LAWRENCEVILLE – The faster the pace, the better Iona is.
For a half Wednesday night against Rider, Tim Cluess didn’t like the way his team played.
He called it a lack of energy.
The Gaels trailed the shorthanded Broncs, who were missing two starters, by five at intermission before hitting the gas with a 26-6 run to start the second half and eventually cruising to a 75-62 victory.
“We got the tempo going a little faster,” Cluess said. “The end of the first half and the beginning of the second half was almost a crawl. It was all too passive. But then they came out with some more, ‘oomph.’”
The coach said he is concerned about the sluggish half considering how late in the year it is.
“When your energy isn’t good, your execution isn’t good,” Cluess said. “That definitely worries me
this time of year when you’re going on the road and you’re not coming with the energy you need.”
But he also liked the way his team came to life in the second half.
The Gaels shot 46.7 percent (7 for 15) from 3 in the final 20 minutes and turned up the pressure on defense.
They held Rider without a field goal for 9 minutes, 53 seconds, building a comfortable 15-point lead.
Sean Armand had 12 of his game-high 22 points in the second half and Scott Machado hit a key 3-pointer after the Broncs cut the lead to eight with just over four minutes to play.
Machado finished with 16 points and nine assists and is now three helpers away from breaking former Siena guard Ronald Moore’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference record for total assists.
Most importantly, Iona (21-6, 13-3) is back in sole possession of first place after Loyola lost to Marist Wednesday night.
“I think they got a little too happy when they beat us,” Machado said referring to Loyola’s victory over the Gaels last week. “They probably let a couple slip by them. When they beat us, they felt like it was a big accomplishment. When you win a big game like that, you have to put it behind you.”
Cluess won’t get ahead of himself.
“It’s good until your next game,” he said.
But the onus is on his team to finish the job.
“It’s ours,” Armand said. “We’re going to work hard to keep it.”
Labels: Iona, MAAC, Scott Machado, Sean Armand, Tim Cluess