Deyshonee Much led four Gaels in double figures as Iona rolled to victory over Manhattan. (Photo by Brian Beyrer/Iona College Athletics)
NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- An uncharacteristic surrender of 103 points last Sunday, just the third time Iona had yielded triple digits in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game since 2010, prompted Tim Cluess to try something different in the Gaels' penultimate regular season contest.
Making wholesale changes to the starting lineup, with four of Iona's normal reserves getting the nod to open Friday's rivalry game against Manhattan, paid off handsomely for Cluess and the Gaels, who saw four players reach double-figure scoring totals in a comfortable 72-51 victory over the Jaspers at a sold-out Hynes Athletics Center.
"Did you ever go down to the park when you were a kid and play, and if you'd win, you'd get to stay on the court?" Cluess asked, prefacing the explanation to his rationale. "Well, when we first came back from our last game, the second team beat the first team. I didn't think a lot of it, but the next day, the second team beat the first team by 30."
Deyshonee Much, one of the regular options off the bench for the reigning MAAC champions, was one of those second-team starters Friday, and his 19 points led Iona (19-11, 12-7 MAAC) in their fourth straight win over Manhattan, which carried with it the largest margin of victory against Jaspers head coach Steve Masiello since his hire in 2011. Much was efficient in his output as well, needing only 11 shots and making five of his nine three-point field goal attempts, a deciding factor as the Gaels started a conflagration from beyond the arc in the opening stanza, shooting 10-for-17 from deep.
"Our job is just to play, and we let the coaches do what they do," said Much of Cluess' makeover to the starting five. "Since the beginning, he's said, 'always be ready, regardless of where you are depth-wise on the bench.'"
The Gaels certainly did not lack energy as they did in Sunday's 103-85 loss to Rider, riding the wave as Manhattan (10-21, 5-15 MAAC) scored the first five points of the contest and then responded to a 13-0 Iona run in the opening minutes. A 20-3 run over the final 8:25 before the intermission, one sparked by multiple open looks from long range and transition opportunities, flipped the script on what looked to resemble a classic affair between the two longstanding adversaries, sending the capacity crowd into a frenzy.
"The crowd always motivates us," said Jordan Washington, who rebounded from a foul-plagued first encounter with Manhattan last month to tally 18 points and 10 rebounds on Friday. "We feed off the crowd, so when the crowd gets hyped, we're going to get hyped. When the crowd is down, we're still going to try to bring the crowd in either way."
Zane Waterman's 20 points led the Jaspers and all scorers in the losing effort. The visitors will await their MAAC Tournament fate by watching the tiebreaker scenarios play out on Sunday, with either the No. 10 or No. 11 seed at stake. Iona, with a first-round bye already wrapped up, can finish no lower than third as they conclude the regular season with conference leader Monmouth coming to town Sunday afternoon, doing so with a pick-me-up performance at just the right time, similar to last season's opportune stretch run.
"We were a little tight after that Rider game, so now it's like we're on a mission now," Washington confidently stated. "Everybody's here to be the best because we won it last year, so we're on a mission now. We're trying to win another one."