A couple of days ago, when I went on Iona's web site and saw the game time for last night's home game was 10:00 P.M., I did a double take. But when you are dealing with the wonderful people in Bristol, Connecticut and their ESPNU channel, anything is possible. Yes, the World Wide Leader thought it was a brilliant idea to put a MAAC women's game at 6:00 PM (Loyola - Maryland vs. Marist), then a Horizon League game at 8:00 P.M. (Green Bay vs Cleveland State), then finally the Rider vs. Iona MAAC game at 10:00 PM.
So as a result, two east coast teams were playing at a time that's normally reserved for West Coast Conference games (based on Eastern Standard time). Most sane, normal people would have decided to stay home and watch the game on television. But basketball fans like you and I are not most sane, normal people. We like to see good live college basketball at any time.
When I first got home last night, I prepared for the late start...by taking a nap. Yes, when you're nearly 46 years old and you get up at 6:00 AM to walk your dog to start your day, to stay up late, a brief nap is a requirement. When I woke up from my nap, it was that exhausted feeling that you get when you didn't get the proper sleep time. I worked that off with an evening walk with my dog.
Then it was off to New Rochelle. Well, not exactly. When I got on the Southern State Parkway, I realized I better check to see if I have my EZ-Pass. No, it was in my wife's Honda CRV. So I went back home, got the EZ-Pass from the other car and headed back out. I made excellent time to the campus of Iona and was there about forty five minutes early.
Once I got my ticket, I went into the Hynes Center. Since I was there so early, there were few people there. Maybe I was just tired, maybe because it wasn't crowded yet, but the gym had an early morning glow. As the Iona Pep Band played a seemingly slower version of Earth Wind and Fire's "Fantasy", which they normally play, I felt like I needed to have eggs and mimosas. Too bad they don't let food and drink into the gym.
But as it got closer to tipoff, the crowd filled in nicely, especially the students' section. Oh, to be 21 again. Apparently the students loved the idea of a10:00 P.M. start. It certainly wasn't too late of a start for them based on their attendance. Chances are this was only the beginning to their night. The entire general admission/student section would be packed by game time, so much so that the gym entrance ushers started sending students over to our side of the gym. It made for a very lively atmosphere.
I sat with Guy Falotico, otherwise known on Twitter as @IonaGuyF. Guy is an Iona alum and is the moderator for IonaHoops.com. He is also a fellow member of John Templon's Big Apple Buckets New York City Power Poll and he knows his basketball. Guy would also provide the funniest moment of the night at the end of the game.
Neither Rider or Iona were fazed by the late start as both teams put on a show in the beginning of the game. In the first three and half minutes, each team scored eight points. Novar Gadson buried two 3-pointers. Unfortunately for the Broncs, Gadson would only score four more points the rest of the night.
Now if you are going to have a late show, you need a late show host. Sure enough, Scott Machado would fill the Letterman role last night. Machado, the nation's leader in assists per game at 10.3 assists per game, got off to a hot start as he assisted on the Gaels' first three baskets. His fourth assist of the game, a layup by Momo Jones ended an Iona 9-1 spurt as the Gaels went up 14-8 with 15:28 left in the half.
The Broncs responded and came back to tie the game at sixteen with eleven minutes left. The Broncs were scoring most of their points on drives to the baskets. It looked like Rider was equal to the task of staying with the fourth-highest scoring team in the country.
But every good late show not only has a good host, but also superstar special guests. And in Iona's case, they would be Sean Armand, Momo Jones and Michael Glover. Armand came off the bench to perform his specialty: hitting 3-pointers. Armand would hit four shots from beyond the arc over the span of five minutes to put the Gaels out in front 32-23 with five and half minutes left in the half.
When Armand wasn't hitting threes, it was Glover working hard inside for layups or getting to the line as the result of fouls, as he had nine first half points. And if it wasn't Armand firing a three pointer, or Glover being the hardest working man on the court, it was Momo Jones knifing his way through the Broncs' defense to the basket. He had ten first half points, eight of which came on layups. Meanwile, Iona clamped down on Rider defensively and the Broncs' main scoring weapon, the layup, was taken away.
The last score of the first half came as a result of good coaching. After Eddie Mitchell on Rider hit two free throws with three seconds left, Machado dribbled the ball to half court. Iona Head Coach Tim Cluess called timeout with 2.2 seconds left in the half. Off the timeout, Machado found Sean Armand who buried his fifth three pointer of the first half. The Gaels entered the locker room up 46-32.
As the second half started, it appeared that Rider had left their perimeter defense back in the locker room. Momo Jones immediately hit two shots from beyond the arc. Then after Jones hit another layup, Machado buried a three pointer. Not even four minutes into the second half, Iona had gone up by twenty, 60-40.
Things didn't get any better for the Broncs. Machado hit an old-fashioned three point play, then set up Glover for their typical lob and dunk. In this case, Glover did a nice job corralling the ball and slamming it home to give the Gaels a 65-40 lead. But as he dunked the ball awkwardly, Glover hung on the rim to try to balance himself. He was called for a technical foul. Unfortunately for Rider, Jonathan Thompson missed both of the technical foul shots, which was probably his best chance at scoring all evening, as he was scoreless in 29 minutes of action. It just wasn't the Broncs night.
Things would actually get worse for Rider, as Iona would actually extend the lead. A three point barrage by Jermel Jenkins and Kyle Smyth put the Gaels up 85-56 with over seven minutes remaining. The game had been no longer in doubt for several minutes and the fans knew this. Several of them actually started leaving. Guess it was either past their bedtime or they were going on to the next activity for the evening. They had seen enough of a successful Iona show.
But the late show always comes back to its host. In fact, Machado was the focus at the end of the game. Machado had much earlier in the game achieved double digits in assists, as he would have 15 on the night (with only two turnovers, which is amazing). He also reached double figures in scoring early in the second half as well. But Guy had been checking the live statistics and noticed Machado was getting very close to double figures in rebounds. That would give him the rarely seen triple double, double figures in assists, points and in this case, rebounds.
With fifty one seconds left, Machado grabbed his ninth rebound. Now the triple double watch was on. With 26 seconds left, Glover was at the line shooting a one and one. Machado was at the line on the left hand side of Glover, ready to get the rebound. But Cluess decided to replace Machado. You could tell on Machado's face he knew about the triple double. He wanted to stay in and get that tenth rebound.
Now we were only a few rows behind the Iona bench, and it was quiet enough that Cluess and the players on the bench could hear the fans if they were loud enough. On cue, Guy started yelling at Cluess "He's got a chance for the triple-double, Tim! Put him back in the game! Give him the rebound!" Many of us in our section started laughing hysterically as Guy continued to plead loudly with Cluess to get Machado back in to the game.
Sure enough, Glover missed the free throw and the ball bounded to the left side, right where Machado would have been. Machado gave an "Aww, man!" look on the bench as the chance for the triple-double went away. Still, 11 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds was quite an impressive night for Machado, whose reward was to do the post game interview with ESPNU.
Iona won the game 91-71. Glover had 21 points and Momo Jones had 20 points to lead Iona. Armand added 15 points and Smyth chipped in with 13 to give the Gaels five double digit scorers on the night. The Gaels shot 17 of 39 from beyond the arc and 55% overall. Jeff Jones led Rider with 17 points, one of four Broncs in double figures in scoring.
After I said goodbye to Guy, I headed out back to the parking garage. Due to the many people who left early, it was actually relatively easy to get out of the Iona lot, which normally is not the case for a men's game. As I made my way driving back down the Hutchinson River Parkway at 12:30 in the morning, I had one thought.
Is it too early to stop at a diner for breakfast?
at IONA 91, RIDER 71 01/20/2012
RIDER 6-14 (3-5) -- D. Stewart 3-4 2-2 8; J. Thompson 0-3 0-2 0; N. Gadson 4-7 0-0 10; A. Myles 4-10 4-4 14; E. Mitchell 3-7 2-2 8; B. Penn 5-13 0-0 10; J. Jones 7-8 1-1 17; J. Fortunat 2-4 0-0 4; C. Oliver 0-1 0-0 0; D. Nd-Ezuma 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 28-59 9-11 71. IONA 15-4 (7-1) -- M. Glover 8-9 5-8 21; S. Machado 4-9 1-2 11; L. Jones 9-15 0-2 20; K. Smyth 5-9 0-0 12; R. Dezouvre 1-3 1-2 3; T. Ridley 0-2 3-4 3; S. Armand 5-10 0-0 15; J. Jenkins 2-4 0-0 6; N. Moikubo 0-1 0-0 0; N. Moikobu 0-1 0-0 0; T. Fields 0-0 0-0 0; J. Gomez 0-0 0-0 0; R. James 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-63 10-18 91.
Three-point goals: RID 6-19 (J. Jones 2-2; B. Penn 0-3; N. Gadson 2-3; J. Thompson 0-2; A. Myles 2-6; E. Mitchell 0-2; C. Oliver 0-1), IONA 13-29 (S. Machado 2-5; J. Jenkins 2-4; K. Smyth 2-5; L. Jones 2-6; S. Armand 5-9); Rebounds: RID 27 (D. Stewart 7), IONA 32 (M. Glover 9); Assists: RID 15 (J. Thompson 6), IONA 27 (S. Machado 15); Total Fouls -- RID 17, IONA 14; Fouled Out: RID-None; IONA-None.