NEW YORK (AP) — C.J. Garner scored a career-high 31 points and LIU Brooklyn punched its ticket for the NCAA tournament with a 91-70 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night in the finals of the Northeast Conference tournament.
Jamal Olasewere added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Blackbirds (20-13), who became the only team to win three straight conference tournament titles. Coach Jack Perri also became the third coach in the conference to win the title in his first year on the job.
After a frantic back-and-forth first half, LIU Brooklyn opened the second half with a 35-31 lead. Led by a decisive dunk by Olasewere and a three-point play from Garner, the Blackbirds went on a 13-4 run to go ahead by 13 only 6 minutes into the half.
LIU Brooklyn didn’t allow Mount St. Mary’s to pull closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Sam Prescott scored 21 points for the Mountaineers (18-14).
The enthusiastic LIU Brooklyn crowd, which spent much of the second half chanting “Brooklyn Three-peat”, stormed the floor to celebrate what was a career night for Garner and a definitive statement for the small LIU program.
It also cut the Mount Saint Mary’s comeback from an ugly start to the season a bit short. The fifth-seeded Mountaineers came in riding a nine-game win streak after upsetting top-seeded Robert Morris for a chance to play in the finals. A win for Mount St. Mary’s would have topped an impressive turnaround for the team, which started a dismal 2-6 in conference play.
During the first half, it seemed as though the Mountaineers would take this one. LIU Brooklyn didn’t grab its first lead until more than 10 minutes had passed. From there, it was back-and-forth with five lead changes until the Blackbirds took over in the second half.
Prescott started 4-for-4 from 3-point range before going cold in the second half for the Mountaineers, while Garner scored 17 of his points and Olasewere 10 after the break. The Blackbirds for close 68 percent in the second half.
Garner, who averaged 28 points during the tournament, was named its most valuable player.
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