St. Francis College’s Ben Mockford could hear someone on the Long Island University bench yelling at him that he can’t shoot, like a bully jeering on a playground.
Mockford was determined to prove the mocking Blackbird wrong at the Pope Center Thursday night — and he glared at the heckler after he sunk each of his early baskets.
“I just looked at him,” Mockford said.
The points kept coming even after he had silenced the bench, and Mockford scored a career-high 30 points to propel the St. Francis College men’s basketball team to a 78–64 victory over LIU on Jan. 9, in both squads’ Northeast Conference opener — and the first installment of this season’s Battle of Brooklyn.
“It was just kind of in rhythm, most of my shots,” Mockford said. “Normally I take some crazy ones here and there, but my feet were set today and I was knocking them down.”
Mockford, who made his first start in four games, tied a career high with eight three-pointers. He shot 11 of 18 from the field and was a perfect six-for-six from behind the arc in the second half. Mockford played down the idea that being taunted played a role in his big performance, but his teammates felt otherwise.
“People talking smack to him, I feel like that gets him going, a little rowdy and ready to go,” said forward Jalen Cannon. “That was a key to him hitting all those threes.”
The victory ends Long Island University’s six-game winning streak over its Brooklyn rival. It was a big first step for a Terriers team that has its eyes on its first-ever berth in the conference tournament — and potentially, a title.
“It was a good night for us,” said St. Francis coach Glenn Braica. “We got to beat an arch rival.”
Cannon scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Brent Jones tallied eight points and dished out a career-high 12 assists.
Landon Atterberry led LIU (5–9, 0–1) with 19 points, Gerrell Martin had 18 and E. J. Reed chipped in 11.
The Terriers (10–6, 1–0) also pounded LIU inside. It out rebounded the Blackbirds 52–28 overall, including 26 offensive rebounds. It was an advantage the Terriers hope to exploit.
“Teams like this, they play a zone, there is going to be easy rebounds on the offensive glass,” Cannon said.
Blackbirds coach Jack Perri told Braica at halftime that he had never seen a rebounding stat that lopsided. It was something the coach was afraid of with a front line thinned out by injures.
“They missed some shots and we couldn’t get a rebound,” Perri said. “I’ve been talking to them about gang rebounding since we got back from Texas. I knew that was the biggest key to the game.”
St. Francis had a four-game winning streak snapped by Columbia on Jan.4, but rebounded quickly with this win. It’s a toughness that has Braica optimistic about how far this team can go.
“They are resilient,” he said. “They have certain something about them where they don’t give in.”