It took an extra ten minutes, but the Iona Gaels fought past Quinnipiac 87-82 in double overtime Friday night in New Rochelle to remain just a game back of first place in the MAAC.
At one point trailing by up to eight points, Iona fought back to hold a 67-60 lead with just 54 seconds remaining in regulation. In an uncharacteristic lapse, the Gaels then missed four consecutive free throws down the stretch to give the Bobcats life.
Schadrac Casimir, a career 89.3% free throw shooter, missed the front end of two separate one-and-one situations before Rickey McGill clanked a pair.
“I thought we were giving them a golden opportunity at the end of regulation to come back and either win the game or tie the game and send it to overtime,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said. “Sometimes when you give a game away in those situations, you don’t find a way to win.”
Jacob Rigoni’s three-pointer with 31 seconds remaining brought the Iona advantage down to two before Cameron Young made one of two free throws with 20 ticks on the clock. In a wild finish, T.K. Edogi broke free for a dunk on the ensuing possession, but the Bobcats hurried back down where Young buried a tying three with just four seconds left to play.
“I really liked that our guys were aggressive, didn’t play tentative, and when we had those opportunities really took advantage of them,” Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy said of the comeback.
Quinnipiac kicked off the extra period on an 8-2 run, but within a minute the Gaels fought back to tie it once more at 77. Deyshonee Much put Iona up by two with less than 30 seconds remaining, but the Bobcats’ Chaise Daniels came through with a matching layup in the waning seconds to force yet another extra frame.
Oddly, the teams remained scoreless for the first 3:10 of the second overtime before E.J. Crawford broke the ice with a layup. Quinnipiac got back within one, but Roland Griffin’s short jumper with 36 seconds remaining proved to be the difference-maker.
“I was staying aggressive, trying to get to the foul line if I didn’t make the shot,” Griffin said of the situation. “I feel like every game I’ve got a favorable matchup for me.”
Rigoni missed what would have been a tying three with nine seconds remaining before McGill added a fast-break layup to provide the final margin.
Here are three thoughts on Iona’s double overtime win over Quinnipiac
1) Roland Griffin has become Iona’s must-watch player.
The graduation of Jordan Washington last spring left a void in the middle of Iona’s lineup. With no true option to replace the dominant big man on this year’s roster, the duty has fallen to the pair of T.K. Edogi and Roland Griffin.
Tim Cluess’ two-headed monster has been excellent in the paint this season, but of late Griffin has been nearly unstoppable. The former Illinois State forward led Iona with 20 points on Friday, achieving back-to-back 20+ point games for the first time this season. Over his last six games, Griffin is averaging 16.0 ppg while shooting 63.6% from the field.
“Roland the last several games is really starting to play much better and he’s feeling really comfortable,” Cluess said of Griffin. “We were waiting for this kind of production to start to come out of him, so I think it’s great that it’s starting to come now with as many games as we still have left. He’s going to be a big part of what we need to do the rest of the way.”
2) Cameron Young’s breakout continues.
Not enough can be said about Cameron Young’s 2017-18 season. The Los Angeles native earned just eight total minutes of playing time last season as a junior college transfer out of Arizona Western College, but has become the Bobcats’ star this year.
Young failed to put up a point in his limited playing time last season, but currently leads Quinnipiac with an 18.0 ppg average. His 31-point performance Friday night was the first 30+ point game for a Quinnipiac player since Ousmane Drame scored 33 against Vermont on Nov. 30, 2014.
“I just try to be more patient, not try to force stuff,” Young said of his progress this season. “Early on I was trying to force shots and I feel like my teammates were still looking for me. I’ve got to look for them so we all play together, and it just comes to me.”
Young added 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season and has now reached double-figure points in 17 consecutive games dating back to Nov. 29. He has eclipsed the 20-point mark on nine occasions thus far.
3) Winning through versatility.
Iona’s 16 three-point attempts matches a season low, but the Gaels – normally heavily reliant on the deep ball – took just 14 attempts through regulation. Had the game ended there, it would have been the fewest attempts for an Iona squad since the 2012-13 season.
Quinnipiac ranks 10th in the MAAC giving up 39.7% to opponents behind the arc, but the Bobcats consistently drove the Gaels off the three-point line, leaving openings in the middle of the zone.
“They did a good job of getting out on our three-point shooters and not making it easy for us,” Cluess said. “They gave us certain things that we needed to attack and times we did, times we didn’t, but they did a nice job on that. We didn’t shoot the ball well.”
Although the Gaels came away with just five made three-pointers on the evening, they demonstrated their toughness and versatility by still finding a way to pull off the victory. Their mid-range game was strong, with 20 points coming on jumpers inside the arc, while the team picked up 42 points in the paint with 19 on fast-breaks.
Both Iona and Quinnipiac are back in action this Sunday. The Gaels head north to face Marist in Poughkeepsie while the Bobcats play host to first-place Rider.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.