Monmouth upended Iona 110-102 Friday evening, handing the Gaels their first home loss in over two years, but what followed the final buzzer soon became the real story.
The Hawks, who have garnered national attention this season with wins over UCLA, USC, Notre Dame, Georgetown and more, have also riled up opposition with the antics of their bench players.
Leading up to Friday night’s showdown between the top two teams in the MAAC Iona head coach Tim Cluess added bulletin board material to the rivalry with pointed criticism of the Hawks’ bench players.
The game itself lived up to expectations as a high-scoring affair, but a handful of chippy plays provided a preview of what was to come.
With just over four minutes remaining in the first half and Monmouth holding a seven point edge, matching technical fouls were called on Iona’s Ibn Muhammad and Monmouth’s bench. Then with 5:39 remaining in the game and the Hawks up by 14, Monmouth’s Chris Brady was whistled for a technical foul against Jahaad Proctor.
Proctor knocked down four free throws to bring the gap down to 10, but the best Iona could do was narrow the deficit to five in the final seconds.
The customary handshake line followed, and it appeared for a moment the action was done, but midway through, the pleasantries turned to pushing and shoving.
ESPNU, who broadcast the game, showed footage in the middle of the scrum where it appeared Iona’s Jordan Washington struck Brady across the face.
“Very unfortunate thing to end the game like that,” lamented Monmouth head coach King Rice. “It was probably a little bit chippy throughout the game, probably both teams saying more than they should have. Very unfortunate, because I truly thought that was a very good college basketball game.”A.J. English, who was in the middle of a similar fight last year, played peacekeeper this time around.
Both sides were reluctant to speak on the cause of the incident following the game, but Rice did give an unfortunate update on Brady.
“Chris’s nose is about this swollen right now,” Rice said. “If he slaps that hard, he should try MMA. Nobody smacks and then the kid’s nose is this big downstairs right now. I don’t know if it was a smack or what it was, but Brady’s nose is pretty messed up right now.”
The scrum brought about memories of a similar postgame shoving match between Iona and Saint Peter’s last season when the Gaels narrowly escaped with a victory. That game resulted in a suspension for Iona’s A.J. English, who was caught on video tossing a referee aside.
English stayed out of the scrum this time around, and in contrast to his involvement last year, tried to be a calming force postgame.
“A.J. was trying to talk to one of the players he knows on the other team saying ‘look, just get your guys away and we’ll get our guys away,’” Cluess said.
Iona and Monmouth will have to wait just over a month for the rematch. The Hawks and Gaels renew their rivalry February 19 in West Long Branch.
Check out a Photo Gallery from the game from Friday night, make sure to like Big Apple Buckets on Facebook for more.
Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.