Schadrac Casimir's 20 points led all scorers as Iona won fifth straight meeting with Manhattan Saturday night in MAAC's Nassau Coliseum tripleheader. (Photo by Iona College Athletics)
UNIONDALE, NY -- Since the 2015 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game, it has not necessarily mattered where Iona and Manhattan battled one another, as the Gaels had picked up four convincing victories in a row between their home floor in New Rochelle and on the Jaspers' court in Riverdale, a mere 9.3 miles to the south.
Playing on a neutral site in what was technically considered a road game yielded more of the same in the latest encounter between the two rivals.
Headlining the MAAC's tripleheader at Nassau Coliseum Saturday, an event designed to serve as a litmus test for a potential conference tournament venue, Iona asserted their dominance over their adversary once more, pulling away in the final minute to score a 78-65 victory over Manhattan, rebounding from a close loss against Canisius this past Sunday.
"Nobody likes to lose," said Deyshonee Much of the need to bounce back from Sunday's 84-82 setback at the hands of the Golden Griffins at the Hynes Athletics Center. "We went back to the drawing board, figured it out and came out here and executed everything."
"When I'm open, I shoot the ball," Schadrac Casimir said after his three-pointer in the left corner with 48 seconds remaining in regulation served as the de facto dagger for the Gaels (13-8, 7-2 MAAC) as they picked up their fifth straight win at the expense of the Jaspers and seventh in the last eight meetings, this one in wire-to-wire fashion. "Coach Cluess always finds a way to get me open."
Casimir, who averages over 16 points per game against Manhattan and has now led Iona in scoring three times when facing the Jaspers, led all scorers with 20 points, one of six Gaels in double figures. But for a majority of the evening, the two-time reigning MAAC champions were unable to put Manhattan (10-12, 5-5 MAAC) away, thanks in large part to point guard Rickey McGill being hampered by foul trouble for the majority of the second half.
Iona built a 13-point lead that the Jaspers soon trimmed to four as Zane Waterman and Zavier Turner picked up the slack in the absence of leading scorer Rich Williams, who was unavailable after suffering a cut to his shooting hand before last Wednesday's game at Niagara. Manhattan would get no closer, however, as the Gaels were able to close the game on a 10-2 run and hold the Jaspers' defensive pressure at bay, committing only six turnovers the entire night.
"It was one of our better games this year, and that's what we strive for," head coach Tim Cluess remarked on Iona's ball handling against Manhattan's aggressive defensive schemes. "In the games we've done that, we've had success, and I thought our guys did a great job taking care of the ball. Manhattan really pressures you well all game long, and I thought our guys handled that well, especially with Rickey being out as long as he was."
Aside from Casimir's latest star turn against the Jaspers, Roland Griffin added 12 points off the bench, with McGill accounting for 11 and the trio of Much, TK Edogi, and Zach Lewis each adding 10 points of their own. For Manhattan, Waterman's 18-point, 12-rebound double-double paced a valiant effort, but head coach Steve Masiello would not subscribe to the notion of a moral victory.
"I'm not satisfied unless we win," he deadpanned. "I thought we had some good looks that we didn't make, I thought we had some defensive breakdowns that are uncharacteristic of us. Credit Iona."
"Basketball is a game of runs," Cluess said when discussing Iona staying the course despite McGill's foul trouble. "We just had to stop theirs when they got it going and not let it get too close, and our guys made some big shots to kind of keep a little bit of a cushion."