Men's College Basketball
Iona College 75, Rider University 62
LAWRENCEVILLE- With the Broncs playing shorthanded, the first place Iona Gales used their power(ful) play to defeat Rider. "I thought we showed a lot of guts tonight, playing a little shorthanded," said Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey.
"Rider played well in the first half," said Iona head coach Tim Cluess. "Guys sometimes pick up the slack when they are missing key players and they did that tonight."
Despite a career-high 21 points by sophomore Anthony Myles (Dover, DE/Poly-Tech), the Broncs lost the National Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Game of the Week, broadcast on ESPN3, to first place Iona Wednesday evening.
The shorthanded Broncs were playing without two starters, senior Novar Gadson (Philadelphia, Pa./John Bartram) and senior Jeff Jones (Chester, PA/Monsignor Bonner). Jones was the team's latest victim of the norovirus that hit campus last week, and Gadson sat out for 'violation of team rules.' Jones and Gadson combine for 23 points per game.
Iona out-scored Rider (11-17, 8-8 MAAC) 19-3 to start the second half, nine points by junior forward Taaj Ridley, to take a 51-40 lead with 12:05 left to play. Ridley finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
"We had that unfortunate scoring drought to start the second half and we allowed them to take the game over a little bit," Dempsey said.
Sophomore guard Sean Armand led Iona (21-6, 13-3 MAAC) with 22 points and seven rebounds.
"We knew we didn't play our best in the first half," Armand said. "We really needed this win."
Trailing 29-25, Rider out-scored Iona 12-3 over the final 6:10 of the first half, five points by sophomore Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann-Goretti), to take a 37-32 lead at half time. Stewart finished with nine points and six rebounds.
"We played a good first half," Dempsey said. "We shot 50 percent, our assists were up, our defensive intensity was good, and we were leading on the glass (19-15). The things that we needed to do to win this game we did in the first half. In the second half we didn't play much different, the shots just didn't fall during that dry spell."
Trailing 18-12, Iona went on a 12-0 run, six points by Armand and four by senior guard Scott Machado, to take a 24-18 lead with 9:40 left in the first half. Machado, who leads the nation in assists, finished with 16 points, nine assists, four rebounds and four steals.
Iona had five players in double figures. "As a coach you have to love that," Cluess said. "Scott does a great job spreading the ball around."
"They score so well," Dempsey said of the Gaels, who have more wins away from home (14) than any team in the nation. "We did everything we could to control the tempo, and the tempo was at a pace I liked, it was just that long dry spell and the turnovers."
Rider committed 19 turnovers. "The turnovers was an issue," Dempsey said. "You are not going to beat this team with 19 turnovers."
Rider jumped out to an 11-5 lead, nine points by Myles on three three-pointers. "We had to just keep playing our game," Myles said. "We know what we're capable of. We just need to beat one of the top teams going into the tournament. We let one slip away tonight but we still have (second place) Loyola and (third place) Fairfield. We need to beat one of them to put us in a nice spot."
Making his first collegiate start, freshman Junior Fortunat (Quebec, Canada/Roman Catholic) finished with eight points and nine rebounds for the Broncs.
Senior forward Mike Glover finished with 11 points and nine rebounds for Iona. Glover is second in the nation in field goal percentage and leads the MAAC in scoring and is second in the conference in rebounding.
Junior Jonathon Thompson (Orlando, Fla./Jones) added 10 points, six assists and four rebounds for the Broncs while senior Brandon Penn (Philadelphia, Pa./Paul Robeson) compiled 10 points and six rebounds.
The Broncs lost 91-71 at Iona on ESPN3 on January 26. This is the first time Rider has been swept in two years.
Rider and Iona have now met 48 times since the series began in 1949-50, with Rider winning 22, including seven of the last 14.
Rider and Iona split the series last year, with the away team winning both games, by four points in overtime at Rider and by two points at Iona.
The Gales defeated Rider in the MAAC tournament semifinals last season.
At halftime Rider had its annual Academic Achievement Night, as 218 student-athletes were honored for having a grade point average above 3.0.
The Broncs travel to the University at Albany for the Sears BracketBuster game February 18.