NEW YORK -- A quick take on LIU's 87-76 win over St. Francis (NY) on Wednesday night at the Wellness, Recreation & Athletic Center at LIU.
WHAT IT MEANS: Long Island improves to 19-5 overall, and remains in first place in the Northeast Conference at 11-2. The Blackbirds have now won 13 of their past 14 games, as they try to win the NEC regular season crown -- which would assure them at least a spot in the NIT, and give them home-court advantage throughout the NEC tournament in March. They have five games left in the regular season.
St. Francis (NY) drops to 11-13 overall, and 6-7 in NEC play.
THE SKINNY: After a tight opening few minutes, LIU raced out to a double-digit lead in the first half. The Blackbirds led by as many as 15 before the break, and led 43-30 at intermission. Jamal Olasewere -- a 6-foot-7 sophomore, and the team's second-leading scorer (11.8 ppg) -- had a big first half, with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field.
St. Francis was able to cut the deficit to seven points early in the second half, and to six points with under eight minutes to play, but LIU weathered the storm each time, and won pretty comfortably in the end.
STAR WATCH: Julian Boyd -- another 6-foot-7 sophomore and LIU's leading scorer and rebounder (12.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg) -- was limited to just six minutes in the first half (zero points, two rebounds), after picking up two offensive fouls. But Boyd -- who missed all of last season because of a heart condition -- came on strong in the second half, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds. That's Boyd's fourth double-double in his past five games.
NUMBERS GAME: The most eye-popping stat of the night was the rebounding margin. LIU came in fifth in the country in rebounds per game (41.7) and 44th in rebounding margin (+4.9 per game). But LIU annihilated St. Francis on the boards in this game. The Blackbirds finished with a 51-30 edge overall, and a 19-12 advantage on the offensive glass.
WHAT'S NEXT: These two teams actually will play each other again on Saturday at noon, at St. Francis this time around. The game will air locally on MSG, in case you'd like to check these teams out. LIU certainly could be representing the Big Apple in the Big Dance come March.