Sometimes teams can get on a roll playing on the road, they appear to be on a precise mission, not acting like wide-eyed tourists.
The Iona Gaels displayed that focused look Saturday, winning their third straight road game 77-57 against Liberty in the Sears Bracketbuster game played in Lynchburg, Va.
The Gaels were led by the 17 points of sophomore guard Kyle Smyth from River Edge, N.J., who made 6 of 10 from the field including five three-point shots.
Junior forward Michael Glover from the Bronx provided another strong inside game with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Junior point guard Scott Machado from Queens had 11 assists along with 10 points, guiding the Gaels up-tempo offense. Machado went into the game with the second-best average for assists per game in the NCAA.
Junior Jermel Jenkins from Union, N.J., made two three-point shots in the early going to help the Gaels go out to a 10-3 lead. Jenkins started in place of senior Rashon Dwight, who did not play because of the flu.
Senior forward Alejo Rodriguez from Manhattan made six points on two layups and a dunk as the Gaels went on a 11-0 run going to a 26-9 lead with 7:43 left in the first half.
Rodriguez made all seven of his shots from the field on the afternoon for 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and added two blocks. He has displayed great energy and aggressiveness under the backboard in recent games for the Gaels.
Junior Trinity Fields from Queens, N.Y., played 16 minutes at guard, contributing eight points, including two straight three-point shots at the end of the first half, as Iona advanced to a 26 point half time lead at 44-18 lead.
Freshman Sean Armand from Brooklyn again came off the bench to give the Gaels eight first half points on two three-point shots and two free throws.
In the second half, two Kyle Smyth three-point jump shots and a Machado layup gave the Gaels a 60-31 lead with 12:25 left to play in the game.
The Flames narrowed the Iona lead to 18 by going on an 11-0 run capped by an Evan Gordan three-point shot to make it 60-42 with 8:25 left to play.
Iona responded with their own 8-3 run highlighted by a dunk by Rodriguez, jump shots by Machado and Smyth, and a tip-in by Glover to go back out to a 71-48 lead with 4:30 left in the game.
Liberty was led by guard Jesse Sanders with 13 points, guard Evan Gordon with 12 and, coming off the bench, guard David Manaya had 10. Guard John Brown had 12 rebounds and nine points along with three assists and three steals.
On the day, Iona shot 54.4 percent compared to the Flames 45 percent. On three-point shots, the Gaels had a big edge, making 11-of-22 vs. the Flames 4-of-14. The Gaels also dominated rebounds early, finishing with 34-24 advantage.
Iona Coach Tim Cluess was asked by ESPN analyst Mark Adams about the Gaels game plan to "Speed it up" and the play of Machado:
"We did a great job in the first half, got bogged down a little bit in the second half. When Scott is pushing the ball up the floor, it all looks easy for us.
"He gets us going, our whole system flowing. He doesn't know how valuable he is to us; I am trying to educate him on that."
Machado responded to Adams question on how he was able to get 11 assists in the game: "I was just trying to get my teammates the ball at open times, and let them make the shots."
On how Machado and the Gaels need to prepare for the stretch run of the season he said, "Listen to the coach, push the ball, playing defense, keep rebounding the way we are, and keep making shots. It's coming down to the end; all the games are getting harder."
Saturday was a good day for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which won nine of 10 Bracketbuster contests:
Fairfield 76 - Austin Peay 69
Boston University 70 - Canisius 62
Niagara 61 - Central Michigan 55
Manhattan 64 - Stony Brook 63 OT
Saint Peter's 71 - Loyola of Chicago 67
Rider 95 - Delaware 86
Loyola (MD) 75 - Towson 57
Siena 71 - Maine 60
Marist 58 - New Hampshire 49
The Gaels are now 18-10 overall on the season and tied for second place at 10-5 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with Rider and Saint Peter's.
Iona finishes the regular season with games next Friday at Saint Peter's and their Senior Day at home against Fairfield.
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