57 with 3:17 left while Boyd put the seal on the win with a thunderous alley-oop dunk from Garner on the break with 2:53 left to lead 72-57.

Boyd, the NEC Player of the Year, finished with 16 points and six rebounds.  Brickman chipped in 12 points while Culpo and Thompson each netted 11 in the win.  LIU will move on to host Quinnipiac in the semifinals on Sunday.

In addition to Gibson's 22 points, junior Louis Montes recorded his third double double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.  Swidowski tallied 12 points and seven boards before fouling out in the closing minutes.  SHU shot 48.1% (26-54) but had 17 turnovers that led to 18 LIU points at the other end.

Gibson finished the 2011-12 season with 704 points, a Sacred Heart Division I record.  He ends the year averaging 22.0 ppg.