Jordan Washington tied season high with 30 points as Iona held off Fairfield to split season series with Stags. (Photo by Brian Beyrer/Iona College Athletics)
NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Jordan Washington's last two games had been something of an anomaly, as Iona's senior forward had difficulty playing a disciplined 40 minutes against both Quinnipiac and Manhattan.
The preseason first team all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference honoree had a chance to make amends for his recent struggles Friday evening, receiving that opportunity against a team he has traditionally matched up favorably with, and on this night was able to take advantage.
Washington was as efficient as any point in the season for the Gaels, parlaying an 11-for-14 effort from the floor into 30 points and eight rebounds as part of a wire-to-wire lead against a Fairfield team who made it interesting late in the second half before ultimately falling short in a 96-89 Iona victory.
"I felt a little disappointed, because that's not really how I play," he said of his foul-induced ineffectiveness, which cost him almost the entire second half against Manhattan last Tuesday. "My team picked me up and I picked my team up even though I didn't play so well, and they fought hard and came out with the win. I told them the next game, I was going to pick them up, and that's what I did."
Washington's 30 points tied a season high set in December against Ohio University as Iona (12-8, 5-4 MAAC) jumped on the accelerator from the start, scoring the game's first ten points and increasing their cushion to as many as 24 markers in the first half before Fairfield gradually chipped away at their deficit, closing the opening stanza on a 21-9 run to go into the intermission trailing by only a dozen points, trimming the Gaels' advantage to 47-35 after 20 minutes.
The Stags (8-9, 3-5 MAAC) endured a scary moment early in the game, as sophomore guard Curtis Cobb; who set a single-game school record with 46 points against Manhattan two weeks ago, collided with EJ Crawford near the midway point of the first half. Cobb ran head-first into Crawford and immediately went down to the floor, and was later removed on a stretcher to a nearby hospital, magnifying what had already become an inauspicious beginning to the game.
"It was kind of an awkward play, and he fully extended and took a hit," head coach Sydney Johnson said of Cobb's injury. "I don't think it was a dirty play at all, it's just unfortunate that we've got to figure out what kind of condition and shape he's in for the long term."
Fairfield went down by 24 again in the second half, but used a 20-5 run to draw within single digits with 8:35 remaining in regulation, as a Jerry Johnson Jr. three-pointer made the score 70-61 at that juncture. The Stags would pull no closer than five points inside the final minute, but were unable to get over the hump as Iona was able to seal the win at the foul line.
Employing a smaller lineup for the second consecutive game, the visitors saw Johnson Jr. prove to be the beneficiary of his starting nod, registering 26 points and nine rebounds, his offensive production falling one point shy of Tyler Nelson for the team high. But while Fairfield has lost four straight games, a light is still visible at the end of the tunnel in this recent rough patch.
"We're having our bump in the road, and some other teams are having their streaks," Sydney Johnson assessed. "But I think if we commit ourselves to doing what we do best, we're going to come back around and hopefully be in the best form come Albany in March."
Three Gaels joined Washington in double figures, as Jon Severe tallied 16 points to lead a supporting cast that saw both Crawford and Sam Cassell Jr. amass 13 apiece. But the most integral piece to the puzzle was their all-conference post presence, whose renewed commitment left a strong and positive impression long after the final buzzer as Iona gears up for a Monday evening soiree against a resurgent Quinnipiac team who; like Fairfield, scored a victory on their home floor against the reigning MAAC champions earlier this month.
"Jordan had probably his two best practices since we've had him here the last two days," a proud Tim Cluess remarked. "I think the last game helped him to start to develop and realize he has to do a lot more than what he's been doing for our team to be successful."
"It starts with me first," Washington reinforced. "Once I bring intensity, everyone else comes in and joins in the intensity."