Men’s College Basketball
Iona College 80, Rider University 77
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ— The Gale Storm warnings were accurate.
The first place and defending champion Iona Gaels stormed into Alumni Gymnasium Friday night and defeated the Broncs on ESPNU.
“It was a tough loss,” said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. “We found our way back into the game but we waited a little too late to get going.”
Iona guards A.J. English and Sean Armand each scored 20 points to lead the first place Gaels to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory at Rider.
English made three of four foul shots in the final 19.4 seconds to preserve the win. “We shoot a lot of free throws after practice,” said English, who was nine for 12 from the line for the game.
Rider (13-13, 9-8 MAAC) out-scored Iona (18-8, 15-2 MAAC) 10-0, all 10 points by freshman Jimmie Taylor III (Branford, Fla./Suwannee), to cut the lead to 75-72 with 1:01 left to play. Taylor finished with 19 points. “Coach said to stay aggressive,” Taylor said, “and I was feeling it in that stretch.”
“Rider has a lot of talent and they made some big shots down the stretch,” said Iona head coach Tim Cluess.
“Rider made us pay for some mistakes we made,” said Armand.
The first place Gaels used a 9-3 run to take a 64-50 lead with 8:31 left to play, and led 73-59 with 3:48 remaining.
The defending MAAC Champion, Iona extends its winning streak to 10 games. Iona has won its last six road games.
Iona led 25-23 before going on a 15-4 run, seven points by Armand, to take a 40-27 lead and the Gaels led 41-32 at the half. Armand had 10 first half points.
The Broncs are fourth in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (.410), but made just two of 14 three-point attempts (.143 percent) in the first half and shot .269 from three point range for the game (seven for 26). “We’re certainly not shooting the ball well,” Baggett said.
Rider used a 13-2 run, four points by senior Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti), to take its first lead of the game, 17-15, with 11:30 left in the first half. “We came into the game very confident,” Stewart said.
Stewart had 11 first half points and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
David Laury compiled 14 points and 12 rebounds for Iona. The 6’9” Laury is fourth in the MAAC in rebounding (7.3).
Rider is 29th in Division I in free throws made and 52nd in free throw percentage (.735) but was just 10 of 20 from the line Friday. “We’re normally a good free throw shooting team but not tonight,” Baggett said. “That certainly hurt us as well.”
Stewart is 12th in the nation in free throws made but was just one for three Friday night.
Friday’s game, played in front of a near capacity crowd, was the first of three consecutive home games. “We have to win some home games,” Baggett said. “We’ve been up and down at home this year, inconsistent.”
Rider is now 6-5 at home this year. “Our fans have been great and they were awesome tonight,” Baggett said. “We really wanted to win this game for them.”
Rider hosts Siena Sunday afternoon. The back-to-back 1993 and 1994 NCAA Tournament Rider teams will be honored that day. “It is important that we find a way to win on Sunday,” Baggett said. “Every game is a must win right about now.”