SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Despite a sold out crowd at the Chace Athletic Center, the Bryant University men's basketball came up just short, falling to LIU Brooklyn in a last-second thriller, 79-78, Saturday afternoon.
A pair of huge buckets from senior center Vlad Kondratyev (Niklayev, Ukraine) granted the Bulldogs (13-6, 6-2 Northeast Conference) the 69-65 lead at the 8:45 mark, but two-straight Blackbird (10-10, 5-3) scores tied the two teams, 69-69, with 7:35 to play.
The visitors found themselves ahead, 75-72, with four minutes left, but an Alex Francis (Harlem, N.Y.) bucket at 3:40 brought the Black and Gold within just one. Jamal Olasewere answered right back for the Blackbirds, extending their lead to three, 77-74. Another Olasewere tip-in pushed the LIU lead up to five, but the Bulldogs responded in the form of a Francis layup, cutting the advantage to just three once again, 79-76, with 30 seconds remaining in the contest.
Off a missed 3-pointer with under than 10 seconds left, Francis corralled the rebound and laid the ball in hoop, absorbing the contact and drawing a foul in the process to bring the Bulldogs within a single point, 79-78, with 1.2 ticks left on the clock. With the chance to tie it at the line, though, Francis was unable to convert as the Bulldogs fell just short, 79-78, suffering just their sixth loss of the season.
Sophomore guard Dyami Starks (Duluth, Minn.) led all scorers with 25 points (22 in the first half) and three rebounds, while Francis put up 16 points and grabbed a game-high eight boards. Senior point guard Frankie Dobbs (Berea, Ohio) finished with 11 points and eight assists in 40 minutes of play.
Olasewere paced the Blackbirds with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while junior Jason Brickman posted a double-double, finishing with 11 points and 10 assists. Senior Booker Hucks and freshman E.J. Reed added some quality minutes off the bench, registering 14 and 15 points, respectively.
After shooting a scorching 62 percent in the first half, the Bulldogs cooled off a bit in the second to finish the game at a 52 percent clip. The Blackbirds shot just as well, closing the contest with 53 percent shooting. LIU dominated the paint, outscoring Bryant, 46-32, while grabbing 10 more rebounds, 35-25. The visitors were boosted by some great bench play, adding 33 points from their reserves.
Behind the roars of a packed crowd at the Chace Athletic Center, the Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 11-7 advantage, missing just one of their first six shot attempts through the opening four minutes. The Blackbirds weathered the early Bulldog attack, earning their first lead of the day, 13-12, at the 13:49 mark, but a pair of emphatic dunks from Francis edged the Bulldogs back in front, 20-18, with 10 minutes to play until the break.
The teams traded the lead back-and-forth through the six-minute mark until three-straight deep balls from Starks pushed Bryant into a 41-30 lead with four minutes remaining in the first frame. After a pair of buckets from the visitors, Starks struck again, nailing his sixth 3-pointer of the half to grant the Bulldogs a 10-point lead, 44-34, with two minutes remaining until halftime.
A barrage of baskets from both sides closed the high-scoring half with Bryant leading, 49-42. Starks led all scorers at the break with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, including hitting 6-of-8 from deep. Dobbs chipped in with nine points and six assists in 20 minutes, while Francis added eight points and a pair of boards. Reed paced the Blackbirds with 13 points on 4-of-4 shooting, while Hucks put up 11 points in nine minutes.
Bryant struggled to find its groove in the opening minutes of the second half and the Blackbirds took advantage, opening the final 20 minutes on a 12-1 run for a 54-50 advantage before a Joe O'Shea (Burlington, Vt.) bucket at the 15:29 mark finally halted the Blackbird attack.
The evenly matched squads each took their turn with the lead as the up-and-down contest found the game knotted at 63-63 with 11 minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs will have just a few days to regroup before they hit the road for a pair of games in New Jersey, taking on Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday (7 p.m.) and Monmouth on Saturday (7 p.m.).
For all the latest news on the Bryant University men's basketball team, visit BryantBulldogs.com.