By David Cordova
As February rolls around and the regular season comes to a close, teams in the Metro Atlantic Atheltic Conference are gearing together to prepare for the conference tournament on March 2-7 at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY.
In last night’s game between Iona and Rider at Alumni Gym in front of a sellout crowd, both teams showed how much intensity a team has to have in a game. Another thing that the game showed us is that the team that can dominate for 40 minutes will emerge as the victor. The Gaels, the second-place team in the MAAC and the defending conference champions, showed how dominant they could be for a whole game.
Iona 95, Rider 76
From the start of the game, both teams kept the game close, but then Iona had gained a strong momentum, getting out to a ten-point led, 24-14, with more than 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Behind the offense of Jordan Washington, Jon Severe and Sam Cassell Jr., the Gaels were off to a fast start.
As the half wore on, the Gaels struck heavily from three-point range as they shot over 70% from the field. They eventually led by a wide margin, 39-22, with 7:54 to go. Before the end of the half, Rider would then step up their defensive play despite shooting a dismal 43% from the field, and would then cut their deficit to 42-31 with 56 seconds left in the first half. But the Gaels clearly won the battle of the first half, as they would hold a fourteen-point lead, 45-31, at intermission.
In the beginning of the second half, although they were down by a large margin, the Broncs stayed resilient and put up a good fight, behind the scoring of Jimmie Taylor, as they cut the deficit to eleven, 52-41, with 16:51 to go after a three by Anthony Durham.
But then the Gaels would bring up their intensity, as they went on another shooting display, which would bring them to a 19-point lead, 60-41, with 14:56 to go in the game. Throughout the second half, they would continue to score most of their points from behind the arc as they would continue to lead by around twenty.
Rider would try to make several runs in the game, but Iona’s weapons would prove to be too powerful, as the Gaels would not relinquish their lead and would win their ninth conference win of the season.
Cassell would lead Iona with 29 points and six rebounds and Washington would add 24 points and three blocks. Severe would also add 17 points and five assists for the Gaels. For Rider, Taylor led with 16 points and six rebounds and Durham contributed 15 points and forward Kahlil Thomas added 14 points and seven assists for the Broncs.