I wasn’t able to watch any basketball yesterday, so to make up for that, I trekked to Brooklyn on just a few hours sleep to watch the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival doubleheader, featuring St. John’s, LIU-Brooklyn, Hofstra, and the mighty Kentucky Wildcats.
In the first game, the Blackbirds pulled off a one-point upset win over St. John’s, while Kentucky destroyed Hofstra in the second game.
Some quick notes on the mid-majors from Barclays Center:
LIU-Brooklyn 74 St. John’s 73
- Jack Perri is not afraid to push his players to the limit. Iverson Fleming played all 40 minutes and Jerome Frink played 36. Perri said after the game that he tried to sneak in quick rests for his guys near media timeouts, but it didn’t work out so that he could really get his players off the court for extended periods of time.
- Even without Joel Hernandez, the Blackbirds can win the NEC. Hernandez ended last year with a flourish and was supposed to be “the guy” this season. We didn’t, however, count on Fleming nearly tripling his scoring output this season or Jashaun Agosto averaging double figures as a freshman.
- This team has guts. Say what you will about St. John’s, but the Red Storm are a Big East team that, at the very least, has talent. The Blackbirds know this. When St. John’s went ahead by seven midway through the second half, no one would have batted an eye if LIU had folded. Instead, Frink scored five quick points to restore order and keep LIU in it.
- Now, it’s all about finding consistency. Not every game is going to be against a Big East opponent at Barclays Center. Will LIU bring it when they’re playing Sacred Heart instead of St. John’s? Remember, the Blackbirds came into this game following a 79-56 blowout loss at North Carolina Central.
Kentucky 96 Hofstra 73
- For a good part of the first half, Hofstra played smarter than Kentucky. The Pride found ways to get big man Rokas Gustys easy looks inside, visibly frustrating John Calipari on the Wildcats’ bench.
- Gustys only had eight rebounds, but you can see that he’s the nation’s leading rebounder for a reason. He doesn’t do anything special to get to the ball, but as soon as the shot goes up, Gustys instinctively puts his butt into the nearest opposing player. Rebounding is about getting position, and he does it exceptionally well.
- The first question Calipari was asked was how he would feel about facing Hofstra in March. His response: “Not good, because I’ll tell you, they were not afraid of us. At all. They were physical. They made shots. It was a three-point game and I was sitting there thinking ‘why did I schedule this game?’”
- Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich pointed out after the game that Hofstra basically played even with Kentucky for 33 minutes. The Pride trailed by three in the final three minutes of the first half but allowed a 12-0 run going into the locker room. Combine that with the first four minutes of the second half, and the run was 26-3: a 23-point difference, which is how much the Pride lost by.
- Hofstra finished with 19 offensive rebounds and out-scored Kentucky 24-7 on second-chance opportunities. Mihalich said there were a bunch of positives his team could take out of this game, and this is one of them: the Pride did not shy away from a bigger, more talented team.
- Deron Powers was asked to give his thoughts on this year’s Kentucky team, compared to two years ago when he faced the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament while playing for Hampton. “They had a little more depth than this team did,” he said of the 2015 Wildcats, who went undefeated in the regular season. “Especially size. They definitely had a lot more size.”