Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Iona 101, Fairfield 77: 5 Observations

The token handful of observations from Tuesday night's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener, which Iona captured by the final of 101-77 over Fairfield:

  • A.J. English.
    Quite honestly, how can you not begin to describe this game without mentioning the conference's preseason Player of the Year and his 46-point explosion that tied the single-game MAAC record? In a performance that deserves any and all hyperbole directed toward it, English was simply phenomenal. The senior connected on a MAAC record 13 three-point field goals, and ended the night 15-for-25 from the field, racking up eight assists to boot. "I hope everyone got to enjoy it," head coach Tim Cluess said of his point guard's latest, and brightest, star turn to date. "I'm glad I got a chance to coach it and watch it."

  • Iona's home court advantage is something that isn't talked about enough.
    The Gaels' dominance at the Hynes Athletics Center was extended Tuesday night with a 21st consecutive home win, good enough for the nation's 11th-longest home winning streak. Iona has also won 23 of its last 24 in New Rochelle and 46 of its last 50 home affairs, and their current streak now stretches 683 days since their 85-83 loss to Canisius on January 17, 2014.

  • Is the next all-MAAC talent waiting in the wings?
    One could only wonder watching freshman Jahaad Proctor, who broke out in his own right for a career-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Proctor, who was actually the Gaels' leading scorer in the first half before English took over after the intermission, had only played 25 minutes in the entire season before Tuesday night. Once he got into the action, the guard wearing No. 13 conjured up memories of the last Gael to wear that number, David Laury, with his scoring talent. "We've liked what we've seen from him in practice," Cluess admitted. "He's worked so hard that he's moved himself up to pushing for that sixth, seventh rotation spot, and he came out and did a great job."

  • What could have been for Fairfield had their star player not injured his ankle:
    Fairfield played the majority of the game at a major disadvantage after senior forward and first team preseason all-MAAC selection Marcus Gilbert turned his ankle nearly eight minutes into the contest and did not return. In his stead, the Stags still managed 77 points without his services, but the impact he could have made was not lost on head coach Sydney Johnson. "I can't promise anybody a win," he said, "but I know how well we're playing when we have him out there, and what we've done this year. We're missing our guy, and there got to be a stretch in the second half where we just could not respond to each punch that they gave us."

  • This isn't the same Stags team of recent years.
    Gone is the plodding, methodical Fairfield offense, replaced by a much faster, more uptempo attack that pushes the ball when it is in their hands, and then falls back into a 2-3 matchup zone that flustered Iona for the bulk of the first half. "I think we came in with a tremendous amount of confidence, to be honest, in terms of how we're playing," Johnson assessed. "We want to play faster, we want to share the ball, and I think we're defending well. That was on display, and I was proud that we did get it (Fairfield's deficit) to six (points) before the half."

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