RUSTON, LA - The Iona College men's basketball team ended its 2013-14 campaign with an 89-88 loss in a slugfest with Louisiana Tech in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at Thomas Assembly Center. The Bulldogs' (28-7) Kenneth Smith put back a teammate’s missed shot with 2.2 seconds left to lead the home team.
An auspicious start for the Gaels (22-11) saw the team down 10-2 just over two minutes into the contest. Despite the quick start, Louisiana Tech could not draw their lead into double-digits. The Maroon & Gold chipped away and finally pulled even with 2:13 remaining in the first half when two junior David Laury free throws knotted the score at 46-46. Iona took a brief 48-46 lead before LA Tech got a bucket to send the two teams into the break with a 48-48 tie.
The largest lead for both teams in the second half was just five points and the Gaels and Bulldogs traded blows and saw six ties and 13 lead changes in the final 20 minutes. There were four lead changes in the frantic final 69 seconds of the contest. Down one with 1:09 left, sophomore Isaiah Williams calmly sank two free throws with a deafening crowd in the background gave Iona a 86-85 lead. LA Tech's Chris Anderson's layup on the next possession swung the pendulum in favor of the home team. Laury got a key offensive rebound on senior Sean Armand's layup attempt and was fouled with 12.3 ticks left. He hit both ends of the one-and-one opportunity and Iona led 88-87. The Bulldogs' leading scorer Alex Hamilton missed a 15-footer with under 10 seconds to play but Smith laid in the rebound. With no time outs, sophomore A.J. English took the inbounds pass and heaved a 60 foot attempt at the buzzer that hit the back of the rim as the Conference USA's regular season champion held on at home by a single point.
Laury had one of his top efforts in two seasons in Maroon & Gold, posting 21 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. He was 6-of-12 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free throw line while posting three assists and two blocks in 29 minutes off the bench. English matched his teammate with 21 points including 19 in the first half. He had six assists, five rebounds four steals and a block while shooting 8-of-17 from the field. Williams had 15 points, three assists, two steals and two rebounds while senior Tre Bowman added 14 points and four rebounds in the loss. Armand - Iona's all-time, single-season and single-game three-point shooter, and No. 7 all-time scorer - finished the game with eight second half point and a team-high seven assists with no turnovers. Senior Mike Poole added seven points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
Six Bulldogs recorded 10 or more points led by Kenyon McNeail and Jaron Johnson with 16 points apiece. Anderson had a 13-point, 10 rebound double-double.
Iona shot 50.0% from the field, recorded 20 assists and had 12 turnovers. LA Tech shot 45.5% with 22 assists and nine turnovers. The Bulldogs held a 43-36 advantage on the boards.
With the loss Iona completes its 2013-14 campaign following its program-record fifth straight 20+ win season including the last four under head coach Tim Cluess. The Gaels have also appeared in a postseason tournament in each of the last four seasons including the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament final in 2011, the NCAA First Round in 2012, NCAA Second Round in 2013 and the NIT this season.