BRIDGEPORT, CT - The Iona College men's basketball team saw an 14-point halftime lead dwindle to four points with 38 seconds left but held on for a 71-62 at Fairfield in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference road matchup at Webster Bank Arena. Junior Lamont Jones scored 20 points and senior Scott Machado added 18 for the Gaels (16-5, 8-2 MAAC) in the win.
By virtue of wins by Loyola and Manhattan this evening, Iona remains in a three-way tie for first place in the MAAC standings.
Jones shot 7-for-14 from the field and added six first half rebounds. Machado posted seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Senior Mike Glover posted his second straight double-double and third in the last four games with 13 points and 11 boards. The Gaels got solid contributions off the bench by senior Jermel Jenkins (five points), and junior Taaj Ridley (seven points, five rebounds) and Ra'Shad James (six points).
The key to the first half was a stingy Iona defense that limited Fairfield (10-10, 5-4 MAAC) to just 25.0% (8-for-32) shooting. The Stags held their only lead of the game for just six seconds as Glover converted a Machado pass into a layup on the next possession at 15:53. With the score tied at 14-14 at the 8:25 mark, the Gaels began a decisive 16-0 stretch over the next six-plus minutes. Jenkins' three-ball at 2:11 made the score 30-14. Iona led by as many as 19 points with less than a minute to go on a Jones' jumper. Fairfield scored the frame's final five points to go into the break trailing 34-20.
Iona slowly built a 19-point advantage through the first eight and a half minutes of the second half. A Glover layup put the Gaels ahead 50-31 with 11:30 to go. Fairfield made a strong push with a 9-0 run capped by a three-point play by Rakim Sanders that cut the deficit to 10 points with 8:51 remaining. Down by the same margin at 58-48, Fairfield scored five in a row as Derek Needham's layup put the score at 58-53 with 3:56 remaining. Up five with less than a minute to play, a Jenkins' floater gave Ioan a 66-59 lead. Desmond Wade hit a long three-pointer on the next possession and Fairfield trailed 66-62 with 38 seconds left. After Jones converted two free throws, Ridley pulled down a key defensive rebound and sealed the game with a free throw with less than 27 seconds remaining.
A key contributor to Fairfield's second half push was senior Rakim Sanders who scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Needham added 11 points and eight rebounds and was matched on the boards by Sanders and senior Ryan Olander.
Iona's 11th win away from the Hynes Center this season matched Murray State for the NCAA lead. The squad looks to make it 12 on Sunday when they take on Saint Peter's at 4:30 pm in Jersey City on Sunday (Jan. 29).
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