The Iona College Gaels (2-1) men's basketball team had an impressive win Saturday 94-68 over Wake Forest of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Paradise Jam Basketball Tournament in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
Iona will play for the fifth-place trophy on Monday playing University of Illinois-Chicago Flames from the Horizon League at 5 p.m. EST.
This type of success for a mid-major team like Iona against a team from a major conference like Wake Forrest from the ACC is why these tournaments are valued. Normally it is very hard for a school like Iona to schedule home and away games against teams who don't want to play in a small gym environment like Iona's 2,500 seat Hynes Center. But in these early season tournaments played at neutral sites, the mid-major teams can get a chance to show what they can do against power conference opponents.
The Gaels lost their Friday night opening round game 98-92 to Quinnipiac University in overtime despite the 40-point effort of senior point guard Lamont "Momo" Jones. At the end of regulation, Jones hit a three-point shot to extend the game.
After a first half tied at 32, the Gaels fell behind by eight 74-66 to the Bobcats with 1:46 left, but Jones' three-point shot tied the game with four seconds left in regulation. Quinnipiac dominated the overtime, building its lead to 95-85 on a free throw by James Jackson.
Adding to the 40 points scored by "Momo" Jones, Sean Armand had 18 points and Tre Bowman finished with 15. Senior forward Taaj Ridley contributed nine rebounds and seven points in 32 minutes.
In the 94-68 win over Wake on Saturday, the Gaels motored to a 37-5 lead with just 8:48 gone in the first half and later, extended the lead to 37 points at 48-11. In the second half, Iona avoided its tendency to give up big leads never letting its advantage to dip below 25 points.
Junior Sean Armand led Iona with 28 points including seven three-point shots while "Momo" Jones added 21 points, six assists and four rebounds. Junior Tre Bowman, who originally intended to play at Penn State but played junior college basketball, added 15 points for the second straight game.
After three games, Jones is averaging 27 points per game, currently No. 4 in the nation behind Kevin Foster of Santa Clara, who leads with 28.5 points per game.
Tavon Sledge, the guard who transferred from Iowa State, is leading the Gaels in rebounding with seven per game.
Ken Kraetzer covers Iona basketball for WVOX 1460 AM in New Rochelle, NY.