Friday, January 29, 2016

Iona leads wire-to-wire for largest margin of victory over Manhattan since 2011

Ibn Muhammad set career high with 15 points in Iona's 70-56 victory over Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of Brian Beyrer via Iona College Athletics)

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Even with both teams perceived to not be as strong as they were in recent years, the rivalry that has come to the forefront of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference as of late lived up to its hype. And for the second renewal in a row, it produced a result that few would have expected before the ball was tipped.

Opening the game on a 12-2 run and playing perhaps their strongest defensive game of the season, Iona (11-9, 8-3 MAAC) jumped on the accelerator and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire in a 70-56 win over Manhattan (8-11, 5-5 MAAC) for the Gaels' largest margin of victory over the two-time reigning MAAC champion Jaspers since February 16, 2011.

"I thought, overall, I just loved our effort from start to finish tonight," Tim Cluess said as Iona rebounded from a somewhat shocking road loss to Fairfield last Sunday. "That's what we needed. We needed to come out and show that we could play 40 minutes hard, especially after our last game, and I'm really proud of our guys for making a commitment to play much harder today than they did the last game."

In a game that the final box score may deem atypical of the emotionally charged wars of the past between the Gaels and Jaspers, Isaiah Williams and Ibn Muhammad tied for the team lead with 15 points, the former hitting four three-pointers while the latter had his second big game against Manhattan in less than a year.

"I just feel like with Manhattan, you've just got to move the ball around real quick," said Muhammad, who set a career-high point total tonight after a personal best nine assists against the Jaspers at Draddy Gymnasium last February. "You'll get a lot of shots and a lot of attacks to get your team shots."

Trailing by double digits for most of the night, Manhattan finally clawed within single digits after eight unanswered points trimmed the Jaspers' deficit to seven markers with 8:36 to play, trailing 52-45. But a 13-1 Iona run immediately thereafter, highlighted by back-to-back-to-back threes from A.J. English, Muhammad, and Williams, put the game out of reach, as Manhattan would draw no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.

"I just thought we were out of sync a little bit offensively, because of Iona," said Steve Masiello, surmising his team's effort in defeat. "I thought they did some things to bother us. We were a little tentative, but Iona deserves the credit. They were very well-prepared in what they wanted to do. They wanted to take away Shane, (Richards) they wanted to take away some inside attacks, they wanted to make other people beat them. We didn't do that."

"We needed a swing in momentum at that time," Cluess said of Iona's game-changing run, "because they were on a little bit of a run themselves. I just thought the way the ball moved around, that was like Iona basketball. I don't think we've seen that all the time this year, but tonight it was 19 assists, 10 turnovers, and those are numbers we try to achieve. I think we were able to achieve it tonight because the players were very unselfish."

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