LIU hadn’t faced many challenges lately.
Riding an 11-game win streak heading into Sunday’s NEC semifinal game against Central Connecticut State, many believed the Blackbirds already had their NCAA ticket punched.
CCSU had other ideas and pushed top-seeded LIU to the brink. But the Blackbirds survived, prevailing, 69-67, over the Blue Devils at the Wellness, Recreation Center in downtown Brooklyn.
LIU (26-5) will host the winner of Quinnipiac and Robert Morris in the NEC final on Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Freshman Jason Brickman had a career-high 16 points. Jamal Olasewere also had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Bayport-Blue Point graduate Robby Ptacek led CCSU (19-12) with 15 points.
LIU was beginning to pull away late in the second and led 59-51 with three minutes left. Ptacek as he drained three three-pointers over the next 2:44 and cut the Blackbirds lead to 66-65 with 16 seconds left.
Jason Brickman (2) and Michael Culpo hit three free throws in the final 10 seconds to seal it.
It wasn’t the typical game for the Blackbirds, which usually boasts several double-digit scorers and gets into the 80s. But the offense was sluggish and sloppy. LIU’s leading scorer Julian Boyd (6 points) didn’t get his first basket until the 6:10 mark of the second half.