Monday, February 6, 2012

Six Degrees of Hofstra Separation - Part 3 - Cluess' Gaels Gain Revenge on the Jaspers

After watching Hofstra suffer another tough loss at the hands of Georgia State, Matthew and I bid adieu to Tieff, who couldn't make our last part of the Hofstra influenced tripleheader.  My six year old color analyst and I raced up north to the Bronx.  Our destination was Manhattan College, who were hosting Iona in a big MAAC conference game on Saturday night.

I have been to several games on the campus of the Jaspers.  Very simply put, you need to get there early, otherwise you will be taking a significant hike from your car to Draddy Gymnasium.  Sure enough, the small parking lot for Draddy was already full.  There was a sign in front of the entrance that said "No parking".  This game was the hottest mid major ticket in New York.  Tickets to the game were actually going on Stubhub for about $100.

Think about that for a second.  Iona vs. Manhattan going for scalper prices that you would only see in this area for St John's teams in their prime.  Needless to say, I was glad I had tickets waiting for me at Will Call.

But to get to those tickets meant parking several blocks down on Tibbett Street.  Matthew and I made the long walk to Draddy Gym to the Will Call for our tickets.  As we got close to the street entrance for the gym, we passed the Marist Red Foxes bus.  

It turns out that this was a doubleheader, with a women's game between then undefeated in conference Marist and Manhattan.  I asked one of the Marist players how they did and in a matter of fact but demoralized way she said they lost.  Marist now had one loss in conference and the Manhattan fans must have been giddy about the fact they could knock off another first place team on Saturday night.

Once we got our tickets right at game time, we found that the choice of seating was limited since many people were there early for the women's game.  Also, Draddy's bleacher seat configuration is quite, well, bizarre.  First, only half the gym is used for basketball.  When you walk in for a basketball game, it's a large open concourse. That's because the gym is also used for indoor track.

As for the basketball court itself, a section of the bleachers behind the Manhattan basket is offset from the court.  So if you are sitting low in this section, your view is that of the corner of the Jaspers bench.  You need to sit high in this section to get the whole view of the court.  If I were overseeing facilities at Manhattan, I would push back the season ticket section bleachers thirty feet and give it a better squared off view.

Unfortunately for Matthew and me, the only seats available were in the second row of this offset section.  Thus the pictures you see of the game are from our end of the basket.  Luckily for Matthew, there was a large projection screen that hung high above the one section of general admission seating opposite the team benches.  That was showing the game action and Matthew and I could follow along there when we needed it.

Like other school gyms, Draddy Gymnasium is quite warm with no AC.  If you are a single guy in college, you take appreciation in the fact that this means the female students in attendance prepare for this by wearing tanktops and t-shirts.  This was little comfort to a married man wearing a hoodie sweatshirt and his equally warm six year old son.  Throw in the fact that people often were standing in front of you blocking the view, and the result was a slightly dampened experience as a whole.

Still seeing a loud, full house of green clad students and other Manhattan fans made this a great atmosphere. A good number of Iona fans also made the trip and I happened to be sitting with a number of them.  It was quite possibly the biggest regular season college basketball game in New York City this season

You had two teams tied for first place in the MAAC, Iona and Manhattan, squaring off in a rematch of their first game, won on a buzzer beater by the Jaspers.  I was at that game in New Rochelle, where Manhattan rallied from a seventeen point deficit with eight minutes left, winning on a three point shot and stun the Iona home crowd..

So for some of you, you are probably wondering where the Hofstra Six Degrees of Separation comes to play in this game.  It's very simple.  Iona Head Coach Tim Cluess is an alum of Hofstra.  Cluess went to Hofstra after transferring from St John's and got his degree.

After a very successful career as a high school coach at St Mary's on Long Island, he later became the head of coach of Division II C.W. Post, where he took the Pioneers to the Elite Eight.  And yes, someone made a very strong case that Cluess should be the head coach of Hofstra before Tim Welsh was hired and eventually Mo Cassara became head coach.  Ultimately, Cassara becoming head coach turned out to be a very good move for Hofstra.

Likewise, the move by Iona to hire Cluess turned out just as well.  In his first season, Iona was 25-12. They lost in the MAAC Tournament finals to St. Peter's and made it to the championship game of the CIT.  This season, entering last night, the Gaels were tied for first in the MAAC with the Jaspers and the Greyhounds of Loyola Maryland with a 10-2 record.  Entering the game, Iona's overall record of 18-5 has given it serious consideration for an at large bid and they have a televised home BracketBuster game vs. Nevada.

The game got off to a roaring start for the home Jaspers as they quickly went out to a 5-2 lead on a three pointer by George Beamon.  The Gaels scored the next six points to take an 8-5 lead. From there both teams would exchange the leads and the game was very close for most of the first half.  Manhattan did most of their damage on the outside, while the Iona's Scott Machado really focused on getting the ball to Michael Glover or Lamont Jones driving in for layups.  The Gaels would score twenty four points in the first half in the paint and Machado was his usual self with six assists.

Iona would go on a 9-3 spurt to end the half up 44-38.   Manhattan hit six three pointers in the first half with  Beamon hitting three of those as he had seventeen first half points. But the Gaels countered by hitting ten of twelve free throws.  It looked to be another barn burner with the two teams.

However, Iona came out and scored the first seven points of the second half to make the score 51-38.  But Manhattan responded with an 8-0 spurt  to cut the lead to five, 51-46 with exactly fifteen minutes left.  Draddy Gym was rocking now.

But once again, the Gaels responded.  They proceeded to go on a 10-0 run over the next three minutes.  Glover scored eight of those ten points as the Jaspers had no answer for him,.  Iona was up 62-46 with about twelve minutes left.

The lead actually swelled to eighteen and hovered around that for the next four minutes.   A Lamont Jones layup made the score 71-53.  Manhattan again was staring down the barrel of a large deficit with eight minutes left.

But just about everyone in the crowd knew that the Jaspers had rallied from seventeen points down with the same amount of time remaining at the Hynes Center to defeat the Gaels, so surely hope was not lost yet.  The Manhattan fans implored their team on for one more run.

However, this time the Jaspers couldn't make their shots.  Over the next four minutes, Manhattan missed eleven of the next fourteen shots.   The deficit was still eighteen as Iona was ahead 80-62 with three and half minutes left.  

The Jaspers did force a couple of turnovers and went on a 9-1 run to cut the lead to ten, 81-71.  But there was only a minute left and not enough time for Manhattan to pull off another comeback.  The Gaels would end up winning 85-73.  Iona was now one game ahead in the MAAC standings, tied with Loyola Maryland.

Glover, Jones, Machado and Sean Armand combined to score sixty nine of Iona's eighty one points.  Machado had nine assists, one off another double double.  Beamon led all scorers with twenty six points but no other Jasper scored in double figures.

Coach Tim Cluess had to be pleased with the big road victory.  There is still a long road ahead for him and his team.  There is the first place game vs. the Greyhounds on Loyola's home court on February 10, then the game against Nevada on national television, followed by the rest of the conference regular season with the MAAC Tournament as the cherry on top.   And oh yeah, if the Gaels get through all that unscathed, there's that little thing known as the NCAA Tournament.  

That's Cluess' ultimate goal.  It would be quite a feat in your second year of coaching Division I basketball.

No comments:

Post a Comment