Iona Holds Off Fairfield, Who Lose Cobb To Injury

Iona has still yet to lose a regular season series in the Tim Cluess era. The Gaels led throughout and held off conference foe Fairfield 96-89 Friday night, earning revenge for a 93-87 loss earlier in the month in Bridgeport. Continue reading “Iona Holds Off Fairfield, Who Lose Cobb To Injury”

Iona 98, Canisius 75: Enter Schadrac Casimir, Not A Moment Too Soon

Schadrac Casimir made his first start in more than 13 months Sunday with Jon Severe still ailing from a couple of different minor injuries. But he lasted only 2:47 as with Canisius out to a 10-2 start, Iona coach Tim Cluess called time out and immediately went to Severe.

“The group that started had a couple of little breakdowns right at the get-go, and he was one of the guys,” Cluess said. “He really responded well, he didn’t sulk about it, and came back ready to play.”

It wasn’t a huge surprise, although Casimir was the 2014-15 MAAC Rookie of the Year, after missing almost all of last year and having to undergo three surgeries (because of two hip labrums), the stats indicate he hasn’t been the same since. In five MAAC games before Sunday’s, Casimir had a total of 21 points, with no more than 7 in any of them. Even worse, Iona – which has never has anywhere close to a losing conference record under Cluess (seventh season) – came in at 2-3, two games behind their red-hot opponent.

Continue reading “Iona 98, Canisius 75: Enter Schadrac Casimir, Not A Moment Too Soon”

Fairfield 93, Iona 87: Stags Win Is Probably Not A Fluke

They are what we thought they were,” is the famous line that stuck with Dennis Green, who sadly was among the seemingly hundreds of famous people who died in 2016.

But what we think can be fluid, can’t it? Iona entered the season ahead of Fairfield in the MAAC preseason poll, albeit only by a couple of spots (3rd and 5th, respectively). But the Gaels’ reputation as defending champions and perennial MAAC power makes the eyebrows raise when a score like: Fairfield 93, Iona 87 comes across your computer (or phone).

However, especially without Deyshonee Much (more on that below), it might just be that Fairfield, now full of experienced players that tasted a little bit of success, might be a better team right now. Although Iona (9-6, 2-2) made a late run to grab the lead and nearly stole the game late, the Stags led for nearly 37 minutes.

Continue reading “Fairfield 93, Iona 87: Stags Win Is Probably Not A Fluke”

Iona 94. NJIT 80: Keeping Jordan Washington On The Floor

Picture if you will, a basketball world where you can commit as many fouls as you would like, without fear of disqualification. Basketball is virtually the only sport where that’s the case, after all. Sure, other sports have penalties and violent conduct is sure to see you removed from participation in just about any athletic endeavor.

But a specified number of common fouls having a direct link to a player’s removal for the rest of the contest? Only our beloved hoops.

Now picture Iona senior Jordan Washington in that blissful no-foul out utopia. Washington has been borderline unstoppable for the last two seasons, a matchup quandary (especially for mid-major opponents) at 6’8”, especially when surrounded with the shooters that the Gaels seem to breed. He led the nation in usage last season (involved in 38.5% of Iona possessions), and is fifth this season. Washington also checks in second nationally in points per minute (behind the nation’s leading scorer, Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene at 30.8 ppg) and he is also sixth in number of minutes played … on his own team (20.7 minutes per game)?
Continue reading “Iona 94. NJIT 80: Keeping Jordan Washington On The Floor”

Iona Rebounds To Earn First Home Win

Iona erased a 12 point deficit to earn a 79-75 comeback win over Ohio University Saturday afternoon at the Hynes Athletic Center in New Rochelle, NY.

Jan Svandrlik showed off his shooting prowess Saturday afternoon
Jan Svandrlik showed off his shooting prowess Saturday afternoon
The Gaels rebounded from a loss to Niagara last weekend to earn their first home victory of the season, avoiding their first set of back-to-back home losses since December 2009, when Kevin Willard was head coach.

Ohio controlled the game throughout the first half, and it wasn’t until junior college transfer Jan Svandrlik connected on a 3-pointer with 11:56 remaining in the second half that the Gaels claimed their first lead of the game, 57-56.

Svandrlik, who entered the game without recording a point in Iona’s last six contests, broke out, scoring career-high 19 points on 6-8 shooting. The Czech Republic native connected on five of six attempts from behind in the arc, including four in the second half.

“The other night even though he only took two shots and missed them both, there was a sense of calm about his play,” head coach Tim Cluess said of Svandrlik. “He’s just a streaky kid, that’s just the way he is. He can knock down five or six in a row or miss five or six in a row, so we were just hoping that he was going to have one of those games, and we thought if he was it was going to be on our home court. Once he makes one or two, he has more confidence shooting the ball than anyone on our team.”

Senior Jordan Washington assumed full control as a leader on the Gaels, pocketing a season high 30 points while working against Ohio’s Antonio Campbell, a 6-9 forward and reigning MAC Player of the Year.

“In practice when we were going over film, coach Grasso told me ‘Jordan, that’s the best big you’re going to play throughout your whole senior year,’” Washington said. “I told coach Grasso I’m not scared of nobody, I’m not scared of no big, I’m going to fight regardless of how strong you are or how big you are. I don’t care. I’m still going to be that better big in that paint.”

Washington and Svandrlik both attended Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.

Head Coach Tim Cluess urges his team to play with more energy in the second half
Head Coach Tim Cluess urges his team to play with more energy in the second half
“He actually was going to come here out of high school I believe, but didn’t qualify because of the foreign transcripts and everything,” Cluess said of Svandrlik. “We had seen him two years prior and stayed in touch with him.”

With the Gaels trailing most of the game, it was Washington who stepped up as an emotional leader both on and off the court, motivating the squad to pick up their effort as the game went on.

“With two and a half minutes to go, Jordan comes up, slaps me on the back and says ‘Don’t worry coach, we got this,’” Cluess said of Washington. “He said ‘I’ll make sure I’m going to stop them, get rebounds, whatever it takes we’re winning this game.’ I thought that was huge, because even in the locker room at halftime, he was getting on other guys about the lack of emotion that he was seeing.”

In crunch time and the score knotted at 75 with 1:36 remaining, it was the Gaels’ least experienced player who stepped up to lead the team to victory.

Freshman E.J. Crawford knocked down a free throw to give the Gaels the lead, then after Iona came up with a defensive stop in the final 30 seconds, raced down the other end of the court to seal the game with a three-point play.

Freshman E.J. Crawford came through with key plays in critical moments
Freshman E.J. Crawford came through with key plays in critical moments
“E.J. just has a lot of confidence in himself and is just a mismatch player,” Cluess said of the freshman. “He can do a little of everything. I think he’s going to have a terrific career as he progresses. He’s a confident kid, believes in himself, and fits the way we play almost like an Isaiah Williams-type replacement player.”

Crawford finished the game with a career-high 15 points, completing the trio of Gaels in double figures.

Sophomore Rickey McGill tallied just six points, but notched a career high with 12 assists. The breakout of McGill at the point provides the Gaels another option to run the offense through in the future, making their dynamic offense all the more threatening.

“That’s what Rickey has to be for us,” Cluess said. “He’s really athletic, he’s learning the point guard spot and made much better decisions as the game went on. The hardest thing for a scoring guard to do as a point guard is know when he should take it and when he should pass it.”

Iona is back in action next week when it hosts NJIT on Wednesday evening. The contest will mark the first-ever meeting between the local programs.

Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.

Three Thoughts: Iona 90, FDU 73 – Schadrac Casimir’s Road Back

On Dec. 4, 2015, Schadrac Casimir – reigning unanimous MAAC Rookie of the Year – went scoreless in just 23 minutes as Iona played Fairfield. It was a secondary story because the Gaels won, but something was clearly up and a couple of days later it was announced Casimir would miss the rest of the season with a hip labral tear.

With modern medicine, most of the time, that’s it, Casimir would return for 2016-17 with three years of eligibility and be ready to rock and roll by the time practice began in October. But even state of the art medicine is not perfect  and hips can be tricky for athletes, especially basketball players with the constant changing of direction needed. Casimir underwent another surgery on the other hip later in the winter and then a third on a sports hernia which was related to the first two.

Continue reading “Three Thoughts: Iona 90, FDU 73 – Schadrac Casimir’s Road Back”