POUGHKEEPSIE, NY - The Iona College men's basketball team used a stingy defensive effort in the second half to pull away from Marist in a 86-67 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference action at McCann Arena. The Gaels (19-8, 16-2 MAAC) won their 11th straight game - the third longest streak in school history - and clinched at least a tie for the MAAC Regular Season Championship with two games remaining.
Iona's magic number to secure the No. 1 seed is just one. A combination of a Gael win or a Quinnipiac loss and the Maroon & Gold earns the top spot at the 2014 MAAC Championships in Springfield, MA in two weeks. Should Iona and Quinnipiac tie in the standings after next weekend's games, the Bobcats would hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their two wins over Manhattan. Quinnipiac takes on Siena at home Thursday and Marist on the road next Sunday. The Gaels take on Manhattan Friday night on ESPN2 at 7:00 pm before the regular season finale at home against Rider.
Iona and Marist had three lead changes and four tie scores through the first six and a half minutes of the contest. After Red Fox senior Chavaughn Lewis knotted the score at 12-12 at 13:29, sophomore Isaiah Williams' three-pointer less than 10 seconds later sparked an 11-0 Gael run and the visitor's led 24-13 at the 10:44 mark. Trailing by nine points with 3:32 left in the half, Marist scored eight of the final 10 points of the frame to go into halftime down three points.
The Red Foxes quickly tied the score to start the second half on senior Jay Bowie's three pointer in the opening minute. Senior Tre Bowman responded with a three-ball of his own on Iona's next possession. Marist rallied to take a short lived lead on a dunk by senior Chavaughn Lewis at 18:24. Following that bucket, the Gaels turned up the defensive effort and outscored Marist 42-22 the rest of the way. Iona pulled away with the help of a 16-3 advantage capped by junior David Laury's layup at 14:30. Marist pulled within nine points with 12:13 left on senior Adam Kemp's free throw. A 13-3 run by the Gaels opened up a 19-point, 73-54 advantage with less than seven minutes remaining.
Laury posted 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals while shooting 10-of-18 from the field. Sophomore A.J. English also scored 22 points, while adding six rebounds and a team-high four assists. Senior Sean Armand had 16 points, including nine in the second half after being limited to just 10 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Bowman had 11 points and seven rebounds while Williams posted 10 points, five rebounds, three assists a block and a steal.
Four Marist performers had double digits led by red shirt freshman Khallid Hart's 18 points. After torching the Gaels for 13 in the first 20 minutes, he scored just five in the decisive second half. Lewis had 17 points and five rebounds, Bowie posted 14 points and Kemp added 10 points and nine boards in the loss.
Iona out shot Marist 53.2% - 41.4% and held a 38-27 advantage on the boards. The Red Foxes shot 50.0% in the first half and just 30.8% in the second.
The Gaels complete the three-game road trip and go for 12 in a row Friday (Feb. 28) in a highly-anticipated matchup with archrival Manhattan at Draddy Gymnasium. The two teams square off on ESPN2 at 7:00 pm.