NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The Iona College men’s basketball team was unable to find the shooting touch from the free throw line as visiting Monmouth upended the Gaels 79-73 to conclude the 2016-17 regular season.
The Hawks (26-5, 18-2), the MAAC Regular Season Champions, won their 16th straight contest due in large part to a 22-11 made free throw margin. The Maroon & Gold (19-12, 12-8 MAAC) shot an uncharacteristic 52.4 percent (11-for-21) from the charity stripe despite ranking 13th in the country entering the game with a season percentage of 76.6.
Je’lon Hornbeak led the effort for Monmouth with a game-high 25 points, shooting 6-of-6 from the free throw line and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. Justin Robinson added 16 points, five assists and four rebounds while Austin Tilghman came off the bench for 10 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes.
Deyshonne Much paced the Gaels for the second straight contest with 18 points, 11 of which came in the first half. Jordan Washington fell two rebounds shy of a fifth straight double-double behind 16 points and eight rebounds to go along with two steals in 22 minutes. Jon Severe posted 14 points, four rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes.
Neither team was able to find an offensive flow in the early going as Iona built a 10-3 advantage seven minutes into the game. With the Gaels leading 13-7 after the under-12 minute media timeout, the Hawks ran off a 13-4 spurt to claim a three-point advantage with nearly eight minutes remaining.
Following a Sam Cassell Jr. 3-pointer that tied the game at 32 with 50 second remaining, Tilghman connected on a trey of his own to end the half and put the Hawks ahead at the break. Much led all scorers in the opening 20 minutes with 11 points while Hornbeak led the Hawks with 10 points.
Monmouth built a lead as large as eight points, 47-39, in the first few stages of the second half before Iona continued to chip away and eventually tied the game at 61 on a Cassell layup. From that point, the Hawks generated a 14-6 to lead 75-67 with 1:49 remaining after a Robinson layup.
A pair of layups from Severe and McGill cut the deficit to four-points twice in the final 50 seconds, however, Tilghman and Hornbeak each connected on a pair of free throws to secure the victory for Monmouth.
With a Saint Peter’s 72-65 victory at Canisius earlier today, Iona garners the third seed entering the MAAC Championships next weekend at the Times Union Center in Albany. The Gaels are scheduled for a 7:00 pm game on Saturday, March 4 against the winner of No. 6 Rider and No. 11 Manhattan. The Broncs and Jaspers are scheduled for a 9:00 pm start on Thursday, March 2 from the Capital Region.
Following the conclusion of tonight’s contest, the Iona Athletic Department honored six seniors part of the men’s basketball program. Cassell, Severe and Washington along with classmates Taylor Bessick, Ryden Hines and Ricky Kerins were celebrated for during a postgame ceremony.