ALBANY, NY - The Iona College men's basketball team earned an 87-78 win over Siena in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference action at the Times Union Center. Sophomore A.J. English scored a career-best 31 points to lead the Gaels (8-7, 5-1 MAAC) to the win and stay on pace with Canisius and Manhattan a top the league standings.
Iona held a low single-digit advantage through the first 12 minutes of the contest. Siena (7-10, 3-3 MAAC) freshman Marquis Wright got his team even at 26-26 at the 7:11 mark. It then became the A.J. English show. It started off innocently with him draining two free throws on the next possession at 7:05. It turned into four straight following two more freebies. Siena answered with Rob Poole layup that was quickly followed by an English three pointer. Followed by another English three pointer, and finally a conventional three-point play to give Iona a 39-29 advantage as English scored all 13 points in a 13-3 run. In total he had 15 straight points for the Maroon & Gold. Senior Sean Armand followed with back-to-back trifectas to keep Iona ahead by 10. It was English had Iona's final field goal of the frame to give the visitors a 50-40 cushion at halftime.
The Saints chipped away through the first 10 minutes of the second half and found themselves trailing 62-61 at the midway point. Following an Iona miss, sophomore Ryan Oliver hit a three-pointer that set the home fans into hysteria and gave Siena its first lead of the contest. The Saints maintained a slight advantage over the next five minutes. Two free throws from senior Mike Poole put the Gaels ahead for good with 4:27 remaining. Iona had a four-point cushion after senior Tre Bowman three-ball came after a key steal in the post by rookie Ryden Hines. Up three with 1:52 to play, English hit a dagger from the top of the key to give Iona a six-point advantage. Poole hit four more clutch free throws on the Gaels next two possessions as Iona led 75-65 with under a minute to play. A three-point play by Siena junior Evan Hymes was followed by two English free throws and the Maroon & Gold came away with a nine-point victory.
English shot 7-of-16 from the field with five three pointers and was 12-of-15 from the free throw line with a team-leading five rebounds and four assists. Armand had 19 points with the help of six three pointers adding three rebounds and three assists. Bowman scored 11 points while sophomore Isaiah Williams scored nine points, all in the first half. Poole finished with eight points.
Hymes posted a team-leading 19 points off the bench. Poole added 16 and White had 12 for the Saints.
For the second straight game, the Gaels were outshot (51.8%-44.4%) and out rebounded (31-27). Also for the second game in a row Iona's significant advantages came with the help of 15 trifectas and 24 free throws and just nine turnovers. It was the third straight game with fewer than 10 turnovers for the Maroon & Gold and seventh in the last eight with more than 10 three-point field goals.
Iona begins its longest home stand of the season this Friday (Jan. 17) when they host Canisius in a battle of first place teams at 9:00 pm on ESPNU. The Gaels then host Siena Sunday (Jan. 19) before completing the stretch against Quinnipiac on Jan. 24 on ESPN3.