Sunday, March 6, 2011

Men: Iona Rides Treys to Win Over Broncs

When Iona's sophomore sharpshooter Kyle Smyth suffered a shoulder injury when his drive to the basket was blocked with about 18 minutes left in Sunday's semifinal-round game of the men's MAAC tournament Smyth was forced to leave the game and junior teammate Jermel Jenkins came in.

Good news for Iona's opponent Rider?

No, bad news for Rider.

Less than 30 seconds later the 5-foot-11 Jenkins swished a three-pointer. Three minutes later he swished another. Three possessions after that, yet another.

And, after making two more treys later in the half the Gaels had a 71-57 lead with 6:41 left in the game.

Jenkins' long-range ability Sunday, in what ultimately became a blow-out 83-59 victory over Rider, isn't that unusual. He had made 61 3-pointers this season, clicking at a .365 percentage from beyond the bonus stripe.

But the six he made Sunday, on 10 attempts, accounted for the second-high single-game total of his career (he had 7 in a game against UAlbany earlier this season).

And, Jenkins wasn't the Gaels' only surprising "mad bomber" in the win over the Broncs. Senior guard Rashon Dwight added 5-of-7 from international waters, a career-best total of treys,

Jenkins and Dwight, neither of who averaged double-figure scoring this season, finished with 20 and 19 points, respectively.

The Gaels' big scorer is usually 6-7 junior forward Mike Glover, the MAAC's second-leading scorer who had 31 points a night earlier in a quarterfinal-round contest against Siena. Glover, though, had 12 points against Rider, and his teammate, Iona's second-leading scorer Scott Machado, was held to seven points.

No problem. Iona just dialed long distance and Jenkins and Dwight answered enthusiastically.

"When Smyth came out coach (Tim Cluess) told me to in, stay aggressive and shoot when I was open," said Jenkins.

Jenkins was often open, as was Dwight, because of Rider's defensive strategy.

"Iona is a tough team to guard," said Rider coach Tommy Dempsey. "We wanted to do everything we could to bring a crowd to Glover and limit his touches and shots (Glover only took eight shots in the game).

'And, then, Machado gets 12 assists. Our plan on him was to keep him out of the lane, and we did that well, too. But, he still made the right decisions. That's what makes their team so difficult to defend. You can only do so much against them.

"If you guard Glover and cut off Machado's drives to the basket, you leave the perimeter open. You have to pick your poison with them. Do you single-team Glover and let him go one-on-one inside. If you go out and pressure their 3-point shots, they'll throw it inside to Glover all night.

"So, tonight they made a ton of 3's. We picked our poison, and they made 14 3-pointers. Who knows what would have happened if Smyth stayed in the game? But, he went out, Jenkins came in and Jenkins cashed in. If Jenkins doesn't come in ... well, he was the key. The game was still competitive when he came in, but it turned into a blowout at the end."

It was the second-straight blowout victory in the tournament for Iona, which defeated Siena, 94-64, in Saturday's quarterfinal round.

The Gaels, now 22-10 this season, move on to Monday's 7 p.m. championship game against Saint Peter's.

Rider 23-10 record accounts for the program's single-season high for victories. Junior forward Novar Gadson led the Broncs with 19 points while senior guard Justin Robinson added 17.

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