The Iona Gaels defeated Manhattan College 95-73 Saturday night in front of a noisy crowd at the Draddy Gym in Riverdale.
The teams came into the game tied with Loyola for first place in the Metro Atlantic Conference, all three at 10-2. Manhattan had won eight in a row including a 75-72 win over Iona in New Rochelle won on a last second three point shot by Emmy Andujar.
After a close first half in which Iona lead 44-38 at the break, the Gaels pulled away with a 7-0 run at the beginning of the second half.
Mike Glover had 19 points and seven rebounds leading the Gaels, now 19-5 on the year. Iona's back court pair of Scott Machado and "Momo" Jones both had 18 points.
George Beamon had 26 for Jaspers. Iona at 11-2, is tied with Loyola for first in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. They play in Baltimore Friday night.
There was a noisy, sold out crowd Saturday night at Manhattan College's Draddy gym. Manhattan studnets were out in force, some wore green face piant and more.
The crowds of students were noisy and demonstrative standing behind each basket. The Manhattan students were supportive of Rhomel Brown's early free-throw attempt.
Manhattan tried to play half court basketball against the Gaels, and not let them play a fast break game.
Scott Machado not only leads the country in assists per game but is the Gaels floor leader and point of their half court defense.
Lamont "Momo" Jones played on Arizona's Elite Eight team as the point guard. After transferring to Iona and gaining a waiver to play right away, he and Scott Machado have worked hard to combine their skills on the court.
Momo found his shooting touch in the prior game against Canisius when he scored a Hynes Center record 43 points. In this game he effectively used his "pull-up jumper" to be an offensive force for Iona.
RaShad James, from White Plains, is a first year player for the Gaels who transferred in after playing at St. Thomas Acquinas in Rockland. The 6'1" guard is averaging 8.8 minutes per game and scoring 3.6 points. Next year he will have a major opportunity to play when both veterans Scott Machado and Jermel Jenkins will have graduated.
George Beamon, a 6'4" forward from Roslyn, NY, has been a key offensive player for Manhattan, averaging over 16 points and five rebounds per game.
Sophomore forward Sean Armand can compare to Momo Jones as the best shooter on the Gaels. He had 32 points against Siena at Madison Square Garden in January. He is averaging over eight points per game coming off the bench and providing instant offense.
Armand leads the Gaels in three-point shooting, having made an even 50 at a rate of 45.5 percent. When Sean has his shot, the Gaels seem to score every time trip down the floor.
Scott Machado has grown this year into a floor leader for the Gaels who is very much in charge on the court. He averages 10 assists per game, which leads the entire NCAA Division I. The addition of "Momo" Jones to the lineup has given Machado another direction to pass to and less pressure on himself. This has opened up the lane for drives to the basket.
Jermel Jenkins, another senior guard for Iona, lost playing time when Momo Jones came to the Gaels. He has come off the bench to provide scoring punch and extra energy to the Gaels. He averages 5.2 points per game in just 14 minutes playing time per game.
Jermel has one one of the best three point shots on the team averaging making 37.7 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
Mike Glover has been a consistent force for the Gaels under the basket, averaging 18.5 points and 9 rebounds per game. His shooting percentage of 66.5 percent is fifth best in the NCAA.
On the defensive end, Glover has worked to improve his game and leads the team with 30 blocks.
Glover is perpetually double-teamed in the low post, freeing Iona's guards for rebounds and open shots. He takes his share of bumps and bruises often ending up on the court at the end of plays.
The Gaels have had to work on team defense especially in the second half of games. Here Emmy Andujar lofts a second half jumper.
Scott Machado ended up with 18 points and nine assists in his last performance on the Draddy gym court. In future years we will think back days to the days when Machado was the point guard for Iona leading the Gaels.
Manhattan's Emmy Andujar ended the night with seven points and six assists.
"Momo" Jones had 18 points, including five threes, six rebounds, and two assists on another strong night. Jones credits extra long nights in the gym working on his shooting as the reason for his strong performances last week against Canisius Thursday night, then again Saturday against the Jaspers.
Machado dotted the "I" on the night with a near dunk to finish off the game that gave the Gaels an 85-73 win. The rivalry is back between these two schools and teams located less ten miles from each other.
At the post game press conference:
Manhattan coach Steve Masiello was complementary to Iona and to the the Manhattan fans who crowded the Draddy gym for the game. He said:
"Iona has a terrific team, give them a lot of credit for coming into an atmosphere like this and coming away with a win. There is a reason why they are in first place in this conference".
On why Iona pulled out to a second half lead, he credit the Iona shooting and said,
"Our field goal percentage defense was not good enough", adding "Against good teams you can not always play from behind".
Having been at the dominating win by Iona at Manhattan last February which attracted a much smaller and quieter crowd, I asked coach Masiello about what had brought the energy back to the building and program.
"I believe it is the way we conduct our lives, the way we conduct our basketball, our academics, our social lives. Any thing you put time your time and energy into, it is real hard to give up on. These guys put so much time and energy into this they have no choice but wanting to do well. This is not just basketball, it is a life style we live, it is the way we walk, talk, act in the classroom. It is 5:45 in AM till 11:30 at night, it is who they are. We are family, it is not just about the four years, it is about the next forty years, we are all in this together. These are my kids, and we are a family, and we understand that."
After the game, Iona Coach Tim Cluess led off the press conference with comments about the excitement that was evident at the game,
"I 'm really proud of my team's effort tonight and the way they came in to a tough environment, a great environment for New York basketball and fought so hard to get a victory. I know a couple of years ago, when there were a lot of changes going on in coaches area, we all talked about what it would be like when all these teams got good again. We were going back going back twenty years ago when all the games were like this, the gyms were packed. This was phenomenal stuff for both teams. Great job by both teams student athletes. I give them a lot of credit, I give our team a ton of credit."
After the game, the Iona players appeared satisfied that they had gone into a big game, in front of a large noisy crowd and done well. The loss to Manhattan in New Rochelle last month was top of mind, so payback was an objective they achieved.
Lmaont "Momo" Jones commented about the win,
"Meant a lot, it meant the world, we just want to come into each game, make a statement, and just play hard. We wanted to get some payback, grow up some as Coach would say."
Point guard, Scott Machado answered a question about the last lay-up he made which was close to a dunk and the injury to his knee which took him out of the game for a few minutes in the second half,
"Kind of a relief we got the win even with a banged up knee".
I asked Mike Glover about the injury to his eye he suffered making a dunk early in the second half,
"Eye should be fine, trainer gave me some drops, should be fine tomorrow."
The Gaels will travel Friday night to play Loyola in Maryland for the top spot in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The teams go into the showdown game tied at 11-2. Loyola is 18-5 on the year Iona 19-5.
Loyola comes into the game having won their last six, Iona has won their last four. The Gaels travel well having won 13 games away from the Hynes Center this year.
The game is sold out to the public, a few tickets may be available at the box an hour prior to the game.
ESPNU will provide national coverage.
Should be a good one.
Ken Kraetzer covers Iona basketball and West Point football for 1460 AM WVOX in New Rochelle and available nationally on WVOX.com. Listen to his reports before and after each game at 6:35 AM. His Twitter address is SAL50NYRadio.