Friday, March 17, 2017

Iona's fight no match for Oregon's offensive explosion

An emotional Jordan Washington sees his career come to an end as Iona falls short in NCAA Tournament matchup against Oregon. Washington posted 22 points and 12 rebounds in final game as a Gael. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

The clock struck midnight for Iona Friday afternoon, as the Gaels were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in a 93-77 loss to Oregon in Sacramento.

Iona (21-12) was within just one point in the first half, displaying the fight that won them a second straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship in nearly pulling even with the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional, trailing the Ducks (30-5) by a 29-28 margin with 8:11 to play in the opening stanza. However, a turnover by Rickey McGill led to a transition layup that kick-started a 36-10 run to put the game out of reach for the Gaels.

"I think it started with transition and getting to the rim," head coach Tim Cluess said of Oregon putting the Gaels away. "They do a great job of sharing the ball, so they worked it around until they could break us down."

"At the 8-minute mark, it was a one-point game, and we had a bad stretch of a couple of turnovers in a row and a couple of bad shots in a row. They capitalized on all of them, and it went from eight to 18 like that."

In his last game in the maroon and gold, Jordan Washington went out in a blaze of glory, leading the way for Iona with 22 points and 12 rebounds despite taking a hard fall late in the first half. But as the senior has proven on multiple occasions this season, his never-say-die attitude won out, bringing him back into the game before Cluess substituted him out in the final minute.

"We always play until it hits double zero," Washington said, reflecting on his competitive spirit after initially being too emotional to comment on the finality of his career. "We went back in the locker room and talked about how we've got to become a family and play hard and come together, and we never stopped."

Sam Cassell, Jr., also competing in his final contest, added 16 points to supplement Washington. Deyshonee Much was the third Gael in double figures, amassing 15 points. Tyler Dorsey led four Ducks in double figures, leading all scorers with 24 points to push Oregon into the Round of 32, where Rhode Island awaits. But despite the result, Cluess could not feel anything but pride for his players.

"I like the fight in my guys," he gushed. "I love my guys. They gave me everything they had. We might not have played the best game of the year, but we weren't lacking for heart. I'm really proud to be their coach and really proud to be up here with them."

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