By Michael Otero
On Friday, Feb. 27, the women’s basketball team (17-11) honored three graduating seniors when they hosted the Daemen College Wildcats (11-15). Junior center Nyasia Davis turned in a career performance as the Pioneers bested the Wildcats by a score of 70-65.
Davis earned her 16th double-double of the season, snagging a career-best 20 rebounds and pouring in 17 points. Not to be outdone, senior guard Chelsea Williams dropped a game-high 29 points and brought down 11 boards for her first double-double of the season.
The Pioneers jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead to open up, but the first half was a back-and-forth battle that ended up being that way until the halftime horn. At the break, the Pioneers led 33-31.
In the second half, the Pioneers were powered by the three-ball and big shots from senior guard Ashley Castle and junior guard Jalyn Brown. With just over three minutes left to play, sophomore guard Essence Casey hit a lay-up to give the Pioneers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Casey finished with six points while Castle added nine of her own.
On the same night, the men’s basketball team (16-12) also honored their seniors and then played host to the Wildcats from Daemen College (18-10). The Pioneers were led by an incredible display of shooting from the field and cruised to a 79-56 victory.
The Pioneers jumped out of the gate quickly and grabbed the early lead, but the Wildcats battled back to draw within four. With the score at 18-14, the Pioneers went on a 25-6 run to grab a commanding 43-20 advantage. The home team dominated down low, forced a lot of turnovers, and got a lot of second-chance opportunities. That’s a recipe for success.In the second half, the Pioneers built their lead to as much as 29 points and were in cruise control until the final horn sounded. For the game, senior guard Isiah Stokley had a game and season- high 19 points while senior forward Tyuan Williams had 18 points and six boards. Senior guard P.J. Torres totaled 14 points, seven rebounds, and seven dimes, as well.
The next slate of games both teams came on Sunday, March 1. The Pioneers concluded their 2014-2015 regular season with a matchup against the Redhawks from Roberts Wesleyan College and the game, which was broadcasted nationally on the CBS Sports Network, proved to be a good one for LIU as they earned a hard fought 69-61 victory.
The Pioneers were once again led by Williams, who scored 25 points, dished out seven assists, and brought down five rebounds while Davis posted yet another double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Castle added 16 points and eight boards, as well. The Pioneers led for most of the first half, but an 8-0 run by the Redhawks to close out the half cut the Green and Gold’s lead to 30-23 at halftime.
The second half was much closer, as the visitors trimmed the deficit to a mere one point multiple times. Brown drained a three pointer to put her squad up four points and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch from Williams and Castle preserved the victory for the hosts.
Next up for Coach Deirdre Moore and the squad are the NYIT Bears in a play-in game for the East Coast Conference Championships in Old Westbury. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Later that day, the men’s basketball team played host to the Roberts Wesleyan College Redhawks (10-16). Torres totaled 13 points, but his most important basket came with seven seconds left as he drove and nailed a running jumper to give the Pioneers a one-point lead. A three pointer that was off the mark by the Redhawks gave the Pioneers a great win.
The Pioneers played a very well rounded first half, shooting 50 percent from the field and playing great defense. The Green and Gold forced 15 turnovers and held the opposition to a field goal percentage of just 39 percent. At the break, the Pioneers led 40-29.
The second half was much different though, as the Redhawks began to find their rhythm and play cohesive basketball. They improved their shot selection and got out in transition more often, which led to easy baskets at the rim.
Junior guard Mike Stone led the charge in the second half for the Redhawks with nine points and three assists. The Pioneers countered with junior guard Devon McMillan who matched Stone in points in the half.
From the 3:17 mark, the scoring changed hands five times. The Pioneers led by one when the Redhawks nailed two free throws to put them ahead. Then senior forward Charles McCann converted on lay-up to take the lead back for LIU. The Redhawks however, answered with a bucket of their own to re-take the lead at 64-63. The Pioneers turned to Torres and he delivered with a huge basket to give the Pioneers the one-point gritty victory.
Head Coach Erik Smiles and his squad return to action when they take on the Lions from Molloy College in the play-in game for the East Coast Conference Championship. Tip-off is also set for 7:30 p.m. tonight.