NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Iona College men’s basketball junior A.J. English’s conventional three-point play with 33.2 seconds left led the Gaels to a thrilling 69-68 win over Monmouth in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play in front of a capacity crowd at the Hynes Center. The Maroon & Gold erased a 14-point halftime deficit and trailed by as many as 16 in the second half to clinch the No. 1 seed and outright MAAC Regular Season Championship for the second straight year and the third time in the last four seasons. Iona also won its 10th straight contest and 18th in a row at the Hynes Center including a 12-0 mark in 2014-15.
Despite trailing for more than half the contest, and by double digits for more than six and a half minutes, there were 11 lead changes and seven tie scores between two teams at the top of the MAAC standings. Coming into the game Monmouth had the ability to finish anywhere between first and fourth place. The Gaels needed just one win in their last three to lock up the No. 1 spot.
The Hawks ended the first half on a 22-4 run to take a 40-26 lead into halftime. Down 16 at the 18:40 mark, Iona chipped away with ten straight points 2:38 span as a David Laury layup made the score 44-38 with 15:33 on the clock. The Gaels would take its first lead since the midway point of the first half when rookie Schadrac Casimir drained a three-point field goal that brought the house down and gave Iona a 49-48 at 13:00. Two English free throws on the next possession pushed the lead to three points as the Maroon & Gold matched Monmouth with a 22-4 run of its own over a span of just under six minutes.
Monmouth’s Deon Jones hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the visitor’s a two-point advantage at the one minute mark. On the next possession, the Hawks’ Max DiLeo had English’s heroics from nine day ago at Manhattan on his mind when he was pump faked off his feet by the Gael junior. English drew contact, banked home the shot attempt and converted the ensuing free throw to put Iona ahead by one with the shot clock turned off.
The Hawks had two shots at a game winner as sophomore Justin Robinson’s miss went off the fingertips of an Iona player and DiLeo’s jumper from the corner fell short at the buzzer.
Laury led the Gaels with 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field with two three-pointer and 7-of-11 from the line. He added three rebounds and three assists in the win. Casimir posted 17 points with four more three-point field goals. He extended his NCAA rookie lead over Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell with his team-leading 85 3FG. English had 15 of his 16 points in the Gaels’ strong second half. Junior Kelvin Amayo posted six points and a team-leading 11 rebounds and four assists.
Four Hawks reached double-digit scoring totals. Robinson matched Laury’s 24 points. Junior Deon Jones had 13 points and four assist while senior Brice Kofane and sophomore Chris Brady had 10 points each while combining for 15 rebounds.
The Hawks out shot (51.0%-40.0%) and out rebounded (33-31) while holding a 42-24 advantage in the paint. Iona held a 9-2 lead in three-point field goals, 14-10 in assists and 17-12 in turnovers.
The Gaels complete the regular season next weekend with a home game vs. Manhattan on ESPN2 at 7:00 pm Friday (Feb. 27) and a road tilt at Saint Peter’s Sunday (Mar. 1) at 4:00 pm on ESPN3.