Shorthanded Broncs can't stop Iona
Yet even after a 75-62 loss Wednesday night at Alumni Gymnasium, the Broncs couldn’t help but feel like they missed an opportunity to beat one of the league’s heavyweights with the conference tournament looming the first weekend in March.
For one half, the shorthanded Broncs, who played without Novar Gadson (violation of team rules) and Jeff Jones (norovirus), battled with grit and guts. Even leading by five at halftime.
But there are teams you can go almost 10 minutes without a field goal against and get away with it. And then there are those you can’t.
Iona is not one of those teams you can have a drought against.
The Gales outscored the Broncs, 26-6, to start the final 20 minutes to open up a 15-point lead and never looked back. Rider didn’t help its cause by shooting 1 of 13 to open the half and going 9 minutes, 53 seconds between field goals.
Nineteen turnovers, 10 in the second half and five during the Gaels’ opening run, also didn’t help.
“I feel like we did let one get away,” said sophomore guard Anthony Myles, who finished with a career-high 21 points. “We have to overlook it and look forward to the teams we have coming up.”
Iona improved to 21-6 overall and 13-3 in the MAAC, taking over sole possession of first place after Loyola lost to Marist Wednesday night. Rider fell to 11-17 and 8-8 in the league.
The Broncs are still in fifth place but find themselves only one game ahead of Siena and Niagara.
Rider still has conference home games remaining against Loyola and Fairfield, and will probably need to win at least one – if not both – to ensure a spot in the top-six.
“We now what we are capable of,” Myles said. “Going into the tournament, we need to beat a big team to put us in a nice spot. But we know what we are capable of.”
Iona’s sharpshooting guard Sean Armand had a game-high 22 points on 7 of 13 from behind the arc. Scott Machado added 16 and Taaj Ridley finished with 13.
Ridley scored nine of his points during the Gaels’ second-half run.
Rider got as close as eight with 4:21 remaining on a Myles layup.
But Machado stepped up and hit a 3 on Iona’s next possession.
“I thought we showed a lot of guts tonight,” said Rider coach Tommy Dempsey. “We had the unfortunate scoring drought where we allowed them to take the game over a little bit. …We had that long dry spell and we could never really get it back.”
The Broncs connected on six of their 10 3-point attempts in the first half and outscored the Gaels, 12-3, over the final 6:10 to lead 37-32 at halftime.
They also shot 50 percent (13 of 26 from the field).
But the Broncs got a little sloppy on offense, missing a few layups and throwing one too many errant passes, as Iona made them pay with a quick 10-0 run to take a 22-18 lead midway through the first half.
The Gaels extended the run to 12-0 before Jon Thompson chased down Machado to block his layup attempt then found Danny Stewart for a dunk on the other end. Tommy Pereira followed with a 3 to cut the Iona lead to one.