Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Washington's 27 points power Iona past NJIT

Jordan Washington follows up 30-point game Saturday with 27 Wednesday night in Iona's 94-80 win over NJIT. (Photo by Brian Beyrer/Iona College Athletics)

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- When Jordan Washington is able to keep himself under control as opposed to getting caught up in extenuating circumstances, Iona is a far greater force with their senior forward on the floor.

And if Saturday's 30-point showing against Ohio University was not enough to convince Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opposition of that fact, his latest act four days later only served further notice that the preseason first team all-MAAC selection should still be the most feared player in a scouting report.

Washington needed only 14 shots to post 27 points Wednesday, as Iona brushed off an early challenge from NJIT with a 21-4 run midway through the first half, not looking back en route to a 94-80 victory at the Hynes Athletics Center, the Gaels' third straight since a surprising home loss to Niagara ten days ago.

"I just do the same thing I do every day: Play strong, play physical, run the floor, rebound," said Washington, who tallied seven rebounds on top of his latest dominating effort on the scoreboard. "My teammates brought me together and said, 'Wash, stay focused. We need you on the floor.'"

Unlike past instances where foul trouble often diminished his potential, Washington played very disciplined basketball for the Gaels (7-3) against NJIT, save for an exchange with Highlanders forward Tim Coleman in the second half, where official Mike Pearson called offsetting technical fouls stemming from what looked to be nothing more than a brief verbal spat. Fortunately, Iona possessed a 70-56 lead with 7:57 remaining in regulation at the time of the technicals, and were able to maintain a double-digit cushion for the duration of the night.

Facing the Gaels for the first time ever, NJIT (5-7) challenged the reigning MAAC champions early, pulling ahead just over six minutes into the contest on one of seven three-point field goals by senior Damon Lynn, whose 28 points led all scorers. But Iona would respond with a 21-4 run that turned what looked like a close game in the initial stages into a comfortable double-digit margin that the Highlanders would ultimately never fight back from, drawing no closer than eight points the rest of the way.

Jon Severe recovered from his recent struggles with a 21-point effort, and Deyshonee Much; returning from a knee injury that has shelved him for the bulk of the non-conference season, wrapped up a well-rounded performance with six points, six rebounds, five assists and six steals. The night's most indelible impression, however, was left by Washington, whose efficiency and ability to play within himself earned positive reviews from his head coach.

"I think he's getting better at that," Tim Cluess assessed. "We're doing a better job of finding him as well. He's got to be that big part of our offense that he's become more recently than early. He's working harder earlier in the offensive possessions. He's not settling for bad positions as much, and I think a lot of it is his teammates also looking for him for good opportunities and playing off of him."

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