BRIDGEPORT, CT - The Iona College men's basketball team will play for its first NCAA Tournament berth in five years after defeating Rider 83-59 in the semifinal of the 2011 Spark Energy MAAC Championships. The Gaels (22-10) will meet Saint Peter's, who defeated No. 1 seed Fairfield in the other semifinal Sunday afternoon.
The Gaels never trailed in the contest, opening the game with a three-pointer from senior Rashon Dwight on the first possession and never looked back. The closest the Broncs (23-10) would get to Iona was one-point on two occasions in the first half. When Dwight hit another three-pointer at 8:52, it gave the Gaels their first double-digit lead of the ballgame.
Iona saw its eight-point halftime lead dwindle to four after a layup by Novar Gadson with 16:56 remaining. The Gaels went on a 10-2 run to regain its double-digit cushion. A three-ball by junior Jermel Jenkins with 9:09 left in the game, his sixth and final of the game, gave his team a 12-point lead and sealed the victory for the Maroon & Gold.
Jenkins led the Gaels in scoring for the first time this season, shooting 7-for-13 from the field, 6-for-10 from behind the arc with 20 points. He also dished out five assists. Dwight tied a career high with 19 points, and a career-best five three-pointers. Junior Mike Glover had 12 points on 5-of-8 from the field and led the Gaels with eight rebounds. Junior Scott Machado picked up a game high 12 assists.
The squad's 14 three-pointers marked the most by Iona in a MAAC Championship game; the second-most in tournament history. La Salle hit 15 three-pointers against Siena in 1990. It was the third highest single-game total for Iona. The Gaels set a new standard this season with 18 against Albany on Nov. 23 and knocked 16 at Manhattan on Feb. 16.
Led by Jenkins' 20, the Iona reserves outscored Rider 36-14, including an advantage of 27-4 in the second half. Sophomore Chris Pelcher had nine points off the bench, shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and hit his ninth point from the free throw line.
Rider junior Novar Gadson scored 19 points before fouling out with less than four minutes to play. Justin Robinson had 16 while Brandon Penn posted eight boards.
The Gaels shot better than 50.0% from the field for the fourth straight game and sixth time in the last seven contests. The Maroon & Gold also matched its season-high with 26 assists, extending its school record to 566 helpers on the season.
The Gaels and Peacocks will meet Sunday in the MAAC Championship final for the fourth time, with the Gaels holding a 2-1 advantage. The Peacocks were the Gaels' adversary the last time Iona made it to the final game.
Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total Rider......................... 30 29 - 59 Iona College.................. 38 45 - 83