Saturday, March 5, 2016

Gaels power past Canisius in MAAC quarterfinals

By Norman Rose (@ECoastBias)

ALBANY, NY -- With 20 points in Iona's 73-55 rout of Canisius in the MAAC Tournament quarterfinal, it looks like it comes so easy for A.J. English.

And perhaps facing Canisius, playing a night after a triple-overtime game, makes it even easier. 

 "We knew it was going to be a quick turnaround," said Canisius coach Jim Baron. "We had a marathon game last night. They seemed like they had their legs, and we battled them. We went man, we went zone, we switched, but they played a solid game. I was tremendously proud of our seniors." 

Iona improves to 20-10 and Canisius ends the season at 14-19. 

Iona used a 9-2 run to build a cushion over the Golden Griffins by the second media timeout, with Rickey McGill and English sharing the shots, and the whole team sharing the ball against Canisius' porous defense. 

"I think we just swing the ball and our coach preaches 'take the open shot'," said English, who had 10 assists and seven rebounds. Raining threes, Isaiah Williams added 18 points (and seven rebounds) and Rickey McGill added 14. "I love it," Cluess chimed in. "It makes my day when I see the ball move around the court like that. I enjoy being a spectator [when they pass like that]." 

Iona assisted 70% of their teammates' shots - 19 assists on 27 made shots - and cruised in the first half, scoring 1.44 points per possession. While Canisius' Phil Valenti led the Golden Griffins with nine, Canisius didn't hit a shot from the field for the last 6:46 of the half. And Canisius had seven turnovers (24% of possessions). 

"I'm proud of my guys for how hard they played offensively and defensively," Cluess said. "We couldn't be where we are without these two young men (English and Williams)." Phil Valenti led the Griffins with 13. Kassius Robertson added 11 and Kevin Bleeker chipped in 10.

Iona plays in the Sunday night semifinal game against either Siena or Manhattan, who face off in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

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