Westhead is the creator of "The System". It's based on simple math - More Possessions + More Shot Attempts = More Points. And there are no two better examples of "The System" than LIU and Iona, led by their proponents, Blackbirds' coach Jim Ferry and Gaels' coach Tim Cluess.. Last season, LIU was fourth in the nation in scoring at 82.7 points per game and fifth in the country in possessions per game at 70.6. Meanwhile, Iona is currently first in the country averaging 94 points per game and second in assists at 21.3.
"The System" has worked for both teams. LIU made the NCAA Tournament after winning the NEC championship. Meanwhile Iona made the MAAC Conference Tournament finals, then the CIT finals and are the heavy favorites to win the MAAC this season. This was going to be the basketball version of the Penn Relays (Google it). I had the over/under for points scored for last night's game at 180.
I was hoping to bring my basketball buddy, my older son Matthew to the game last night, knowing he would love this fast pace, high scoring game. But he had homework to do, so daddy went off by himself to New Rochelle. As I got there, there was another good crowd on hand at the Hynes Center. Not as good as the game vs. St Joseph's last Wednesday, but the one side of bleachers was basically full.
The game was still close, 33-29 with a little less than six minutes left when Iona when on a 21-9 run to end the half. It was led by their two best players, Michael Glover and Scott Machado, who combined for twelve of the twenty one half ending points. The Gaels were up 54-38 at the half.
The halftime entertainment consisted of two of my favorite things. One, a local catholic school boys team played at the half. And they emulated the two college teams by playing end to end action. The other was hearing the always terrific Iona Pep Band playing songs like "Peg", "Brickhouse" and some Stevie Wonder and KC and the Sunshine Band tunes. While all this was going on, I honestly thought I might see more points scored in the second twenty minutes than the first twenty minutes.
Someone though forgot to tell the Blackbirds the game was over. LIU outscored Iona 19-3 over the next nearly eight minutes. The Gaels actually went scoreless for about four and a half minutes during that stretch. The score was 90-74. But a layup by who else, Glover, made sure the score didn't get any closer.
Glover had another double double with twenty eight points and fourteen rebounds. Machado had another double double as well with fourteen points and ten assists. Jamal Olasewere led LIU with twenty points. The two teams combined for forty two assists and forty turnovers. Iona now heads out on the road for the entire month of December. Meanwhile, LIU already has to start defending its NEC conference championship on Thursday against an improved Wagner team. No rest for the weary.
As I left the Hynes Center and headed to my car, I thought of one thing. Someone should send Paul Westhead a plane ticket to New York. He should catch a couple of Iona and LIU games. He would be so proud.