NEW YORK -- A quick take on Long Island U.'s 83-79 win over Wagner on Thursday night at the Spiro Sports Center on Staten Island.
WHAT IT MEANS: LIU improves to 21-5 overall, and 13-2 in Northeast Conference play. The Blackbirds have now won seven in a row, and 15 of their past 16 games. They have a two-game lead over Central Connecticut State with three to play. In the NEC, the regular-season champion gets home-court advantage throughout the entire conference tournament.
Wagner drops to 13-13 overall, and 9-6 in the NEC. The Seahawks are now tied for fourth place in the conference with Robert Morris.
THE SKINNY: Wagner led for most of the first half, and by as many as six points. But a Kyle Johnson 3-pointer in the final seconds before intermission gave LIU at 30-28 halftime edge. Interesting numbers from the first half? Wagner registered assists on 12 of its 13 field goals in the first half -- a percentage you'll rarely see. But the Seahawks did not shoot a single free throw in the first 20 minutes, while LIU had 15 attempts from the charity stripe, making nine.
In contrast, LIU led for the majority of the second half, opening up its biggest lead -- 64-57 -- with 5:30 to play. But Wagner hung in there, and sent the game into overtime courtesy of a Chris Martin trey with 3.3 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, Wagner had a three-point lead early, 75-72, but squandered it. David Hicks' 3-pointer tied the game at 75, and Kyle Johnson's bucket with a minute to play put LIU ahead for good.
THE DIFFERENCE: LIU, on the road, shot 43 free throws, and made 31 of them. Wagner, on the other hand, shot just 11, making seven.
BALANCED EFFORT: Wagner exhibited great teammwork, despite the loss. All five starters were in double figures, led by Latif Rivers with 18 points. And the Seahawks finished with 25 assists on 32 field goals.
WHAT'S NEXT: Wagner will host St. Francis (NY) on Saturday at noon. LIU will play at Mount St. Mary's on Saturday at 7 p.m.