BROOKLYN, N.Y. — In the words of new coach Sean Woods, Morehead State "seized the sizzle" Friday night by beating Long Island University Brooklyn 77-74.
The victory, which came in the first college basketball game in the new Barclays Center, inaugurated Woods' tenure as coach. His players acknowledged the need to begin with a victory.
"It felt great," guard Devon Atkinson said. "We got the monkey off all our backs."
Three-point shooting, led by an unlikely star, contributed mightily to the victory, which snapped LIU's 27-game winning streak in its home borough.
The Eagles made nine of 23 three-point shots. Milton Chavis, who did not make a three (and only took one) in Ohio Valley Conference play last season, led the way by hitting four of six. He led Morehead State with 24 points.
"Man, I've been working on that the whole summer," Chavis said. "My hard work paid off."
Chavis personally symbolized the start of Woods' time as coach by changing numbers. He wore No. 32 last season. He switched to No. 24.
"New beginnings," he said. "New beginnings."
By contrast, LIU Brooklyn, a veteran team (four starters back from a NCAA Tournament team), made only two of 16 three-point attempts. The Blackbirds made 37.1 percent of its shots beyond the arc in going 25-9 last season.
None of Chavis' threes seemed bigger than the one he made mid-way through the second half. With a Morehead State double-digit lead reduced to 61-57, he made his fourth three-pointer to ease the tension.
After LIU Brooklyn closed within a point, Bakari Turner hit two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to ease Morehead State to victory.
Morehead State led 38-37 at halftime. A disparity from the three-point line made the difference.
LIU made one of six shots from beyond the arc during the first half; Morehead State hit six of 13. Chavis made three of four. He finished with 15 points (or more than double his average of 7.1 last season) for the half.
LIU Brooklyn Coach Jack Perri credited a coaching move by Woods as a factor.
"When he was at Mississippi Valley State, they pressed and trapped," Perri said. "They didn't do that."
Woods smiled broadly when told of how Perri acknowledged getting caught by surprise. No doubt that sweetened a good beginning.
"Very important," Woods said of getting off to a good start as Morehead State coach. "Because we had a lot of Morehead State fans travel with us."