Long Island blows by Robert Morris
Blackbirds win second consecutive Northeast Conference crown
NEW YORK -- C.J. Garner scored 21 points, Julian Boyd and Jason Brickman each added 18, and Long Island's fast-breaking Blackbirds made it two consecutive Northeast Conference championships with a 90-73 victory against Robert Morris on Wednesday night.
In a rematch of last season's NEC title game thriller, the Blackbirds (25-8) didn't need overtime to fend off the Colonials (24-10) this year and earn another NCAA berth.
And they drew New York's most famous basketball fan to their little gym on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Spike Lee jumped from his seat, arms raised, when Boyd hit a 3-pointer that put LIU up 68-54 with 6:20 remaining.
Velton Jones, RMU's leading scorer, was knocked hard to the floor in the opening minutes and appeared to come away with sore ribs. He played most of the game and scored 10 points, though he shot just 3-for-12.
Freshman Lucky Jones scored 14 points for Robert Morris and Coron Williams added 13.
Brickman also piled up 11 assists with an array of nifty passes for LIU, which shot 53 percent from the field.
The Blackbirds nearly blew the lid off the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center when Garner found Boyd on an alley-oop from around halfcourt. Boyd's dunk put LIU up 59-45 with 10 minutes left in the second half and had Lee handing out high-fives to the fans around him.
Garner's fadeaway in the lane put LIU up 74-60 with 4:03 to go and Robert Morris couldn't get it any close than 10 the rest of the way.
LIU coach Jim Ferry, in his 10th season, returned most of last year's NEC championship team, and it defended both its regular season and tournament titles. Boyd, the NEC player of the year, came away with tournament MVP honors, too. He shot 8-for-10 in the title game and grabbed 10 rebounds.
No. 3 seed Robert Morris was making its fourth consecutive appearance in the NEC finals, trying to win three championships in four years. But coach Andrew Toole's team, which prefers a slower tempo, couldn't keep up with the Blackbirds and shot 37 percent on the night.
LIU has won 27 consecutive games at the WRAC. The Fort Greene neighborhood is a long way from Lexington, Ky., but only No. 1 Kentucky has a longer home winning streak in Division I.
The Blackbirds, who average an NEC-best 81 points, controlled the pace over the last eight minutes of the first half to build a 39-31 lead at the break.
Brickman attacked the basket at every opportunity and got his teammates some easy shots with seven assists in the first half. The Blackbirds shot 54 percent -- to RMU's 40 percent -- and Brandon Thompson closed the half with a 3-pointer with two seconds left that had the packed crowd hopping.