Iona Proves They Can Survive In More Ways Than One

Iona junior A.J. English refused to let the Gaels give in to a crowd that got as loud as it has in the last four seasons at the Times Union Center. Even Siena senior Evan Hymes said it was the loudest he had heard the arena he has called home for four seasons.

Iona senior David Laury (left), junior A.J. English (middle) and head coach Tim Cluess (right) refused to let the Gaels all in a “road win” in the MAAC quarterfinals.

The partisan crowd reached their apex when Ryan Oliver drilled a right wing three-pointer to cut the lead to 69-67 with 1:06 remaining, prompting Iona head coach Tim Cluess to call a timeout, as if he was the road team in a hostile environment. Their next play, the junior English used a high ball screen and then lofted a heave that separated the top seeded Gaels from the Saints.

“I always look for Dave and Isaiah and the rest of my team and stuff like that, so they gave me the look and I mean, just thankful the shot went in,” English said. “I’m just thankful we won.”

To say the Gaels were on the ropes in an environment that wasn’t exactly nonpartisan would be an understatement. After the Saints closed the lead to five with just under five minutes remaining, Cluess used one of his timeouts and the crowd was as hostile as could be. However, Iona did something they had to do to advance: work the ball in the half court and defend.

The Saints closed the lead to three, after two Oliver free throws, to make it 65-62 and the Gaels went to work. Siena showed a zone and Laury at the free throw line found Amayo in the short corner for an easy layup. On the ensuing possession Amayo made the save of the game under the basket, a deflection that allowed Laury to convert a layup to put Iona back up seven.

“I was telling everybody that we’re fine, don’t get rattled, just keep your head,” Laury said. “We all knew they were going to make a run, especially on their home court, and we just had to withstand the barrage.”

On a night that was atypical Iona basketball, scoring 1.15 PPP, but turning it over 15 times in the process, it meant they had to grind out a victory. Williams, two games off of his foot injury, added 16 points and 11 rebounds.

“To have the three amigos back playing together at that level, we can beat anybody if they play like that,” Cluess said after on the trio of English, Laury and Williams.

While Schadrac Casimir and Kelvin Amayo added only six points each to the stat sheet, their difference making plays when the Gaels were under pressure proved to be the difference in this game. All of that added to their, as Cluess said, 12th road victory of the season. From here on out, it will be all neutral court games to continue their run to a MAAC championship.

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]

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