Iona ends Siena’s quest for NCAA bid

Give Siena an A for effort, and maybe another A for entertainment value.
Siena's Nico Clareth makes a shot against Iona during the MAAC semifinals at Times Union Center on Sunday evening, Mar. 6, 2016.
Siena's Nico Clareth makes a shot against Iona during the MAAC semifinals at Times Union Center on Sunday evening, Mar. 6, 2016.

Give Siena an A for effort, and maybe another A for entertainment value.

But when comparing the Saints to Iona in terms of performance in Sunday’s MAAC Tournament semifinals, Siena earned just a B.

The Saints struggled at the free-throw line, failed to dom­inate on the glass like they usually do and couldn’t stop the Gaels’ long-range attack during an 81-70 setback before a crowd of 5,722 at Times Union Center.

Senior guard A.J. English, considered an NBA prospect, poured in 29 points, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range, and the Gaels clicked for 10 of 21 shots beyond the arc. Isaiah Williams added 23 points, including his 1,000th career point, as the 21-10 Gaels earned a berth in tonight’s MAAC Tournament championship game against Monmouth.

Siena, 21-12, will be looking to compete in one of the other postseason events still available. They won the CBI in third-year head coach Jimmy Patsos’ initial season.

Siena made several runs to get back into the game after falling behind 45-31 at halftime, but every time the Saints got the crowd behind them, Iona answered with a 3-pointer.

Freshman Nico Clareth hit back-to-back threes to cut Siena’s deficit to 53-48 with 13:47 left, but English made three baskets during an 11-5 run as the Gaels pulled away to a 64-53 advantage.

Brett Bisping’s 3-pointer and a driving layup by Marquis Wright pulled the Saints within 64-58 with 6:37 to go, but Iona stretched its lead once again.

Not only did Siena have a tough time defending the Gaels, but the Saints also missed some excellent scoring opportunities in the paint. Siena was also only 11-for-21 from the line.

Junior center Javion Ogunyemi, usually a solid free-throw shooter, was just 3-for-11.

“To be honest, I shot it the same,” Ogunyemi said of his foul shooting. “But after missing the first couple, it got to me a little.”

On Sunday, second-seeded Iona was simply the better team. The third-seeded Saints have lost all eight MAAC Tournament matchups with the Gaels.

“They were the better team today,” Patsos said. “They made bigger plays. They made some great blocks and 3-pointers against us.”

Patsos said all season that English is a pro prospect, and Sunday’s effort only confirmed his belief.

“A.J. hit some back-breaking threes. He and Isaiah are the best backcourt in the league. I think A.J. is better than three guys in the NBA right now,” Patsos said.

Clareth topped the Saints with 18 points. Bisping was solid once again with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Lavon Long and Ogun­yemi added 14 and 13 points, respectively.

“It was not a lack of effort tonight. We were maybe a little tired,” Patsos said. “Iona is the most athletic team in the league. They were quicker than us. Their shooters made shots, and ours didn’t.”

“We had some trouble getting the ball inside,” Bisping said. “We should have gotten the ball inside to Javion more in the second half.”

“They doubled the post,” Patsos explained.

Patsos also said that even though he plans on playing at least one more game, this season has already been a success.

“What a great season we’ve had. We won 21 games,” he said. “We can’t get over the hump as quickly as I would like. But the future is bright. We will play more basketball this year. I don’t know where, and I don’t know when.”

Iona head coach Tim Cluess, who has been outspoken in his dislike of playing the MAAC Tournament in one venue like Albany because of the homecourt advantage, said one of the keys for the Gaels was to take the crowd out of the game.

“It was important not to let them in the game. We wanted to jump on them right from the start and quiet their crowd down early,” he said.

This will be the fourth straight trip to the MAAC Tournament championship game for the Gaels.

“I’m thankful to be playing in another championship game,” English said.

IONA (81)

Washington 1-3 0-0 2, Williams 10-16 0-0 23, Muhammad 1-1 0-1 3, English 9-19 6-6 29, Much 3-4 2-2 9, McGill 1-2 0-0 2, Proctor 3-4 1-1 7, Bessick 0-1 0-0 0, Rountree 3-9 0-0 6, Hines 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 31-59 9-10 81.

SIENA (70)

Ogunyemi 5-9 3-11 13, Bisping 5-11 5-5 16, Wright 2-11 2-2 6, Oliver 0-4 0-0 0, Clareth 7-14 0-2 18, Wormley 0-2 0-0 0, Long 6-10 1-1 14, LaRose 0-0 0-0 0, Fisher 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 26-2 11-21 70.

Halftime: Iona 45-31. Three-point goals: Iona 10-21 (Williams 3-7, Muhammad 1-1, English 5-10, Much 1-2, Proctor 0-1); Siena 7-22 (Ogunyemi 0-1, Bisping 1-5, Wright 0-2, Oliver 0-4, Clareth 4-7, Long 1-2, Fisher 1-1). Rebounds: Iona 35 (Williams 11), Siena 35 (Bisping 9). Assists: Iona 17 (English 5, McGill 5); Siena 13 (Wright 8). Personal fouls: Iona 18, Siena 18. Officials: Rob Riley, Wallace Rutecki, Brian O’Connell. Attendance: 5,722.

Categories: College Sports

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