Men's Basketball Falls Short In NEC Semifinals To No. 1 LIU Brooklyn, 78-75

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Senior James Johnson (Queens, N.Y.) and sophomore Ike Azotam (Boston, Mass.) each scored 17 points apiece on Sunday night, but the Quinnipiac University men's basketball team was outlasted by No. 1 LIU Brooklyn, 78-75, in the Northeast Conference Tournament Semifinals at the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. With the loss, the Bobcats conclude the 2011-12 season with an 18-13 record, leaving the Blackbirds to make their second consecutive NEC Finals appearance on Wednesday night. 

In front of a packed-house on the campus of LIU, two of the conference's top teams battled in a tremendous display of college basketball. James Johnson was sensational in his final collegiate game, as the 6-foot guard became the seventh player in QU history to surpass 1,700 points (1,713). He also added two rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes on the hardwood.

Three other Bobcats registered double-figures for the visitors, led by Azotam who netted 11 of his 17 points in the second frame. He also snatched eight rebounds before fouling out in the final minute of play. Jamee Jackson (Newark, N.J.) fared well alongside of Azotam with 12 points and three rebounds, while Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, Md.) chimed in with 10 points and four rebounds.

Trailing by four points at the break, the Bobcats mounted a ferocious comeback in the second frame. Azotam gave the Bobcats their first lead of the half with a layup at the 14:51 mark, which was then followed by a 17-8 run over the next 10 minutes. James Johnson capped off the surge with a three-pointer from the wing, granting QU its largest advantage of the game at eight points, 65-57.

However, the experience of the Blackbirds became prevalent, as LIU responded with a 12-4 run behind All-Conference standouts Julian Boyd and Jason Brickman. With the score knotted at 69 apiece, Boyd and Brickman then proceeded to foster baskets on consecutive trips, putting LIU in front 73-69 with three minutes remaining in regulation. Free-throws came into play after that, where Jamal Olasewere and CJ Gardner extended the lead to five points with 1:23 seconds showing on the clock.

In their ensuing offensive trip, the Bobcats used their post play to keep the game close. Jamee Jackson powered his way to the block and laid the ball up-and-in to make it a three-point game, 75-72. Unfortunately that was as close as the Bobcats would get for the remainder of the contest. Empty possessions coupled with LIU free-throws disallowed QU to find the equalizer, solidifying another trip to the NEC Finals for the Blackbirds.

For the game, Quinnipiac outshot LIU, 46.4 percent to 43.3 percent, from the floor, 46.2 percent to 21.1 percent, from long-distance and edged the Blackbirds in the paint, 36-34. Conversely though, LIU became the just the fifth team on the season to outrebound QU, descending the Bobcats to 1-4 when failing to control the glass.

The foul discrepancy also may have contributed to the outcome of the game. Quinnipiac was charged with 28 fouls on the night, resulting in 30 free-throw attempts for the Blackbirds. LIU Brooklyn committed 17 fouls, sending the Bobcats to the charity stripe just 10 times.

One plagued by foul trouble was Dave Johnson (Jackson, N.J.), who chimed in with seven points and four assists in 26 minutes, well below his season-average. Garvey Young (Washington, D.C.) had four points, Ousmane Drame (Boston, Mass.) totaled five points and eight rebounds and Evan Conti (Bayside, N.Y.) finished with three points in the losing effort. 

LIU, who will face No. 3 Robert Morris in the finals, was led by Boyd and Brickman. Boyd collected a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds, while Brickman added 18 points and five helpers.

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Contact: Tony Distasio;