Skill, versatility and depth are three traits that every college coach in America hopes to develop with their team. Teams that exhibit those traits are usually NCAA Tournament contenders.
Enter the LIU Blackbirds, who clearly have everything a coach would want in a team. With versatile scorers at every position, LIU was the team to beat in the NEC this year.
Those statements were on display Thursday night as the top-seeded Blackbirds dispatched No. 8 Sacred Heart, 80-68, in a NEC quarterfinal. Five players finished in double figures, including reserve junior guard Brandon Thompson, who hit three three-pointers for a career-high 11 points.
But none of this is new. LIU coach Jim Ferry, an Elmont native, knows what he has in his team. But even Ferry knows that any team is vulnerable in a one-game elimination tournament. And he has to work hard to keep his team grounded.
That point was driven home last Saturday when LIU was blasted 106-78 in its regular-season finale by Monmouth. Ferry wasn’t happy about that loss and didn’t think there was anything good about it.
Said Ferry: “No loss is good for any reason, at all “We had to regroup, understand why we loss and move on…From a humility standpoint it brings everybody back to earth…But I don’t ever look at losses as being good, to be honest. My world stops when we lose and it doesn’t start again until we win.”
Junior forward Jamal Olasewere (20 points, 8 rebounds) agreed.
"We played bad that game and we knew we had to bounce back somehow," he said. "I felt like this week of practice was very aggressive. We knew coming into this game we had to be that aggressive, because Sacred Heart wasn't going come and lay down for us."
The Blackbirds will host No. 5 Quinnipiac in a semifinal on Sunday at 6 p.m.