NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Grad student Sam Cassell Jr. scored a game-high 28 points in his Iona College men’s basketball team debut but it was not enough in a 99-78 defeat at Florida State in non-conference action at the Tucker Center.
Cassell Jr. drained five three-pointers and was 7-for-8 from the line with three assists and a steal in 36 minutes in his first game in Maroon & Gold. Senior Jordan Washington added 16 points in 16 minutes played. He was 5-for-9 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free throw line. Grad student Jon Severe chipped in 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Rickey McGill posted eight points and four rebounds in the loss. Sophomore Tyrell Williams led the Gaels with seven boards off the bench.
Florida State had six players record 10 or more points led by rookie Jonathan Isaac’s 20 point effort.
The Seminoles used an 18-4 run over a 5:23 span early in the first half to jump out to a double-digit lead. The Gaels closed within six points on junior Jan Svandrlik’s put back with 7:27 to play. Florida State scored 11 of the game’s next 14 points in the next 2:32 and led by at least 10 points the rest of the way.
Florida State’s size was too much for Iona as the home team held a 52-18 advantage in the paint, a 45-31 rebounding advantage and 57.6% – 37.3% lead in field goal percentage.
The Gaels were the second-to-last team in NCAA Division I to begin their season with their 7:00 pm tipoff tonight. Belmont was the final team with its 9:00 pm tipoff at Vanderbilt this evening.
Iona continues its six-game stretch away from home to start the season Sunday (Nov. 20) at Nevada in an out of bracket contest affiliated with the GCI Great Alaska Shootout.
Coach Cluess Quotes
“I want to congratulate Florida State on their game. I thought they played a terrific game. They’re a heck of a basketball team, a good match up for early in the season. We’re glad we had this opportunity because we had a lot of errors and they sure help showed us the areas we need to work on. We’re grateful for the game to be honest with you. It was great experience for our guys to come down here and play at a school like yours with that good of a team and it was fun to go against them. Obviously I wish we had done better but I appreciate the opportunity.”
Looked like you guys got out to a good start early in the game, what happened?
“They weighed it down a little bit, they had a lot more size than we had. I think when Jordan Washington got in a little bit of foul trouble that hurts our team; we don’t really have that next guy right now that can play. Our third big Taylor Bessick isn’t healthy enough to be playing and when we get him back at least it gives us five more fouls. We really would love to be playing two bigger guys together but right now we really can’t do that and they really made us pay for that tonight. They did a really great job at reversing and driving the ball and really challenging us at the rim.”
How hard was this being your first game of the season and Florida State’s second?
“Every game you play, you learn more about your team and I think you get better. For us, we have a lot of new pieces that we’re trying to find out who can play in certain alignments and against what types of teams, and who can do what certain things. Playing against that length is one thing, they did a great job tonight at switching on us. When we simulate in practice, we simulate against 5’11 and 6’2 guys and they come out here at 6’8, 6’11, and 7’0 it takes up more space. I think we got out of our game rather early and we started forcing things. I think we will keep getting better as the season goes along, we’ve got a lot of room for improvement.”
Coming off of your NCAA appearance last year, you’re certainly no stranger to playing power conference teams, despite that, was this team larger and longer than the others?
“We’ve played some teams in the past that have been similar to it. This group that I have right now has not played a team that this length so it’s new for our players this year to see that length and size. And again, we can simulate anything close to that in practice even though we try and I didn’t think we shot the ball well. For us to have a chance to stay in the game tonight we had to really shoot the 3 well and we didn’t. We had one guy making shots for us and the rest of our guys struggled.
There was a stretch where you guys got down by about 11, what do you think it was about FSU that made it so hard for you guys to climb out and build back up?
“I think we took a terrible shot right at that point and we had guys wide open and we took another contested shot that was an air ball that lead to a fast break. We had another one right after that where someone dribbled the ball about 13 times that led to another fast break. So, 1 – you can’t make mistakes against a team as good as FSU. When you do they make you pay for it. When we watch them in film and watch them play against them, that turnover is going to be a dunk down at the other end. We had about 3‐5 possessions in a row where we really took bad shots and didn’t get back on D in time to stop them and they just pulled away from it and that’s how quickly they can attack you.”
How much of a challenge is it having your first 6 games in a row on the road?
“It’s going to be challenging for our guys but they’re going to learn a lot about each other and have a chance to bond. We’re going to be playing the highest caliber level of teams that we’ll be playing this season until, if we’re fortunate enough, to make it to make it to the ACC tournament. So, other than that we’re not going to see another Florida State athletically the rest of this year. So for us, we can look at that and say this is what did and didn’t work and this is where we can get better. If we can get better in those areas then we can compete against the teams that are not quite built the same way.”