Iona completed its perfect home slate with an energizing 79-75 win over Manhattan on Senior Night. The Gaels got a lift from the return of junior Isaiah Williams, who missed 12 games with a right foot injury. Williams contributed 12 points off the bench in his return.
“I was happy, excited to help my team,” Williams said of his return to the court. “I can’t really describe it. I was just happy to be on the court again.”
Iona had already wrapped up the MAAC regular season title with their previous win over Monmouth, but the Gaels still had plenty to play for, including pride. Iona came into Friday’s matchup representing one of 18 teams in Division I basketball with an undefeated record on its home court.
The Gaels had won 18 straight at home entering Saturday. The win over Manhattan set a new Hynes Center record. The victory also extended Iona’s overall winning streak to 11, matching the longest winning streak under Tim Cluess.
“It says a lot about the place and the fans here,” Cluess said on the perfect home record. “I love this place. What these people do, how they inspire our team, and how they support us is phenomenal. Last game we were down 16 and you never would have known that. Our fans being loud helped us get back in the game. Tonight they were loud the entire night. It was great.”
A rematch of the last two MAAC championship games, this meeting between the New York rivals lacked the high drama present in their first meeting at Draddy Gymnasium two weeks ago. In that meeting, Iona’s A.J. English broke a last-minute tie with a deep 3-pointer which ended up being the difference.
English once again shone bright. His 26 points led all scorers. The junior silenced a 7-0 Manhattan run midway through the second half with a corner three and followed that with five of the Gaels’ next seven points to extend his team’s lead to 12 halfway through the frame.
In fact, Iona ended up with a picture perfect stat sheet. Each member of the “big four” including English, Williams, David Laury (13), and Schadrac Casimir (15) finished in double figures while Kelvin Amayo provided a solid boost with eight points and seven rebounds. Laury also nabbed 11 rebounds for his 32nd career double-double in his final home game.
On the other side of the court, it was a disappointing evening for the Jaspers, who only led for 1:20. The loss marks the first time Steve Masiello’s squad has been swept by their local rivals.
Ashton Pankey led the way with 20 points, while Emmy Andujar achieved his tenth career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds and nearly had three more points on a mid-court shot atthe first half buzzer that was quickly waved off. Shane Richards added 14, making three of six from beyond the arc.
Looking ahead, Manhattan and Iona could be headed for another rematch in the MAAC tournament. Iona has already clinched the top seed, but if Manhattan drops their final game to Quinnipiac on Sunday combined with a Monmouth win over Siena, the Hawks would overtake Manhattan and drop the Jaspers to the four seed. That scenario would lead to a potential third meeting in the semifinals.
“This is now eight times in three years we’ve played and I think this is the first time we’ve gotten swept in the regular season,” Masiello said. “That’s what makes it a rivalry: that we’ve been going back and forth. It’s not a rivalry if one team is always winning. They’re a good team. I like playing them because it’s great for college basketball and great for our guys, but it’s a tough out. But that’s what makes it fun.”
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.
One thought on “English Shines, Williams Returns as Iona Sweeps Manhattan”
Iona has the strongest program in the NYC area, hands down.