GAELS SCARE BADGERS IN OVERTIME LOSS
"I'm extremely proud of how hard our kids played tonight against an excellent Wisconsin team," said head coach Kevin Willard. "I think we surprised everyone in the building with our unbelievable intensity out of the gate. We really did everything we could but make a couple of shots down the stretch but we battled the whole way."
After trailing 28-23 at the break the Gaels turned up the defensive screws to begin the second half scoring the first six points of the half to take its first lead of the game. The lead changing free throws by rookie Jermel Jenkins at the 17:02 mark capped an 8-0 run for the Maroon & Gold and erased an 11 point first half deficit. Iona held its single-digit until the final 70 seconds of regulation. The Badgers' Marcus Landry scored on a tip-in with 39 seconds remaining to knot the score at 52-52. The Gaels had two shots at the game winner including a three-point attempt by junior Jonathan Huffman that rimmed out at the buzzer.
Overtime continued the battle of attrition in the physical game that saw 49 free throw attempts on 55 fouls combined for both squads. With 31 seconds remaining two Justin Bohannan free throws put the Badgers up by five. A quick three-point play by sophomore Rashon Dwight put Iona right back in it with 24 ticks left. Iona's stingy defense forced another Wisconsin turnover at the 16 second mark. Huffman again nearly missed on a potential game winner with nine second on the clock. Bohannan was quickly fouled and missed both free throw attempts giving Iona and Dwight a chance with less than 10 seconds to play. Dwight was stripped on the game-tying layup attempt and Iona fell just short of a shocking upset.
"I'll take those two shots from Huffman any day of the week," said Willard. "I don't know how the shot in regulation didn't fall."
A key play in overtime sealed Iona's fate. With the shot clock expiring Trevon Hughes hit a tough runner to give the Badgers a three-point advantage with just over 90 seconds remaining.
"I told my kids before the game, that win or lose, I want to make sure that everyone we play does not want to play us again," added Willard. "To hold a team like Wisconsin to 31% from the field shows the toughness that we're looking for in our program."
Wisconsin shot just 15-for-48 from the field (31.3%) including just 6-for-22 (27.3%) in the second half. Iona was 21-of-51 for the game (41.2%). Wisconsin took 34 of the 49 free throw attempts in the game converting 25 compared to Iona's 9-for-15 performance.
Huffman led the way with 15 points while grabbing five rebounds in 21 minutes of play. The rookie point guard Jenkins posted 11 points with three assists and just one turnover. Senior Gary Springer added 10 points and a team-best seven boards.
With the loss the Gaels are back in action tomorrow night when they take on Valparaiso at 8:30 pm ET. The Crusaders fell to San Diego in their first round matchup earlier in the day. Watch and listen to all the action on ICGaels.com. The pregame show on WFAS 1320 AM with Gary Stanley and Bill Daughty begins at 8:15.
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