By Kevin Sweeney
After Iona lost 3 of 4 MAAC games in early January, many wrote off the Gaels as MAAC title contenders.
Those people appear to have spoken too soon.
Iona led from wire-to-wire in a tough road atmosphere, beating Siena 77-66 for their 4th straight win.
Rickey McGill had a career-high 22 points for the Gaels.
From the outset, Iona was able to silence the 6,826 crowd, using an early burst from McGill to take a 15-8 lead 8 minutes into the game. McGill scored 11 of the first 15 points for the Gaels.
Siena answered with a quick run to cut the deficit to three but Iona had the answer, a common theme of the night.
Every time the Saints tried to get the crowd back into the game, the Gaels answered with a three or a short run to retake control of the game.
After a 3-point play by Javion Ogunyemi, who had 16 points in the game, cut the Iona lead to two, Iona went on a huge run spanning between the two halves to quickly turn an intriguing game into a blowout. In the end, it was a 22-8 run for the Gaels, giving them a 52-36 lead 4 minutes into the second half.
Siena never cut the deficit to single digits after that point. A few times, Siena seemed ready to make their push, but like clockwork, the Gaels would respond. After a Marquis Wright three at the end of the shot clock cut Siena’s deficit to 53-43, Sam Cassell Jr. drained a three right away, silencing a Siena crowd that seemed ready to get back into the game.
The Saints really struggled shooting the basketball tonight, shooting 3-19 from downtown and 11-21 from the foul line.
“We were lucky tonight that they weren’t on their outside shooting game.” Iona Head Coach Tim Cluess said.
The result was never really in doubt down the stretch, with both teams emptying their benches in the final minutes.
That’s the defending champion.” Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos quipped. “I didn’t think I’d have to get the team up for Iona. Clearly, I did a bad job of that.”
Tonight was arguably the Gaels’ best performance of the season, as they had no issues despite struggling on the road this season. More impressive is the fact that they did it without a good performance from star big man Jordan Washington, who was a non-factor due to foul trouble.
McGill’s 22 points led all scorers, while Much added 20 off the bench and EJ Crawford added 13 points. The Gaels are 14-8, 7-4 in conference play.
Marquis Wright led the way for the Saints with 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. Brett Bisping added a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Siena falls to 9-13 on the season, 6-5 in the MAAC.
All quotes in this story are per A Daly Dose of Hoops/Twitter.