The Iona Gaels (11-6, 5-1) made 16 three-point shots and used a small, but quick lineup to win their 11th game of the year 97-87 over Canisius Golden Griffins (10-7, 3-3).
Junior Sean Armand led the Gaels with 32 points, his highest offensive point total of the year.
The forward from Brooklyn made nine of 15 three-point shots including six of seven made in the second half helping Iona pull ahead.
Iona had 37 points off the bench, led by the 28 contributed by guard Tre Bowman who made eight of thirteen shots and added six rebounds. The junior from York, PA had his best outing as a Gael since transferring from Midland College in Texas where he played last year.
Also in double figures for Iona was forward David Lawry with 13 points in 26 minutes while freshman A.J. English came off the bench to score 10 on four of seven shooting including two three pointers. The 6'8" Lawry continued to show good hands rebounding since becoming eligible to join the Gael's lineup after the end of the fall semester. English has shown he can come into games and provide instant offense for the Gaels.
Leading Canisius with 26 points was Harold Robinson who made eight of of fourteen shots including three three-pointers. The Griffs showed a strong inside presence provided by 6'10'', 240-pound Jordan Heath who had 13 points and 6'6'' 235-pound Chris Manhertz who had seven points, but dominated the boards with 14 rebounds.
Junior guard Billy Baron had a double-double with 20 points and 11 assists on the afternoon for Canisius. Baron is the son of Canisius head coach Jim Baron who coached at Rhode Island the past twelve seasons before moving to Buffalo to coach the Griffins this year. As a college player in 1977 Baron led St. Bonaventure to the NIT title. The younger Baron played for his Dad two seasons in Kingston, where he averaged 13 points a game last season.
The first half of this contest was run and gun with Iona trying to force a fast tempo against the size in the Canisius lineup provided by Heath and Manhertz. Sean Armand gave Iona a 22-16 lead at 11:08 left hitting three three-pointers and a two point field goal for 11 points in just two minutes and twenty seconds time.
Hot shooting by Washington who had 15 first half points and Baron who provided a spark-plug with seven assists gave Canisius a seven point lead with 5:34 left. Iona answered with offense provided by Tre Bowman, who came off the bench to provide 12 points before the intermission. At the half, Canisius led by two, 49-47.
The second half opened fast with Sean Armand hitting two early threes to give Iona a six point lead 55-49. Canisius came back to take the lead 58-57 with a three point play by Manhertz and free throws made by Jordan Heath and Washington.
After Armand made another three, Iona guard Lamont "Momo" Jones picked up his fourth foul and was replaced in the lineup by junior DaShawn Gomez who played last season at Antelope Valley College in California. A moment earlier, English had come in for starter Tavon Sledge who was having an unproductive day.
Iona went with starters Lawry and Armand joined by English and Gomez and Bowman off the bench, a very small lineup. It worked. Gomez looked sure handed at the point for Iona providing five assists against one turnover in 17 minutes. Iona went on an 11-2 run to lead 74-63 with 10:55 remaining. Iona pushed the lead to 16 points at 84-68 on yet another three by Armand and a lay-up by English with 6:44 left.
The Gaels then worked to hold the lead which they have struggled with in the past. Baron hit back to back threes to get Canisius within eight at 93-85 with 2:02 left, but the Gaels guards worked the clock to hold on to the win.
Afterwards Iona coach Tim Cluess said about what amounted to a four guard offense in the second half, "We play better with our small line-up".
This was Iona's fifth win in a row, the last four in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference competition. The Gaels are tied for first place with Niagara both at 5-1 in the MAAC so far. Iona defeated Niagara 83-72 back on November 28 and the two play again in western New York on January 31st.
Also in the MAAC Sunday:
Niagara (9-8) won 67-64 at Fairfield (10-8)
Rider (9-9) won 64-57 over Loyola (12-6) in NJ
Siena (4-13) won 66-53 over Saint Peter's (6-10) in Albany
Manhattan (5-11) won 65-53 defeating Marist (4-13) in Riverdale
Ken Kraetzer covers Iona basketball and West Point football for WVOX in New Rochelle, NY.