Sunday, March 17, 2013

Iona Latest from MAAC To Draw Ohio State in NCAA's

Here we go again ... another MAAC team gets its opening-round NCAA tournament appearance against national powerhouse Ohio State.

The Iona Gaels can only hope that it's not deja vu all over again.

It was MAAC representative Loyola that got an unwanted taste of the Buckeyes last March. In that one, Ohio State had a 15-point lead after the game's 15 minutes and never led by less than 10 points again on its way to a 78-59 victory.

Two starters are gone from that Ohio State team, forward and current Boston Celtic 6-8 Jarred Sullinger and guard William Buford. But, Sullinger was battling back issues late last season and those two only combined for 29 of the team's 78 points and 14 of its 49 rebounds.

Deshaun Thomas, an athletic and strong 6-foot-7 forward, torched Loyola last season for 31 points (13-of-22 shooting) and 12 rebounds. Loyola didn't have a player with the physical traits to match up with Thomas a year ago, and Iona might not either.

One MAAC team, though, did have success against the Buckeyes in the NCAA event. That was in 2009 when Siena pulled off a 74-72 upset in double overtime, with guard Ronald Moore making last-second three pointers (the famous "Double Onions" call by color commentator Bill Raftery) to force both overtime sessions.

But, Ohio State's team wasn't as strong that season as last season's or this season's editions.

Here's a preview of Iona's matchup with IOhio State.

GAME INFORMATION: Friday at the University of Dayton Arena. Game time to be announced on Monday.

TEAM RECORDS: Ohio State is the No. 2 seed in the 16-team West Bracket. The Buckeyes are 26-7 overall. Iona is the No. 15 seed in the bracket and has a 20-13 record.

KEY PLAYERS FOR OHIO STATE: 6-foot-7 junior forward Deshaun Thomas (19.5 points, 6.2 rebounds per game), 6-2 junior guard Aaron Craft (9.9, 3.6, 4.6 assists, 2.0 steals), 6-4 junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. (9.5, 2.8), 6-8 sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross 97.5, 2.8), 6-7 sophomore forward Sam Thompson (7.4, 3.2), 6-8, 250-pound senior forward Evan Ravenel (5.1, 4.4), 6-1 sophomore guard Shannon Scott (4.8, 2.7), 6-11 sophomore center Amir Williams (3.8, 4.0).

KEY PLAYERS FOR IONA: 6-0 senior guard Momo Jones (23.0, 3.1, 3.5 assists), 6-4 junior guard Sean Armand (16.6, 5.1), 6-8 sophomore forward David Laury (13.1, 10.4), 6-5 junior guard Tre Bowman (8.5, 3.8) 6-7 senior forward Taaj Ridley (8.2, 5.5), 5-9 sophomore guard Tavon Sledge (5.6, 2.9, 3.3 assists).

OHIO STATE NOTES: The Buckeyes come in off a Big Ten Tournament championship, have won their last eight games overall and are 13-3 in their last 16 games. The only recent losses have been to Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, and Ohio State has also beaten those three teams in regular-season league play ... Thomas is a certain first-round NBA draft pick, if he comes out as expected after this season ... Craft is considered the top defensive guard in the country ... Craft, Thomas and Smith are returning starters from last year's team that beat Loyola, while Thompson and Ravenel also got significant minutes off the bench in that contest ... Ohio State is rated ninth nationally in the USA Today's Coaches Poll, and 10th nationally in the AP poll ... Ohio State Thad Matta has taken the Buckeyes to 25 victories in six of his nine seasons leading the program, and to at least 20 in the other three ... After beating Loyola in last season's NCAA tournament, Ohio State went on to win games against Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Syracuse to advance to the Final Four, where it lost in the semifinal round to Kansas by two points, 64-62 ... The Buckeyes are eighth nationally in fewest turnovers per game (10.6).

IONA NOTES: This is the Gaels' second consecutive trip to the NCAA's, having gone a year ago as an at-large team and playing in the "First Four" round, where it squandered a 25-point lead late in the first half to lose to BYU, 78-72. ... Two starters, Jones and Armand, are back from those who played in the NCAA event a year ago, along with Ridley, who got seven minutes off the bench ... Iona added nine new players since last season ... Jones is No. 3 nationally in scoring, and he and Armand are the top-scoring teammate tandem in the country ...  The Gaels finished fourth in the MAAC's regular-season standings, but earned the league's automatic NCAA berth this season by virtue of winnning g the conference's post-season tournament ...  Iona led the nation in scoring last year, and is second this year (80.7 ppg.) ... Armand has 108 made three-pointers thus far and his 3.27 per-game average is eighth-best nationally ... Laury has the physical ability to contend with Ohio State's overall height, but isn't always aggressive ... Bowman came off the bench for 20 points (7-of-9 shooting) in the MAAC championship game against Manhattan ... Iona has two players who transferred in from higher levels, Jones from Arizona and Sledge from Iowa State. Laury was also courted by major programs, and originally committed to UMass but that program withdrew its offer when Sledge didn't then meet academic requirements.

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