BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- LIU Brooklyn became the first team in the 32-year history of the Northeast Conference to claim three straight tournament titles when it knocked off Mount St. Mary's, 91-70, Wednesday night.
By virtue of the win, the Blackbirds (20-13) receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It was the fourth straight game where they scored 90 points or more.
Mount St. Mary's (18-14) was seeking to become the first school in the NEC to win a conference championship by winning all three tournament games on the road. The Mountaineers ousted top-seeded Robert Morris in the semifinals.
But coach Jamion Christian's team ran into a human buzz saw in LIU Brookyln's C.J. Garner. The senior guard led the Blackbirds with a career-high 31 points, displaying a variety of spin moves, floaters and ball-handling skills that the Mountaineers found difficult to defend.
The 5-10 Garner has scored at least 30 points in three of his last four games and is averaging 23.4 points in his last 11 games. LIU Brooklyn's Jamal Olaswere, the NEC Player of the Year, scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Mountaineers, who saw their nine-game win streak snapped, received 21 points from Sam Prescott and 12 points from Kristijan Krajina off the bench.
The Blackbirds used a 14-2 run to start the second quarter to roll ahead 49-35 with 14:17 left to play. Garner scored five in the run and Olasewere chipped in with four points.
Mount St. Mary's trademark 3-point shooting, which had been effective in the first half, abandoned it in the second. The Mounties sank just 3 of 18 from the beyond the arc.
The first half was played at break-neck speed, featuring five lead changes and four ties. Neither team maintained more than an eight-point advantage.
The Blackbirds scored six straight points to end the half and took a 35-31 lead, erasing a 31-29 Mountaineers lead. Mount St. Mary's used its trademark long-range shooting to grab an early 20-12 advantage.
Prescott connected on each of his first four 3-point attempts in that run and finished the half with 15 points. Not to be outdone, his backcourt opponent, Garner, deposited 14 first-half points. Garner was particularly effective driving the lane, as the Blackbirds collected 24 points in the paint before the break.
NOTES: LIU Brooklyn coach Jack Perri and Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian are both finalists for the Joe B. Hall Award, presented to the top first-year coach in Division I. ... Mount St. Mary's guard Shivaughn Wiggins was named the Northeast Conference's Rookie of the Year, only the second time in school history a player received that award. He averaged 9.6 points per game and shot 46.8 percent from 3-point range. ... LIU Brooklyn entered the game ranked sixth in the country in scoring (79.1 ppg) and 14th in offensive field-goal percentage (47.9). The Blackbirds also were second in the nation in free-throw attempts per game (26.1) and third in makes per game (18.0).