Tag Archives: 2010-11 college basketball season

Iona Gaels Basketball 2011 Season Review

After Iona started the season at a tournament in Cleveland and lost all three games, the Gaels returned home to face Richmond, an NCAA Tournament team the previous year that had started 2-0 and was expected to compete for an Atlantic 10 title (it finished third but won the conference tournament).

“My concern was that if we came in here and laid an egg, I could lose them this early in the year,” Iona head coach Tim Cluess would say after the game, referring to his players. “They’d say, ‘We worked really hard, coach, and we still didn’t win.’”

Instead of losing the game and potentially their confidence, the Gaels picked up a quality nonconference win, overcoming a six-point deficit with less than a minute remaining and eventually winning in double-overtime. They used the momentum to rattle off seven straight victories and embark on a run that took them all the way to the MAAC championship game.

In the title game, Iona ran into St. Peter’s, a team committed to a defensive philosophy that was able to hold the Gaels to their lowest output of the season in a 62-57 victory.

But the ride to the finals in Bridgeport was an impressive one. Iona played a competitive game with Syracuse, losing by just six. When the Gaels beat Niagara on Jan. 21, they improved to 7-1 in the MAAC.

Iona then hit its only rough patch of the conference season, dropping four in a row—by margins of two, two, three (in OT), and four. The Gaels picked it up from there, posting another seven-game win streak to end the regular season, with most of the games decided by hefty margins. The final game of the regular season was a victory over No. 1 seed Fairfield, which cemented Iona as the hottest team in the MAAC heading into the conference tournament.

And just in case there were any doubts, Iona eliminated three-time defending champ Siena in the quarterfinals, 94-64. In the semis, the Gaels looked like a well-oiled offensive machine once again, beating Rider 83-59, before stalling against St. Peter’s.

The 22 wins are the most for the program since 2006, when it won 23 games, and Iona has a chance to add to that total in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT). The Gaels play tomorrow night at Valparaiso. Future matchups are based on seeding, so Iona’s potential next opponent is unknown.

Scott Machado, left, and Mike Glover, return next season. (Credit: Warren Rosenberg/ICGaels.com)

Looking ahead to next year, Iona loses just two seniors, Rashon Dwight and Alejo Rodriguez, though both were starters. Dwight, who averaged 8.5 points per game and led the team in steals, came on strong in the second half of the season. Rodriguez’s production was limited as he recovered from two offseason hip surgeries, but he was the second leading rebounder. The effort was there, but as Cluess pointed out after the title game, Rodriguez just didn’t seem to have the legs necessary to play three games in as many days.

Iona returns its two best players in First Team All-MAAC performers Scott Machado and Mike Glover. Machado is tied for the second in the country in assists as we head into the various postseason tournaments, while Glover posted 18 double-doubles and will likely be the frontrunner next season for MAAC Player of the Year.

They’ll both be seniors, as will guards Jermel Jenkins and Trinity Fields and versatile swingman Randy Dezouvre, giving the Gaels a nice senior core, which is often a component of conference championship teams, especially at the mid-major level. Kyle Smyth (third leading scorer at 10.1 per game) and Chris Pelcher (a 6’10 center who developed nicely this season and will take on an even greater role with the departure of Rodriguez) will be juniors. Sharpshooter Sean Armand returns, as does Jayon James, who missed most of the season due to injury.

Despite the hurt of falling just short of an NCAA Tournament bid, it was an extremely success first season for Cluess. Consider the average margin in Iona’s 11 losses was just 4.1 points, and only once did Iona lose by double digits this season, a 10-point loss during that rocky opening weekend. In other words, the Gaels were competitive in virtually every game.

There’s no reason to think Iona won’t be near the top of the MAAC standings again next season. With more seniors, the Gaels might have the added sense of urgency that is required to navigate all the way through a conference tournament.

St. John’s Upsets Pitt at Madison Square Garden

NEW YORK—It’s time to consider St. John’s a favorite to win the Big East tournament. With today’s 60-59 victory over No. 4 Pittsburgh, the Red Storm improved its season record to 7-1 at Madison Square Garden, the venue for the conference tourney. Pitt joins Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke, and Connecticut as top-13 teams (both at the time and currently) that lost to St. John’s at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

The Red Storm beat Notre Dame by 18, Duke by 15, and UConn by 17, but this win was probably the most impressive. Pitt (24-3, 12-2 Big East) had not lost on the road yet this season and was aided by the return of leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, who had missed the previous three games with a knee injury.

Pitt has also had great success at the Garden. Since the 2000-01 season, the Panthers were 26-11 overall at MSG and had reached the finals of seven Big East tournaments (winning two). They had already won twice at the Garden earlier this season (beating Maryland and Texas). But Dwight Hardy’s twisting layup with 1.2 seconds left gave St. John’s (17-9, 9-5) a one-point victory and sent yet another message to the rest of the Big East.

“That moment was pretty surreal. To see the ball settle into the net and look up at the clock with that crowd on its feet and realize we had an opportunity to beat Pittsburgh, the number four team in the country, on that shot, was pretty special,” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin.

It was a moment Lavin wasn’t sure he’d get to experience. It was a back and forth game in the second half, but Pitt held a six-point advantage with under seven minutes remaining. That’s when Lavin noticed his team was “deflated.”

“I was encouraging the group for the last four minutes to have fun,” Lavin said. “I felt there was a stretch where we were playing joyless basketball.” At the final media timeout he told his players “It’s about enjoying this moment and playing with passion.”

The Red Storm responded. Pittsburgh entered the game No. 1 in the country in rebounding margin (+12) and tops in the Big East in free throws attempted. St. John’s, meanwhile, was last in the conference in rebounds per game. But when it mattered the most the Johnnies were more Pitt-like than the Panthers themselves, attempting 12 free throws over the last six minutes and grabbing a couple of critical offensive boards.

For the game, each team had 31 rebounds; it was just the second time this season that Pitt failed to grab at least 10 offense rebounds. From the free throw line, St. John’s hit 23-of-32 from the line while Pitt was just 10-of-18.

Lavin said his team’s goal before the season was to make the NCAA Tournament, to send the 10 seniors out on a high note. “I’d say in terms of the number of wins over quality opponents, we may be a bit ahead of schedule,” he said. “My hope was by March to have a dangerous, scrappy, opportunistic team that could beat anybody in the country if they didn’t bring an ‘A’ game or if they overlooked us. It appears we’ve hit that in late January and February.”

It’s possible that Georgetown or Notre Dame or maybe even Duke overlooked St. John’s. It’s highly doubtful that Pittsburgh did, but it lost anyway. St. John’s has shown it is a team capable of winning the Big East tournament—even if it won’t have quite the same fan advantage as it does for its true home games at the Garden—and one that won’t be an easy out in the NCAA Tournament.

“I think it gives us a good advantage in the Big East Tournament, playing on our home court,” Hardy the hero said. “It shows we’re dangerous here, we come to play. The crowd just backs us up. It’s like extra people on the court when they’re here.”

Notes:

  • Gibbs sat the first five minutes of the game but carried Pitt in the first half. St. John’s led by as many as nine with 7:43 left but Pitt closed with a 15-5 run to take a 27-26 lead. Gibbs had 15 of his team’s final 20 points of the half. He finished with a game-high 26. No other Pitt player scored more than seven.
  • Gibbs was asked if he thinks Pitt has the pieces for a Final Four run. “Yeah, I think so,” he said. “We have all the pieces. Everybody’s unselfish. I think everybody knows their role. We just have to keep it up on the defensive end. Defense and rebounding affects our offense, so if we do those things we’ll be fine on the offensive end too.”
  • In a one-point game, obviously every point counts, and Pitt was hurt by having some poor foul shooters. Nasir Robinson (54.5 percent from the line on the season), Gary McGhee (48.8 percent), and Dante Taylor (57.5 percent) shot a combined two-for-nine from the stripe.
  • “He probably was expecting help,” Pitt guard Brad Wannamaker said of teammate Gilbert Brown, who defended Hardy on the final basket. “That’s what we focus on. That’s the basis of our defense—forcing it to the baseline and having a guy to help. It was just miscommunication.”
  • Pittsburgh native D.J. Kennedy committed three turnovers and picked up a technical foul in the first half, but came alive in the final six minutes, scoring six points, recording two steals, and grabbing a critical offensive rebound. “I love when DJ plays well,” teammate Justin Burrell said. “When DJ plays well it elevates our team to a new level…For him to get that offensive rebound really lifted our team’s morale.”
  • St. John’s will be ranked on Monday for the first time since Nov. 28, 2000. “I can’t wait,” Burrell said. It’s been four long years without seeing a number. I’m really excited.”

Photos:

Pitt attempts a free throw, something it did not do enough.
Pitt defends against St. John’s in the second half.
Unlike the Duke game, no fans rushed the court this time.
St. John’s seniors Justin Burrell (left) and Dwight Hardy talk to the media after the game.
Dwight Hardy describes (verbally and physically) his game-winning basket.
St. John’s senior and Pittsburgh native D.J. Kennedy and Steve Lavin address media after the game.
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon addresses the media after the game.
Brad Wanamker and Ashton Gibbs of Pitt address the media after the game.

Videos:

Travon Woodall’s three-pointer to give Pitt a one-point lead with 14 seconds left:

Dwight Hardy’s game-winning layup:

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon’s opening statement to media:

St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin’s opening statement to media:

Iona Beats Manhattan 102-65 on Senior Night

RIVERDALE, N.Y.—Last night was Senior Night for the Manhattan Jaspers as they hosted the Iona Gaels. There was a pregame ceremony recognizing the lone seniors on the squad, Nick Walsh and Andrew Gabriel, as well as the handful of seniors in the band and on the dance and cheer teams. Midway through the second half of the game, you had to feel sorry for them. Iona completely dismantled the Jaspers in a 102-65 victory.

The game got out of hand about as quickly as a game can. Iona led from start to finish. Its first double-digit lead came nine minutes in; two minutes later the margin was 17. The Gaels led 56-36 at half. They went up 41 with 4:57 left in the game.

Here are some of Iona’s statistics:

· 36/54 (66.7 percent) from the field
· 16/27 (59.3 percent) from three
· 19/26 (73.1 percent) from the field in first half
· Frontcourt: 15/17 (88.2 percent) from the field

Let those numbers sink in for a moment.

This is a rivalry game—the campuses are separated by fewer than 10 miles—and it was Senior Night no less. Yet the effort on the defensive end was abysmal. Iona often beat Manhattan’s defense down the floor to get easy baskets. If the Gaels couldn’t get anything off the initial fast break, it didn’t take them long to find an open look in their halfcourt offense.

“The speed of the game caught up to us and hurt us early on,” Manhattan head coach Barry Rohrssen said. “They hit baskets and got confident and it just continued for them.” Later, he added: “We’ve got to guard some people. If you want to win a game you’ve got to guard some people for 40 minutes. It doesn’t matter how many points you put up. It comes down to getting some stops.”

It certainly didn’t help that Iona was pouring in practically everything—point guard Scott Machado was shooting just 28 percent from deep entering the contest and hit six-of-eight from downtown last night—but such a small percentage of the shots were contested.

“I’m surrounded by a bunch of shooters on my team,” said Machado, the nation’s assist leader. “When you’re the worst shooter on your team and you’re hitting shots like that, you feel good. The basket looks like an ocean.”

style=”margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;”>Iona Manhattan opening tip
It was all downhill after the opening tip for the Jaspers.

Manhattan sophomore George Beamon, who led all scorers with 21, preferred to talk about redemption in the Jaspers’ remaining games than analyze what went wrong against Iona. “It’s just one of those nights. It was crazy,” Beamon said. “We’ve just got to bring it next game.”

Manhattan is 5-22 (3-13 in MAAC) this season and was a double-digit underdog against the Gaels (17-10, 11-5). But the Jaspers were coming off a win over Siena on Sunday and you had to expect a more inspired performance given the circumstances. “I haven’t remembered a game like this in a while,” Machado said. “We came to play tonight.” In what was the last game at Draddy Gym for the seniors, Manhattan did not.