Friday, January 25, 2013

Iona Routs Saint Peter's, Improves To 8-0 At Home

Tavon Sledge's double-double (13 points, 10 assists) was one of five double-figure point totals for Iona as Gaels extend their home winning streak to 14 in 90-71 victory over Saint Peter's.  (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Inquirer)

Tim Cluess had been searching for a third scoring option all season to provide offense behind his one-two punch of Momo Jones and Sean Armand.

He got it tonight, and then some.

Just five days removed from a mild upset loss on the road to Rider, five Iona players scored in double figures as the Gaels returned to their winning ways tonight with a convincing 90-71 victory over Saint Peter's, the eighth home win of the year for the reigning regular season MAAC champions.

"There's nothing better than playing at home," Cluess said after the Gaels (13-7, 7-2 MAAC) closed out Saint Peter's, (6-13, 1-8) avenging a 64-62 December loss to the Peacocks in the process.  "The crowd was phenomenal."

Iona fed off the 1,925 in attendance at the Hynes Center early and often, shooting a season-best 58 percent from the field and making twelve three-pointers in the wire-to-wire win, the tenth time this season in which the Gaels have connected on ten or more threes in a game.  With the victory, Iona's fifteenth consecutive in New Rochelle, the Gaels are now tied with Belmont for the tenth-longest home winning streak in the nation.

"It was huge," Cluess said of his five double-figure scorers, led by Jones (24 points) and Armand, who was one of three Gaels with thirteen.  "Tonight, the ball didn't die, and we ended up spreading the defense a lot.  On nights when we shoot well, we're good; nights when we don't we're not."

Besides his dynamic duo of Jones and Armand, Cluess also got double-doubles from Tavon Sledge (13 points, 10 assists) and David Laury, (14 points, 10 rebounds) while Tre Bowman added 13 points of his own as the replacement in the starting lineup for freshman A.J. English, who broke his wrist earlier in the week and will be out until at least March's MAAC Tournament after undergoing surgery.

Iona did not have the 31-0 run the Gaels went on the last time Saint Peter's came to New Rochelle last February, but the home team enjoyed a 17-6 spurt late in the second half that turned a tenuous eight-point lead into a comfortable 19-point cushion in the Gaels' final tuneup before a pivotal Sunday matinee on the road against conference favorite Loyola, who defeated Manhattan earlier tonight in a gritty 51-41 battle at Draddy Gym.

"We're not worried about the name," said Momo Jones of Iona's upcoming clash with the Greyhounds, who used an early advantage last year to survive a late Iona comeback the last time the Gaels came to Baltimore.  "We're worried about us.  If we play our game, we'll be fine."

It seems like that has been the case all season for Iona, no matter who steps up to support Jones and Armand on a team that has still yet to hit its best stride.

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