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Blackbirds ‘bummed’

If you hear Jim Ferry tell it, his Long Island University men’s basketball team didn’t lose to St. John’s on Friday night. The Blackbirds gave it away. “We gotta win this game,” the coach said.

A glance at the stat sheet bears out his point. LIU made only 17-of-31 free throws and had 18 turnovers in the 73-63 loss at Carnesecca Arena. Both are areas that are controllable. The Blackbirds had 10 turnovers at halftime, yet still were down only 36-29 against their Big East opponents.

“We outplayed them in the first half,” Ferry said.

The game was a frustrating one for sophomore guard Kyle Johnson. He led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting and added six rebounds. There were spurts in which he looked like the best player on the floor. But free throws and turnovers prevented LIU from what would have been a monumental upset.

“We stress those so much,” Johnson said.

There were positives to take out of the game, though. For one, LIU stood toe-to-toe with a Big East foe — albeit a weak one — and forced St. John’s to earn the season-opening vicotry. Johnson became less of a shooter and more of a scorer Friday night, also, and that’s what Ferry recruited him for.

“I just felt more comfortable shooting the ball,” Johnson said of his freshman season.

Ferry added: “It was really maturity with Kyle. He had to learn the college game.

The Ontario, Canada native certainly didn’t look like just a shooter against St. John’s. He had a few circus layups and was able to drive strong to the hole on a number of occasions.

“He has the ability to score in a lot of different ways,” Ferry said.

Brooklyn native Jaytornah Wisseh is still hobbled with an ankle injury, but he contributed eight points and five assists for LIU. He wasn’t as explosive as usual, but Ferry also credited St. John’s point guard Malik Boothe with keeping him in check.

Though the Blackbirds are young — they only have two seniors on the roster and only one of them, Ronald Manigault, starts — Ferry says he thinks they “have a chance to be very good.” LIU was chosen to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches’ poll.

“I think,” Johnson said, “we’re definitely contending for the conference.”

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