By Kevin Sweeney
Iona used a dominant final 11 minutes to earn a hard-fought 86-73 win over Manhattan on Friday night in a game that was closer than the score shows. A.J English led 5 players in double figures for Iona with 23 points.
In front of a packed house at Draddy Gymnasium, the Jaspers had the home crowd rocking early. They started the game on a 20-5 run in the first 6 minutes of the first half. They were able to use their patented high-intensity full-court press to bother the Gaels on the offensive end, forcing the Gaels to turn the ball over 7 times in that early stretch. It was the brilliance of junior forward Rich Williams that fueled the Jaspers’s offensive attack in the first half. Williams scored 24 points in the first half alone, including 4-5 from beyond the arc.
The second half was a different story for the Gaels. It started in the exact opposite way that the first half began. Iona scored the first 8 points of the half to get their first lead of the game 2 and a half minutes into the 2nd period of play. After the teams traded buckets for a few minutes, Iona began to break away as the game wound down. From the 11:17 mark in the second half on, Iona outscored Manhattan 25-14 to stretch a close 61-59 game to what would appear to be a blowout.
Williams set a career high with 27 points for the Jaspers, but was held to only 3 in the second half. Zane Waterman had a double-double for Manhattan with 18 points and 10 rebounds. It was English who led the way for Iona, knocking down 6 3’s for Iona. They also got 16 points from center Jordan Washington.
For Manhattan, tonight marked the final home game for what will go down as one of the best senior classes in Manhattan history. The class of guards RaShawn Stores and Shane Richards combined for over 2,000 points. They have also won 70 games in Manhattan uniforms and have reached 2 straight NCAA Tournaments.
The win by the Gaels keeps the pressure on Monmouth, moving within a half game of the Hawks for first place in the MAAC. Manhattan, who are already locked into having to play a fourth game at the MAAC Tournament, falls to 9-10 in MAAC play. They can clinch the 6th seed with a win over Rider Sunday or a Rider loss tonight vs Monmouth.
Both teams conclude the regular season on Sunday. The Gaels will have a home matchup with Canisius, while Manhattan travels to New Jersey to take on Rider.