The Iona Gaels have been selected once again to play in an ESPN BracketBusters game, this one on Saturday, February 19th against Liberty University of the Big South in Lynchburg, VA.
Iona now has a 13-9 record overall and 7-4 in the MAAC after three straight conference setbacks.
The matchup will be telecast on ESPNU starting at 3 PM. This will be Iona's third televised game in the six years the Gaels have been invited to participate.
In 2006 the Gaels defeated Buffalo and in 2010 defeated William & Mary. Iona and Liberty have matched up just once before, on Dec. 20, 1997, when the Gaels won 84-68 in New Rochelle. As part of the BracketBuster agreement, Liberty will pay a rerun visit to Iona in New Rochelle during the 2012-2013 season.
The Flames are 16-7 overall and hold a 10-1 record in Big South play. They are led by 6'2" sophomore guard Evan Gordon, who is averaging 14.4 points per game and has recorded a team-leading 52 three-point shots. He is the younger brother of the LA Clippers' Eric Gordon.
Junior guard John Brown is averaging a double-double with 11.5 points per game and 10.6 rebounds. Another guard, junior David Minaya, is averaging 10.7 points per game, as is junior Jesse Sanders.
The BracketBusters format allows teams to play non-conference opponents approximately three weeks before Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. Of course, this creates great broadcast opportunities for ESPN and valuable exposure for the participating schools, especially those who play well.
Last Thursday night in New Rochelle, Iona lost 61-59 to Rider, a team they had beaten in New Jersey just two weeks before. A game the Gaels led by as many as 10 points in the first half ended on a disputed shot when junior Mike Glover's shot was missed after he gathered the rebound from an intentionally missed free throw by Scott Machado. Some Iona fans thought a foul might have been called on the play.
Against Rider, Kyle Smyth led the Gaels with 17 points, which included three three-point shots. Jermel Jenkins added 15 points, and Machado provided 12 points along with seven assists. Glover struggled offensively in the game, going 3-of-6 from the field for 12 points, but added 13 rebounds.
The difference in the game was from the free throw line, where Rider made 17 points on 27 shots compared with the Gaels' eight on 14 shots. Noticeably Glover was not given a free throw in the game. Justin Robinson led Rider with 19 points.
Sunday afternoon the Gaels lost their third close conference game in a row, 88-85 in overtime to Loyola in Baltimore. The OT was forced by a three-point shot made with seven seconds left in regulation by Robert Olson of the Greyhounds.
Glover broke out of an offensive slump with 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The 6'7" Gael forward shot 7-of-12 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. Machado had another strong game with 19 points and six assists. Both guards senior Rashon Dwight and junior Jermel Jenkins had 13 points in the setback for the Gaels.
Junior Randy Dezouvre made a key jumper near the end of the first half that helped bring the Gaels back from an 11-point deficit.
Sophomore Chris Pelcher returned to action after sitting out the Rider game with a foot injury. Machado made a free throw with 20 seconds left to reduce the Loyola lead to one, but Loyola made two free throws off a foul given on the inbounds play, and Iona could not get a shot off to attempt to tie in the final seconds.
For the second game the Gaels were outrebounded, in this game 40-32. Iona made 27 of 40 free throw attempts on the afternoon. Glover continues to lead the Gaels with 19.1 points per game and 10.1 rebounds. Machado provides a consistent force with 14.1 points and 7.8 assists per game. Freshman Sean Armand is showing a hot hand coming off the bench, hitting over 40 percent on his three-point shots.
The Gaels play at Fairfield at 9 PM Friday night in Bridgeport, CT hoping to break a three-game conference skid. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.