The goal has been obtained and the wishes have been fulfilled. The LIU Blackbirds are going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997.
The Blackbirds knocked off Robert Morris, 85-82, in overtime at the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center on Wednesday night.
It was a longtime coming for LIU coach Jim Ferry.
“What a phenomenal basketball game,” Ferry said. “Both teams went out and just played with a lot of emotion… Our kids, like they have done all year, played together, played unselfishly and grinded it out. The entire season all the kids sacrificed for the big picture, and that’s what college athletics is all about.”
That’s not just coach speak. LIU (27-5) might just be the most unselfish group of players in the country. Four players average in double figures, while a fifth scores nine points per game. Two key bench players are averaging at least seven points per game.
Balance was again the key for the Blackbirds as four players scored in double figures. Sophomore forward Jamal Olasewere was the ringleader with a career-high 31 points. Seven of those came in overtime. C.J. Garner and Jason Brickman each had 15 points and freshman Kenny Onyechi added 13 points.
It’s been such a dream season, you can understand it if anyone from LIU is still having a hard time believing it.
“It’s all so surreal right now,” Olasewere said. “For a team like this to take a conference championship? It’s just all so surreal right now.”