Jon Severe scored 18 points as Iona defeated Manhattan, but his contributions went beyond final box score. (Photo by Leif Skodnick/The Journal News)
RIVERDALE, NY -- A 21-point outing from Schadrac Casimir led all scorers as Iona seized control against Manhattan over the final 11:41 of regulation, closing the game on a 25-8 run to defeat the Jaspers by the final of 82-67. We'll give the Gaels the same treatment we normally give the home team at Draddy Gymnasium, supplementing our game recap with a handful of takeaways as the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions won their fifth meeting against their geographic rivals in the last six games between the pair:
1) Iona found a way to win despite Jordan Washington in foul trouble.
Washington, who picked up his fourth foul just 59 seconds into the second half, sat for an extended stretch, allowing Casimir and Jon Severe to take matters into their own hands.
"J-Wash is obviously a big part of our team," said Casimir. "When we go down, it's up to us to pick him up because he carried us most of the season. When we were down, he picked us up, so now it's time for us to step up."
"Coach said before: Every time shares the ball, everybody has a good game," Severe interjected, highlighting Iona's 15 assists, five of which were recorded by Rickey McGill. "If we keep sharing the ball, we'll get open shots."
2) "I thought we were being outplayed."
That was how Cluess surmised a first half where Manhattan held Iona to 34 percent shooting from the floor while hitting shots on their own end at a 58 percent clip. Fortunately for the Gaels, they were able to flip the script in the final 20 minutes, connecting at a 50 percent rate offensively while limiting the Jaspers to just eight field goals in 24 attempts following the intermission.
"There's no doubt about it," said Cluess when asked if he was fortunate to be in a tie game at halftime. "I think our determination and our hard work kept us in the game, so I was really happy that we were still in it, and I was hopeful that we would score a little bit better and that our defense; more importantly, was going to get better in the second half."
3) The Gaels received an unlikely assist in the scouting report.
Cluess explained that he sometimes leaves the opposing scout in the hands of his players, and such was the case for tonight's game. And who better than to lead the breakdown than Severe, who was no stranger to Manhattan after competing against them for three years at Fordham in the Battle of the Bronx?
"Jon was one of the masters of the scouting report," Cluess revealed. "We put this on the players for this game, and Jon especially put the scouting report for this game together. Throughout the entire game, he was telling different guys on our team what different guys could do out there, and he really helped some of our newcomers."
And why does Iona's head coach sometimes defer game preparation to his players, one might ask? Well, the chief purpose is an educational tool.
"To lock them more into being a part of who they're defending, and getting to know them a little bit better," said Cluess of his rationale. "I don't think we had been doing a good job of that, of them listening to our scouting report, so I wanted them to kind of own it themselves. They did a terrific job of that."
4) A familiar foe knew exactly what to do.
Severe, as mentioned before, possessed the most experience against the Jaspers of anyone on the Iona roster, even though this is his first season wearing maroon and gold. Manhattan fans will almost certainly breathe a sigh of relief when he graduates in May, as he has long been a thorn in the side of the Riverdale faithful, beginning with his 30-point explosion as a freshman three years ago, leading the way in a Fordham upset over a Jasper team that went on to win a MAAC championship and nearly upset Louisville in the NCAA Tournament later that season. With 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, connecting on three of his five three-point field goal attempts, he put his body of work to the test one last time and passed with flying colors.
"I knew what I was getting into," he confidently stated. "It wasn't new to me. I know they play hard, so you've just got to be ready, be tough. At Fordham, it was the same thing. I knew what was going to happen."
5) Taylor Bessick provided yet another unsung effort.
With Washington in foul trouble, the Philadelphian was the next man up, and stepped in by doing yeoman's work en route to six points and seven rebounds, five of which came on the offensive glass.
"He did a really good job," Cluess admitted. "He's playing with a really good motor, especially when he's coming in for Jordan. Sometimes our teams have flowed better when he's in place of Jordan. He's just much more of a presence defensively, as far as blocking shots and altering shots. You see a few guys coming through the lane, and he's up there walling up high in the air, and if a guy makes it, it's going to be a tough shot. He's changing them, so he helps us in that area."