Saturday, February 28, 2015

Iona 79, Manhattan 75: 5 Observations, Plus One

Isaiah Williams made his return for Iona Friday night, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in Gaels' 79-75 win over Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of Brian Beyrer via Iona College Athletics)

The traditional handful of observations and nuggets of note this time around, with five items of interest following Iona's 79-75 win over Manhattan, one that gave the Gaels a regular season sweep of the Jaspers and clinched an undefeated record at the Hynes Center:
  • Isaiah Williams.
Making his return to the lineup following a 12-game absence due to a foot injury, Williams did not disappoint in the least. The junior from Newark received a rousing ovation from the capacity crowd when his name was first mentioned by public address announcer Rich Leaf with 16:54 remaining in the first half, and in 32 minutes of action, he posted 12 points and seven rebounds in what Tim Cluess basically described as limited mobility. "I thought he gave us a lot more than we expected out of him tonight," Cluess said of Williams' production. "He's only had two practices, partial practices, and I think he was about 20-25 percent of himself. He's nowhere near what he is, and he made big plays today. A couple of plays he made, I didn't think he'd be ready to make those plays. He must have forgot he was injured."
  • With Williams' return, Iona was able to return to an old standby.
The pressure defense that always gets lost in the shuffle of the Gaels' identity because of their prolific offense was once again unveiled during Friday night's contest, and although Manhattan committed only 11 turnovers, Iona was able to convert the miscues into 19 points, and a great deal of the success was attributed to the return of Williams and his ability to space the floor. "The reality is, we've always pressed here," Cluess reiterated, "and when Isaiah got hurt, we stopped doing it out of lack of depth. Our whole entire way we played had changed. Tonight, we just picked our spots and started reintroducing it a little bit. It's a fun style of play for our guys, and I think it gets you going on both ends of the court."
  • David Laury battled, even if the box score says otherwise.
One might look at the 3-for-13 shooting night from the MAAC's Preseason Player of the Year and assume he was a non-factor, but Laury made his presence known by grabbing 13 points and 11 rebounds, more often than not getting the better of Ashton Pankey and Emmy Andujar under the rim. "I'm thankful to be able to play with a player like that," A.J. English, whose 26 points led all scorers, said of Laury. "I feel like he's been our best mismatch and our best player, and one of the best players that I've ever played around. He opens up stuff for me, and it's all from him. He causes mismatches, so I just try to get open and make shots."
  • Once again, Steve Masiello had glowing praise for Iona.
Masiello, who praised Tim Cluess following the Gaels' win over the Jaspers two weeks ago, was gracious in defeat once more when sizing up Iona's chances in the upcoming MAAC Tournament. "They can put five guys on the floor that can make shots at all times," Masiello forewarned, "and there's not many teams in the country that can do that, and that's what makes them dangerous."

"I thought they should have got in last year," he continued, reminding everyone of his belief that the Gaels were an NCAA Tournament-caliber team last season, "and I was a big advocate for that. They should have, because they were that good last year."

"A.J. English was grabbing me, saying 'I'm so happy to see you back on the sideline, Coach,' Masiello later added. "Their kids have such class, and I really respect that."
  • "We gave up the middle too much."
Admittedly, that was a factor in Manhattan's near-miss, as Iona exploited the opening in the Jaspers' defensive sets. "What we want to do is suffocate the court and dictate where you go," Masiello stated. "We want to force everything baseline, and step up and trap it. Now, give them (Iona) credit because of their speed, but we gave up the middle," the coach stated. "I thought we did a good job getting out, we held them to 36 percent from three, but it's a crapshoot with them, because then (Schadrac) Casimir starts making tough twos."

Bonus Observation: Reaction to a potential third Iona/Manhattan matchup:
"Just because we beat them now, it basically don't even matter now that the regular season's about to be over, and if we lose in the MAAC, (Tournament) it's over." - Isaiah Williams

"I mean, it's great, but like I said, every team in the MAAC has great coaches and great teams. We don't look by anybody. We try to worry about everybody." - A.J. English

"I don't really believe that if you beat a team two times, you can't beat them a third. I think whoever plays better that night, whoever makes their shots is going to win the game. Obviously, there's a little more motivation on the team that lost twice, they're going to be hungrier, they're going to make a lot of changes that may surprise you a little bit." - Tim Cluess

"I feel like we're going to see Iona again, and hopefully the third time's a charm. I would love to play them again. Obviously, I think everyone would want to see that matchup again. You know, we played them last year in the championship and we came out with a win, which is good for us, but if we end up seeing them again, I feel like we'll be ready, so I'm looking forward to that." - Ashton Pankey

"They're a great team, but I feel like they don't want to see us also, so it goes both ways, but like I said, they're a great team. I love playing against those guys, they're probably sending me text messages right now. It's hard to beat a team three times. I could backtrack on my career here at Manhattan, and it shows that you really can't beat a team three times, so I feel like we've got a great chance." - Emmy Andujar

"I'm not into the sizzle factor, I'm into winning games, and they're a good team. I like playing them because it's great for college basketball, it's great for our guys, but it's a tough out. That's what makes it fun." - Steve Masiello

No comments:

Post a Comment