Saturday, January 7, 2012
Finally, Home is Where the Gaels Are (Recap of Niagara vs. Iona)
But Iona finally played their first true home game at the Hynes Center last night since November 28 as they hosted Niagara in a MAAC conference game. It was a later start than usual for a Gaels night home game, 9:00 PM. This was to accommodate the folks at ESPNU who wanted Butler-Wright State for the 7:00 PM start time. The later start time didn't affect the crowd, as the Hynes Center was filled to near capacity. When the Gaels took the court a few minutes before tipoff, the PA announcer stated "Welcome home your Iona Gaels!" You know you have been away a while when you get a greeting like that.
However, the Purple Eagles showed why they knocked off the Greyhounds earlier in the week. They came out with intensity and purpose and the scoreboard reflected that. They held the nation's fourth highest scoring team without a field goal over a three minute span in the first half and eventually took a 22-17 lead with less than nine and a half minutes left in the half. The home crowd starting getting restless.
a record breaking three point shooting performance Tuesday night at the World's Most Famous Arena, was rewarded for his efforts by starting over Kyle Smyth. Unfortunately, he did not have anywhere near the success of Tuesday night. Armand only shot two of eight from beyond the arc and had six points on the night..
The rest of the half saw only fourteen points scored as both teams struggled from the field. Iona would go into halftime up 35-31. The Gaels leading scorer on the season, Michael Glover only had four points. It would seem that Coach Tim Cluess' game plan in the second half was for Iona to get it inside to their best player.
But Niagara, a young team with six of their seven players in their rotation being freshmen or sophomores, again showed resiliency. An old fashioned three point play by Juan'ya Green and a three point jumper by Marvin Jordan resulted in a Purple Eagles' 6-0 spurt. The lead was cut to seven, 54-47. After a free throw put the Gaels up eight, 55-47, Niagara had several chances to cut the lead further but couldn't capitalize.
But Niagara refused to quit and they didn't let the lead get any bigger. In fact, they cut the deficit to single digits, 63-55 with ninety seconds left. But the Purple Eagles would not get any closer. The Gaels had a hard fought 73-61 win and their homecoming was a happy one for their fans.
Glover scored fifteen of his nineteen points in the second half. Scott Machado had thirteen points and eight assists for Iona (12-3, 4-0 MAAC) while Jermel Jenkins added twelve off the bench for the Gaels. Green, Jordan and Malcolm Lemmons each had fourteen points for Niagara (6-10, 1-3 MAAC), while Antoine Mason had twelve for the Purple Eagles. If that last name sounds familiar to New York City hoops' fans, it should. He is former New York Knick forward Anthony Mason's son. His dad was there last night, and he is as big as ever.
As I left the Hynes Center with my older son Matthew, the PA system played "Back in the New York Groove". Yes, the Gaels are back in the New York groove. But I think the Gaels were just happy to be back home.