NEW YORK — 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.
Seton Hall 46, South Florida 42
NEW YORK — Fuquan Edwin scored 17 points, including the final six in regulation, and Seton Hall rallied past South Florida in overtime in the unsightly opener of a last-of-its-kind Big East tournament.
Gene Teague added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the 12th-seeded Pirates (15-17), who face No. 19 Syracuse in the second round on Wednesday afternoon.
Even after playing an extra 5 minutes, the teams barely eclipsed the lowest-scoring game in Big East tournament history, Georgetown’s 46-41 first-round victory over Villanova in 2003.
Zach LeDay had 13 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 13 seed South Florida (12-19), which shot 24.2 percent and squandered an eight-point cushion down the stretch in a game between offensively challenged squads that both went 3-15 in conference play this season.
WOMEN Notre Dame 61, Connecticut 59
HARTFORD, Conn. — Natalie Achonwa’s layup with 1.8 seconds left lifted No. 2 Notre Dame to its first Big East tournament championship with a 61-59 victory over third-ranked UConn on Tuesday night.
Skylar Diggins stole an errant pass from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with 8 seconds left, and after dribbling through a few defenders, found Achonwa for the uncontested lay-in.
Kelly Faris’ 3-point heave from 65 feet fell harmlessly off the backboard, setting off a wild celebration for the Irish, who have won 26 straight games.
Notre Dame (31-1) had been in the title game six times, including the previous two, and lost to the Huskies in each one.
The Irish weren’t going to be denied in their final chance to win an elusive Big East tournament championship. Earlier in the day, Notre Dame announced it would be joining the ACC starting next season — a year earlier than expected.
S. Dakota St. 56, South Dakota 53
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Megan Waytashek scored 11 points and grabbed a key rebound in the last minute to help South Dakota State beat South Dakota 56-53 on Tuesday in the Summit League tournament final.
Gabrielle Boever had seven steals for South Dakota State (25-7), which secured an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with its fifth consecutive Summit League title.