Game #8-187: Iona Gaels at Niagara Purple EaglesDecember 4, 2011 2:00 pm
Iona College's Michael Glover slips a screen takes a pass, drives to the tin and forces a foul seconds into his Gaels' match-up Sunday afternoon at Niagara University's Gallagher Center. The Purple Eagles seem to be taken by surprise by the intensity and speed of the game and their challengers, just as I was almost 40 years ago when I first set foot in this venerable building.
In August 1972, I was a camper during the final week of that year's Purple Eagles Basketball Camp. That was my introduction to serious hoops and a level of competition I'd never experienced in my short and sheltered basketball career. We played ball from first light to lights out. I played three-on-three with a future ABA/NBA player (Melvin Bennett) and witnessed someone shorter than my own 5' 11" stature (if memory serves, his name was Jackie Knowles) dunk two balls simultaneously. The camp was at once exhilarating and overwhelming.
Today, I imagine, those are the emotions of the current denizens of the Gallagher. Iona arrives in the Queen City for this MAAC match-up with the power and the pressure that Niagara seems incapable of matching right from the start. Glover provides the power and guards Lamont 'Mo Mo' Jones and Scott Machado the pressure. Many years ago, the incomparable Calvin Murphy would have broken down the Iona press single-handedly, and more recently Juan Mendez would have stuck the ball back down the Gaels' throat, but today those resources are long gone from the Purple Eagles' portfolio.
Four minutes in, it's 9-2 in Iona's favor. By the second media timeout, it's 18-9, and so it goes. An acrobatic 'and one' put-back at the hand of Glover and full court pressure all over the floor by the guards stymies the Purple Eagles. The action is not easy to watch if you're a fan of the home side. Even Niagara coach Joe Mihalich raises his hands in the questioning, 'what are you doing' posture.
Finally, the Eagles force a couple of turnovers themselves that result in a four-point run. Iona coach Tim Cluess calls time at the 4:25 mark after Juan'ya Green's lay-up brings Niagara within 10 points at 32-22. But that appears to be the end of the game. Cluess marshals his team, and the Niagara deficit mounts from that point on.
At the half, it's 44-22 and the game has been decided. All of the sideline intensity on the Iona bench has been relieved. The coaching staff remains seated for the most part, fine tuning the performance of their well-drilled squad. While Niagara spends inordinate amounts of time dribbling without purpose, the Gaels pick their way through the Purple Eagles defense on the ground and over the top to score with impunity.
The second half presents a daunting task for Niagara, but Coach Mihalich is certainly up for it. He never stops working the sideline, trying to coax from his players the game he wants. Their 25% first-half shooting improves despite the continued Iona assault, but with 12:49 remaining, following two consecutive Gaels' dunks, the resolution becomes certain. There will be no miracle in Buffalo. The score is 65-31, then by the eight-minute media timeout, it is 78-40.
My return to Niagara will form a new basketball memory. One of both dominance and dismay. The game ends at 98-62 and couldn't demonstrate the contrast between the two programs with any more clarity.
|IONA 98, at NIAGARA 62|
IONA 6-1 (2-0) -- S. Machado 2-4 2-2 7; M. Glover 7-11 13-16 27; T. Ridley 5-5 2-3 12; L. Jones 6-10 4-6 20; K. Smyth 1-4 3-3 6; J. Jenkins 1-5 0-0 3; R. James 2-2 1-3 5; S. Armand 4-4 0-0 10; R. Dezouvre 1-1 2-2 4; N. Moikobu 1-1 0-0 2; T. Fields 0-1 0-0 0; J. Gomez 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 31-49 27-35 98.
NIAGARA 3-5 (0-2) -- A. Mason 5-15 2-4 12; J. Green 9-20 3-4 25; M. Jordan 2-11 2-2 7; A. Tanksley 3-11 0-0 8; S. Gillette 2-3 1-3 5; J. Thomas 1-1 0-0 2; S. Jones 0-2 3-4 3; A. Langford 0-0 0-0 0; P. Kowalski 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-63 11-17 62.
Three-point goals: IONA 9-22 (S. Machado 1-3; J. Jenkins 1-5; K. Smyth 1-4; L. Jones 4-8; S. Armand 2-2), NIAG 7-24 (M. Jordan 1-7; A. Mason 0-2; J. Green 4-9; A. Tanksley 2-6); Rebounds: IONA 34 (S. Machado 7), NIAG 24 (A. Tanksley 6); Assists: IONA 25 (S. Machado 12), NIAG 12 (J. Green 5); Total Fouls -- IONA 16, NIAG 23; Fouled Out: IONA-None; NIAG-J. Thomas.
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