By Anthony Covino
BROOKLYN — Junior guard Julian Batts scored a last-second field goal as the No. 4 LIU Sharks held off a furious rally by the No. 5 seeded FDU Knights 73-72 in the Northeast Conference tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 4.
FDU, the defending champion, lost to LIU both times this year in NEC play. The Knights end the season 11-19 after going 9-9 in league play. LIU advances to the semis with a 15-17 record after going 9-9 in the NEC. They will travel to take on the top-seeded Robert Morris Colonials, who edged No. 8 seeded St. Francis (Brooklyn), 59-58, Wednesday.
“The key to the first half was that we let Ty Flowers and Raiquan Clark [score]. We got back into the game and we made an incredible run, took the lead, and blocked the shot, but it went out of bounds,” FDU head coach Greg Herenda said. “It was the longest 3.1 seconds. Clark got the ball, then to Batts and he shot it and banked it. It’s really hard. I’m proud of my team. They didn’t quit and the game was 0.8 seconds too long.”
This was the second time in three seasons the Knights were eliminated by LIU in the conference tournament.
FDU fought back in the second half, outscoring their opponent 43-29, but their comeback attempt came up just short. LIU led for nearly 30 minutes, stretching its advantage to as many as 19 points before FDU rallied in the final 13:26.
Junior forward Elyjah Williams had 12 rebounds and led the Knights with 21 points including a free throw that put FDU ahead 72-71 with 28 seconds remaining.
FDU senior forward Kaleb Bishop scored 8 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the final game of his career.
The Knights had no answer for redshirt sophomore forward Ty Flowers who scored 21 — 17 in the first half.
First team All-NEC redshirt forward Raiquan Clark scored 19 for the Sharks. Clark also pulled down the crucial offensive rebound that set the stage for the Sharks to have an opportunity to hit the game-winning shot.
The atmosphere in the Shark’s gym, the Steinberg Wellness Center, was rowdy, and the crowd noise would only get louder and louder as LIU started to stretch its lead in the first half.
Herenda received a technical foul in the first half as a travel was called on senior forward Kaleb Bishop after what looked to be a foul on LIU.
LIU went into the half with a 44-29 lead, and FDU needed to limit LIU’s fast breaks from the first half in order to keep the game within reach. LIU hit six 3-pointers in the first half — most of them on fast breaks.
After a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and winning the first tournament game in program history, the Knights were unable to follow up their historic season.