ATHENS, GA - The Iona College men's basketball team earned a hard-fought 81-78 overtime victory over the SEC's Georgia in non-conference action at Stegeman Colesium. The Gaels (4-4) snapped a 10-game program losing streak to SEC squads and earned its first win over the league in nearly 27 years.
The Maroon & Gold overcame a significant size disadvantage, a 48-26 deficit on the boards and a 37-16 deficit in free throw attempts to earn a big road win. Iona also took advantage of critical misses by the Bulldogs (2-7) from the charity stripe late in the second half and in overtime in the victory.
The Gaels raced out to an early 11-point advantage. Two free throws by junior Sean Armand made the score 23-11 just over eight minutes into the contest. Georgia slowed Iona's momentum and chipped away using their advantage inside. A layup by Kenny Gaines put the Bulldogs ahead 31-30 with 3:51 to play in the first half. Donte' Williams' jumper two possessions later capped a 10-0 run for the home team with 2:24 remaining. The Gaels' scored five of the next seven points to take a 35-33 advantage with 100 ticks left. After trading missed shots, Georgia's top scorer, Kentavius Caldwell-Pope buried a half-court shot at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a one-point advantage at the break.
Iona jumped out to a 41-37 advantage on a driving score by sophomore Tavon Sledge just under 2:30 into the frame. Georgia went on its largest run of the game, scoring 11 straight points and led 48-41. A Tim Dixon layup led to an Iona timeout to regroup.
The Gaels quickly answered with a 10-0 run of their own and evened the score at 48-48 just over a minute after facing their largest deficit of the game. Senior Lamont Jones' three-pointer at 9:41 gave the Maroon & Gold a 56-50 lead. It would be nearly three minutes before Iona's next points, though the Bulldogs were only able to get within one point. Iona led 60-55 with 5:48 to play. Georgia had its third big push of the game and scored nine straight points to take a four point advantage with 3:36 left.
A critical possession followed a Brandon Morris layup that gave the Bulldogs their 64-60 lead late in the game. Freshman A.J. English missed a three-pointer from the win. Junior Shawn Jackson grabbed the offensive board and kicked it back out to the rookie who drained his second try to cut the lead to one with 3:10 left.
Georgia pushed its lead to three with a second-chance tip-in by Williams on the next possession with 2:39 to play. After trading misses, Armand drained a long three pointer with just under a minute to play to tie the score at 66-66.
The Bulldogs had four chances at a go-ahead bucket before the ball mercifully was tipped out of bounds to give the Gaels the final possession of the frame. English got a shot off before the buzzer but the shot fell short and the game went into overtime.
Neither team could grab control of the game in overtime. The Gaels were assisted by a 6-for-15 (40.0%) effort from the free throw line by the Bulldogs in the overtime period.
Senior Taaj Ridley hit a jumper from just outside the three point line to give Iona a 73-70 advantage with 2:17 to play. A three-point play by Charles Mann knotted the score at 73-73 with 1:38 on the clock. Georgia took a 76-75 lead with 34 seconds left on a Kenny Gaines jumper. Senior Curtis Dennis followed with his lone bucket of the game a three-point dagger from the corner that Gave Iona a two-point advantage with 19 seconds remaining. After Williams' hit one of two free throws, Jones was fouled on the rebound attempt. After missing the second free throw, his first miss in 19 attempts, the Bulldogs regained possession down two. Armand fouled Nemanja Djurisic sending him to the line for two with four ticks left. Djurisic missed the first and Georgia quickly fouled Armand. The Iona junior calmly sank both free throws and the Gaels held on to the three point win.
Jones led the Maroon & Gold with 25 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the field. He drained two three pointers and was 5-of-6 from the line while adding six assists and four rebounds. Armand added 18 points and four assists with a team-best seven rebounds. English had his first collegiate double-digit effort scoring 17 points in his first start of the season. Sledge posted 10 points and five assists in the win.
Caldwell-Pope (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Williams (16 and 10) each recorded double-doubles. Charles Mann posted 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench and Morris added 12 points for the Bulldogs.
Georgia shot 44.3% for the game and was 16-of-32 from the free throw line in the second half and overtime periods. The Gaels shot 46.0% in the contest and were 5-for-8 in overtime in the win.
The Gaels return home for its second contest in a four-game, eight day stretch when they host Liberty at the Hynes Center on Tuesday (Dec. 18) at 7:00 pm.