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LIU Brooklyn must readjust without Joel Hernandez

The Blackbirds did beat Loyola in their first game without the injured senior.

NCAA Basketball: LIU Brooklyn at St. Joseph
LIU Brooklyn will be without Joel Hernandez for some time.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

LIU Brooklyn started its season with a 78-40 blowout victory over John Jay on Nov. 11.

That part of the game - getting the win - went according to plan.

Unfortunately for the Blackbirds, senior Joel Hernandez suffered a potentially season-ending dislocated thumb late in the second half, muting what should have been a celebration.

Last year, the Blackbirds didn’t have a senior on the roster. Hernandez was expected to be an integral part of a team that now has four seniors, and with the departures of Martin Hermannsson and Aakim Saintil, he entered the season as the Blackbirds’ second leading scorer. He was also expected to fill the distribution and ball handling void left by Hermannsson’s departure.

The injury has caused head coach Jack Perri to shake up lineups against Loyola (MD).

In the Blackbirds’ 65-61 win, sophomore guard Raul Frias got the start and freshmen guards Jashaun Agosto and Julian Batts also played significant minutes. It’s a work in progress, and it’s clear that Perri knows that more than one player will need to step up to make up for the loss.

“We’re going to have to figure this out, because we’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t played before… We played [Julian] Batts and Jashaun [Agosto] together, two freshman. Once they got past some jitters, they did some good things,” Perri said postgame.

LIU was able to hold Loyola’s Andre Walker and Jarred Jones to 31 percent shooting from the floor, an impressive figure considering both are good scorers.

Hernandez may not be in uniform, but the Loyola win shows that he can still contribute. He was on the floor during warm-ups with his teammates, helping to facilitate, and offering words of advice. During the game, he was vocal on the bench.

This leadership has not gone unnoticed.

“He’s [Hernandez] a great leader, cheering us from the bench, and having his voice out there,” said fellow senior Iverson Fleming (16 points against Loyola).

Fleming also shared that the Blackbirds still consider themselves to be a team to look out for, and that his expectations for this team are high.

“If we want to go deep in the NCAA tournament, everyone has to up their level. Everyone from the top guy to the bottom guy,” he said.

It seems Perri shares Fleming’s sentiments, as almost every player on the roster saw some time on the court Wednesday night.

LIU returns to action Saturday night in Boston against Northeastern.