Thursday, January 5, 2012

Iona's Armand Plans On More Big Nights

The 10 3-pointers made by Iona's Sean Armand's in the Gaels' 95-59 victory over Siena on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden matched the season's single-game best nationally (also accomplished by Lafayette's Jim Mawer).

But Armand claims he has had better nights.

"I think I might have had more than 10 in a game in high school," said Armand, who we spoke to after an Iona practice the day after his big game. "I know I had some big nights in high school."

Indeed he might have, having averaged 28 points per game his senior season at Central Jersey Each One Teach One Academy (CJEOTOA).

But, no one has had a bigger night for perimeter shooting on the college level this year.

Certainly no one has had a bigger night on a bigger stage, with Armand doing it in Madison Square Garden.

And, no one has had a bigger night in so few minutes, as he played just 22 minutes.

But, the big night for Armand, who had started just four games all year and came off the bench against Siena, seemed to set up perfectly.

For sure the Gaels, and Armand, were as focused as they had been at any time all season for a number of reasons.

Not the least of which was a loss to Hofstra in the now 11-3 team's previous game, an outing the Gaels universally agreed included a lackluster effort.

Then, there was Siena's junior forward O.D. Anosike's comments several days prior to the game that his team, which had won the MAAC's automatic NCAA berth for three straight years recently (2007-08 through 2009-10) was still the "Cadillac" team of the conference.

(Afterwards, Iona point guard Scott Machado had a response to the automobile theme: "We're like a Bentley program. We're known, but not very well advertised.")

There was the Madison Square Garden stage, not far from Armand's Brooklyn home and proximitous enough for dozens of family members and friends to attend.

But, mostly, there was a zone defense played exclusively for 40 minutes by a Siena team that has limited numbers and only used six players for more than nine minutes.

"We knew they would play zone against us, and I knew I'd have my chances because of that," Armand said. "Any team that wants to play zone against our team is going to be in trouble,. We've got a bunch of shooters."

And none better them himself, a 6-foot-3 sophomore with the sweetest shooting touch the MAAC has seen in some time.

Armand set a program freshman record in 2010-11 with 61 three-pointer, connecting on an impressive .421 percent last season. He's even more effective so far this year, making 32-of-64 from bonus land, his .500 percent rate the 28th-best nationally.

His output against Siena set a MAAC record for treys in a game, surpassing the previous best of nine hit five times (twice by Saint Peter's Keydren Clark and once each by Loyola's Andre Collins, Manhattan's Bruce Seals and Siena's Jim Secretarski).

Coincidentally, Secretarski's nine three-pointer night came against Iona.

"Guess I got a little payback," joked Armand.

And, only once has there been more three-pointers in a game against Siena. Before the Saints joined the MAAC, a 5-9 guard from Niagara, Gary Bossert, went 11-of-13 against the Saints midway through the 1987-88 season. Bossert still holds the NCAA record for consecutive treys without a miss (all 11, after missing his first two tries) from that game.

"I didn't know I was setting a league record," said Armand. "Kyle Smyth (his teammate) told me during a time out at one point that I had eight, and I went back in and hit the two more. I didn't know I set the conference record until after the game."

He didn't know of Bossert's 11 treys against a Siena team until a day later, a statistic he got a laugh about.

"Hey, if I knew someone had dropped 11 on them, I'd have tried to get back in the game to get that," he said, laughing.

But he had already done plenty when he came out late in Tuesday's game, after making 10-of-19 three-point tries for a game-high 32 points in just 22 minutes.

The court time was one of his most-extended periods of play thus far. Despite his ability to score (Armand says he prefers to be known as a "scorer who can shoot" rather than just as a shooter), he only averages 14 minutes of playing time per contest.

He is part of one of the most-talented backcourt groups ever assembled in the MAAC's 31-year history, deferring to starters senior Scott Machado, the nation's assist leader, and junior Lamont "Momo" Jones, a starter at Arizona prior to his transfer to Iona who is currently the MAAC's eighth-leading scorer. Iona's perimeter group also includes Smyth as a starter and Jermel Jenkins (16 points vs. Siena) and Ra'Shad James. The Gaels' three backcourt reserves (Armand, Jenkins and James) would likely start for the majority of MAAC teams.

"I've started some games, and come off the bench in others, and that doesn't bother me," said Armand. "I know I'm going to get time every game and I go in and try to ignite things with my scoring. But, I'm trying to give the team more than that ... I'm trying to get some rebounds, play some defense and get some steals, too."

For sure he has become a nice part of one of the most-potent offensive forces the conference has ever seen. The Gaels are currently fourth nationally with their per-game scoring average of 85.8. Only four MAAC teams in history have ever finished a season with a higher scoring average.

"I know that some day I'll look back at this and appreciate my night, which I was able to accomplish before a lot of people who support me, and that I did it at Madison Square Garden," added Armand.

"But I don't plan to look back at this as my one big night. I've got a lot of time left in college and, hopefully, I'll have more big nights before I'm through."

1 comment:

gcertain said...

Gary Bossert hit 12 out of 14 with 11 in a row in that 87 Siena Game!