FAIRFIELD, CT (January 5, 2012) – Sacred Heart junior Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) poured in 28 points for his fifth-straight 20-point game but it wouldn't be enough as the Pioneers came up short against the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, 87-81, Thursday night in the William H. Pitt Center. The Blackbirds used a punishing inside game outscoring SHU 52-26 in the paint led by double doubles from junior forwards Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd to improve to 3-0 in the Northeast Conference. SHU fell to 7-9 overall and 1-2 in the NEC with the loss.
LIU (9-6, 3-0 NEC) sprinted out offensively and grabbed an early 14-point lead in the game's first five minutes. Olasewere, who finished with a season-high 29 points, and C.J. Garner hit lay-ups on the first two possessions prompting a time-out from SHU head coach Dave Bike to right the ship. LIU kept the offensive pressure on and three's by Olasewere and Jason Brickman helped lead the Blackbirds to a 21-7 lead at 14:27.
The Blackbird lead sat at 27-13 with just under 10 minutes left in the half when the Pioneers began to chip away. Junior Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ) and sophomore Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT) drilled back-to-back threes to cut the lead to 29-23. Swidowski buried his second three of the half at 3:59 to pull SHU within 35-30 and then converted on a back-door pass from Phil Gaetano (Wallingford, CT) to slice the lead to just three, 37-34, with just over two to play in the half.
After a long Gibson three put the Pioneers down just a bucket, Swidowski made the comeback complete tying the score with a follow-up dunk on the fast break, knotting it at 39-39 with 48 seconds left. Olasewere would give his team the lead into the locker room with an offensive put-back, 41-39. He would finish with 11 points in the first half while Swidowski and Gibson each had 12 points. SHU hit six-of-eight from behind the arch in the first stanza while LIU was just three-of-12
The Pioneers (7-9, 1-2 NEC) would take their first lead of the night just over two minutes in to the second half as consecutive fast-break finishes from Swidowski left SHU up 47-45. A Gibson three at the fifteen minute mark gave the Pioneers a 54-52 lead and another triple at 12:56 gave SHU their biggest lead at 59-55. The two teams would tie the score four times before an Olasewere jumper put LIU up 68-66 with 4:53 left. SHU sophomore Luis Montes (Brockton, MA) knotted it a ninth time and then gave the Pioneers their final lead of the night thanks to a put-back and one at 4:26 for a 69-68 edge.
From there a couple of key plays swung the momentum to the Blackbirds who never looked back. At 4:13, Gibson collected a long rebound off a missed three and looked headed for a fast break lay-up but was called for a push-off offensive foul en route. With 3:37 left, sophomore Chris Evans (Stamford, CT) was whistled for a flagrant one intentional foul on Gardner who hit the two free throws. Getting to keep the ball, Olasewere drew a foul and hit a pair and the Blackbirds were off on a game-changing 7-0 spurt. Culpo and Brickman each followed with lay-ups and LIU would lead 76-69 with 1:49 left.
The Pioneers would be forced to foul down the stretch and the Blackbirds took care of business hitting 11 of 14 at the charity stripe in the closing 1:14 to seal the win. Swidowski hit his third three of the night to pull SHU within 82-78 but that would be as close as the Pioneers could get. The junior center finished with a career-high 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting in the loss.
Gibson finished 11-of-18 and hit six-of-nine behind the arc on his way to a 28 point night. His six three's were a season-high mark and tied his career-best shooting effort from three-point land. Over his last five games, Gibson is 21-of-38 from three (.553) and averaging 23.8 points per game.
Montes finished with 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Pioneers. SHU made just five-of-seven at the free throw line while LIU Brooklyn hit 20-of-31.
Olasewere added 12 rebounds to his game-high 29 points as well as four steals and a pair of blocks. Boyd scored 12 points and posted 12 rebounds. Guards Gardner and Brickman also chipped in double digits with 18 and 16 points, respectively. The Blackbirds shot 48.5% (32-66) from the field on the night in winning their fourth-straight.
The Pioneers will remain at home and play host to the St. Francis (NY) Terriers on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm