Saturday, March 8, 2014

Iona's Offense Carries it Past Rider, to Semifinals

When Iona's 5-foot-9 reserve point guard Tavon Sledge got loose on a breakway and threw down a thunderous jam with just over four minutes left in the Iona men's quarterfinal round game of the MAAC tournament, it sent his teammates on the Gaels' bench into a full-fledged frenzy.

By that point, though, there wasn't going to be anything else to celebrate that hadn't already been decided.

Sledge's athletic dunk gave the Gaels an 87-62 lead. Things, by then, were long decided as the event's No. 1 seed was well on its way to a 94-71 decision over eighth-seeded Rider Saturday afternoon.

Iona, the MAAC's regular-season champion and the fourth-highest scoring team nationally (84 points per game) entering the contest, was doing what it has seemingly done best for the past few years ... score points in bunches.

But things are just a little difference this season. Iona still scores prodigiious totals, but is getting contributions from more sources than in recent years when it relied more on one or two players for big nights.

Against Rider the Gaels put four players in double figures, while shooting 59.6 percent from the floor (31-of-52). All that came with a team-oriented offense, a result of good passing that resulted in assists on 20 of Iona's 31 baskets.

"We shared the ball very well, and when we do that we're tough to defend," said Gaels' coach Tim Cluess.

"We've got more balance this year than last season (when Iona won the MAAC's tournament for the second straight year)," said senior swingman Tre Bowman, who had a game-high 28 points. "It's different this year in that all our players can score, plus we're all unselfish. When we move the ball like we did today good things happen."

Sean Armand added 20 points for the Gaels, who advance to Sunday's semifinal round contest at 4:30 against the winner of today's Siena-Canisius game.

Forward David Laury chipped in with 18 points, while guard Isaiah Williams added 12.

"They played real well," admitted Rider coach Kevin Baggett. "They broke our press and forced us to play to their tempo."

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