Andrew Kahn will be writing feature and postgame articles for Iona basketball for
ICGaels.com in the 2009-10 season. A New Rochelle High School
graduate, he holds an English degree from the University of Michigan
and currently works for the non-profit Dana Foundation. In addition to
his work for ICGaels.com, Andrew writes for his own blog,
NEW ROCHELLE, NY— William & Mary had gone into the gyms of top-tier ACC schools Wake Forest and Maryland and come out with a victory. Doing so at the Hynes Athletics Center was not nearly as easy.
The Iona College men's basketball team beat the Tribe 69-53 in front of a raucous, sell out home crowd earlier tonight in a nationally-televised ESPN Bracketbusters contest. The Gaels shot an impressive 48% from the field and 42% from downtown, though those numbers are watered down by below-average shooting in the final minutes. When it really counted, it seemed as if Iona couldn't miss. The Gaels shot an eye-popping 63% in the first half; after going ahead 18-17 with 7:09 left, they never trailed again, leading 36-23 at the break.
"It really did feel like every shot was falling," guard Milan Prodanovic said. "I think we really just brought it today. I think if we're able to copy what we did tonight next weekend, which is basically the start of playoffs, I think we'll be a very dangerous team."
It was the start of the second half when Iona blew the game open, going on a 14-3 run out of the locker room to open up a 24-point lead. The Tribe didn't get the deficit below 17 until 2:21 left in the game. Iona hit enough foul shots (18 in total) to make sure there was no miracle comeback.
William & Mary, the third-place team in the Colonial Athletic Association, entered the contest seeking its 20th win of the season. It would be the Gaels, though, that would reach the 20-win mark this evening, the first time Iona has done that since the 2005-06 season. As an added bonus, it was Senior Night, and Iona's three seniors—Prodanovic, Jonathan Huffman, and David Nelson—were honored in a pre-game ceremony.
"I think this is as good a win as we've had since I've been here," Iona head coach Kevin Willard said. "To get it against a good, quality team, and to do it at home on Senior Night, I think that's special."
The senior who had the biggest impact on the court tonight was the 7-footer Huffman, who hit three three-pointers and scored 12 points. He drained two of his outside shots from well behind the line, shooting with a confident stroke that every Gael seemed to have tonight.
It wasn't just the seniors who got it done for the Gaels tonight. The inside-outside combination of sophomore Scott Machado and junior Alejo Rodriguez was productive yet again. Machado scored a team-high 17 points, while Rodriguez scored 12 and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
"Milan and I came in together, so it was really special to me," Rodriguez said about Senior Night. "We poured our hearts out on the court. The fans really helped. They were into the game. It was a great atmosphere to play in."
Machado echoed his teammate's sentiment. "It was an emotional night, of course," the point guard said. "We just made sure that (the seniors) went out on a win. All three of them played big tonight."
Huffman was the senior star, Prodanovic hit a three-pointer and snatched three boards, and Nelson tallied a rebound late in the game. The little-used walk-on was grateful to see the court in his final home game. "They're all such great guys," Nelson said of his teammates. "Ending (my college career) with a team like this is pretty cool."