Iona Men’s Basketball to Play in CIT Championship Game at Iona College on Wednesday

Written By: Robert Cox

Inside-Outside combo of Glover and Armand lead Iona to final showdown with Santa Clara

JOHNSON CITY, TN – The Iona College men’s basketball team escaped with an 83-80 win over East Tennessee State in a Postseason Tournament semifinal matchup at MSHA Athletics Center. Junior Mike Glover (Bronx, NY) posted his 20th double-double of the season with a game-high 33 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Gaels (25-11). The Maroon & Gold will host the West Coast Conference’s Santa Clara in the CIT Championship Game at the Hynes Center on Wednesday evening at 8:00 pm.

Glover helped will the Gaels to victory in a traditionally tough environment to play in. The Buccaneers had lost just three of their last 46 non-conference games on their home floor. Glover shot 13-for-19 from the field and 7-for-10 from the charity stripe in the victory. He was supported by rookie Sean Armand’s (Brooklyn, NY) 20 points. Armand matched his career-high and Iona rookie single-game record with six three-pointers in the win. He also surpassed teammate Kyle Smyth’s (River Edge, NY) single-season rookie record set just last season.

Junior Scott Machado (Queens, NY) scored all eight of his points in the final eight minutes of the contest. He dished out 11 assists and grabbed seven rebounds. Junior Trinity Fields (Queens, NY) had seven points including the game sealing free throws with less than five seconds to play.

In a game of volatile momentum swings, the pendulum went Iona’s way to start as the visitor’s went on a 14-0 over the first 4:33 of the half. Glover scored nine of the first 14 points of the contest for Iona. Trailing 16-2 with 15:05 to play in the frame, ETSU scored 13 straight over the next 3:21 to cut the deficit to just a single-point. The Bucs extended their run to 28-4 with 6:12 to play and built a 10-point lead at 30-20, their largest advantage of the contest. The Gaels responded with six straight points to cut the margin to 30-26 on a Glover layup at 3:53. The two squads traded tallies until halftime and Iona trailed by six at the intermission.

In the second half, East Tennessee State maintained its single-digit advantage through the first five minutes. Down 44-37 in the first minute of the half, Armand caught fire and scored 14 of Iona’s next 18 points and tied the score at 55-55 with 13:15 to play. With the score tied at 59-59, the Gaels scored 10 straight capped by a Machado three with 8:09 on the clock. The Buccaneers slowly whittled away at the Gael lead and came within two points with 1:46 remaining.

As Iona wound down the shot clock on its next possession, head coach Tim Cluess called his final timeout to call a play for a score. Glover converted a tip-in alley-oop from Machado and was fouled on the play. His ensuing free throw put Iona ahead by five. After ETSU’s Justin Tubbs hit a three-pointer to get back within two points, Glover converted 1-of-2 free throws to put Iona ahead 81-78.

The Gaels played solid defense on the next possession with Machado getting a defensive rebound. With ETSU trying to intentionally foul to stop the clock, Machado stuck his arm out to brace himself for contact and was called for an offensive foul with 17 seconds to play. The Bucs’ Michah Williams made the score 81-80 on a layup just six seconds later. Iona was able to run off six seconds before Fields was fouled and converted both free throws. A three-point attempt at the buzzer was shot and the Gaels escaped with the three-point win.

Four ETSU performers posted double-digit point totals led by Williams’ 23 points. Adam Sollazzo added 21 points and four assists off the bench. Atlantic Sun MVP Mike Smith had 18 points and six boards, while Justin Tubbs had 13 points and a team-best eight rebounds in the loss.

The Maroon & Gold used a 65.4% second half shooting effort to out gun ETSU 52.5%-46.0% for the contest. The Gaels also held a commanding 38-29 lead on the boards while recording 19 assists.

Iona hosts Santa Clara on Wednesday (Mar. 30) at the Hynes Center in the Postseason Tournament Championship game. The two teams will tip-off at 8:00 pm in a game that will be televised on Fox College Sports.

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Postgame Reactions: Cluess, Glover on or shortly