A seemingly over-confident Iona basketball squad took a hit on Wednesday night. Iona (25-12, 13-5 MAAC) was in good shape out of the gates as the home team, leading by eight points early in the first half.
However, things quickly slipped away from the Gaels, and they could never quite recover.
Here is some quick advice: when the the biggest game of your college career is about to occur, do not spend your time warming up tossing alley-oops and showing the crowd flashy passes. Use the time before the game to actually prepare. They are called "layup lines" for a reason.
A 22-3 run in the first half put Santa Clara (24-14, 8-6 WCC) on top 30-19. Iona stuck with the Broncos for the rest of the half and trailed by seven points with possession of the ball in the final minute.
However, poor offensive execution by Iona led to an awful shot. The rebound came out to Santa Clara's Kevin Foster, who ran up the floor and hit a three-pointer from just in front of halfcourt.
But the Broncos could not carry the momentum into the first minutes of the second half.
Iona came out of the gate with a 12-2 run that was sparked by junior guard Scott Machado, tying the game at 40 apiece.
And then Santa Clara came back with a 15-5 run of its own to take a commanding nine point lead entering the final 11 minutes.
Iona continued to stick with the Broncos, but a Foster jumper gave Santa Clara its largest lead (14 points) with 7:11 remaining.
Once again, Iona fought back and cut the lead back down to six points, but the Gaels could not finish off the comeback in front of an angry home crowd.
Iona simply had the chances to beat Santa Clara, but could never do it. Time and time again, the Broncos left the door open for the Gaels, but the Gaels could never get over the hump.
Overall, the Gaels were the better looking team for a full 40 minutes, but they were killed on the glass. Santa Clara dominated the rebounding on Wednesday night, and that easily could have been the difference in the CIT Championship Game.
Foster, the WCC's leading scorer, led the Broncos with 16 points and four assists. However, the sophomore had a mediocre overall performance, shooting 6-for-20 from the field and 3-for-12 from three-point range.
To back him up, Ben Dowdell, Marc Transolini, Ray Cowels, and Michael Santos all scored in double digits. Dowdell, Transolini, and Santos combined for 36 points and 24 rebounds, while Cowels added his own 11 points.
Michael Glover led Iona with 22 points and 12 rebounds. He shot 7-for-11 from the field.
Scott Machado scored 12 points and dished out seven assists, while Sean Armand scored 14 on 5-for-10 shooting.