College basketball: Three takeaways from Iona's 69-66 win over Marist

·6 min read

NEW ROCHELLE — In a rematch with Marist, Iona found itself in an almost similar predicament.

The Gaels trailed visiting Marist for most of the second half on Sunday, and although they didn't need to overcome as big of a late deficit as they did in their previous matchup on Dec. 1, Iona managed to grind out a 69-66 win in another closely contested battle with the Red Foxes.

"It took us staying together, believing in each other, sharing the ball, defending, and getting deflections," Iona guard Tyson Jolly said. "I don't think anybody on the team felt like we were going to lose the game, so we stayed together, kept fighting and just like how it was a dogfight at their house — we had the same thing here and we pulled it out again."

Tyson Jolly's dunk with just over two minutes left gave Iona the lead for good as they defeated Marist 69-66 in a MAAC conference basketball game at Iona College Jan. 2, 2022.
Tyson Jolly's dunk with just over two minutes left gave Iona the lead for good as they defeated Marist 69-66 in a MAAC conference basketball game at Iona College Jan. 2, 2022.

Iona Gaels: Iona's schedule impacted by recent COVID-cancellations

Previous meeting: Iona strikes back late to survive scare from Marist in MAAC opener

The game was tied up at 31 at halftime. Marist (6-6, 1-2 MAAC) snatched the lead after the break and led the majority of the way. Just when it seemed like the Red Foxes were able to build momentum to pull away, the Gaels were able to answer back and keep the game within reach.

Iona (11-2, 3-0 MAAC) finally grabbed its first lead of the second half, when Elijah Joiner made a three-pointer, then Jolly followed up with a dunk after a Marist turnover to put the Gaels in front, 65-64, with 2:23 remaining in the game.

Marist didn't go away quietly, but Iona managed to get the necessary stops on defense and free throws to cling onto the lead. The Red Foxes' three-point attempt at the buzzer was no good, and Iona held on for the win.

Jolly led the Gaels with 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Nelly Junior Joseph provided 11 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and two steals. Joiner and Ryan Myers had 11 points apiece, while Walter Clayton Jr. had 10 points.

For Marist, Jao Ituka paced the Red Foxes with 13 points. Ricardo Wright had 11 points.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Iona steps up again on defense and in crucial moments

With exception to the Gaels' loss to Belmont, Iona appears to thrive in high-pressure and close-game situations. Sunday afternoon served as another example of the Gaels' composure.

"That's what a good schedule does for you," Iona coach Rick Pitino said. "When you play a bunch of buy games — and it goes both ways — you go on the road to somebody and they blow you out by 30, you get nothing out of it and hurts your confidence. Then, when you buy a team and you beat them by 25 or 30, it does nothing for you and you think you're better than you are. When you play Liberty, Belmont, Kansas, Alabama and Harvard in overtime, where every game is a war, you know what to expect. We've been battle-tested because of the schedule."

Iona's Elijah Joiner celebrates after Iona forced a five second turnover during a MAAC conference basketball game against Marist at Iona College Jan. 2, 2022. Iona defeated Marist 69-66.
Iona's Elijah Joiner celebrates after Iona forced a five second turnover during a MAAC conference basketball game against Marist at Iona College Jan. 2, 2022. Iona defeated Marist 69-66.

Marist's defense gave Iona fits for most of the game, but even when the Gaels weren't clicking on the scoring end, it was able to keep the game close with its defensive effort.

The Gaels utilized the full-court press more than in any other game this season, and it even helped generate scoring opportunities off turnovers.

"We've been working a lot more on it," Pitino said. "It wears teams down from shooting the ball well. I think as we get a stronger bench and give guys more breaks, it'll help us."

Iona forced 19 turnovers and converted those into 21 points. The Gaels' pressure helped them inch back into the game in the second half and eventually created the game-changing turnovers that allowed Iona to take the lead.

Iona's Walter Clayton, Jr. is tied up by Raheim Sullivan of Marist during a MAAC conference basketball game at Iona College Jan. 2, 2022. Iona defeated Marist 69-66.
Iona's Walter Clayton, Jr. is tied up by Raheim Sullivan of Marist during a MAAC conference basketball game at Iona College Jan. 2, 2022. Iona defeated Marist 69-66.

After another close affair with Iona, Marist remains confident

Despite getting its heart broken by Iona twice this season, Marist remains upbeat and even more determined to get back onto the court after Sunday's loss.

"Just understanding we can beat Iona, it starts with that," Ituka said. "The first game, we lost that, and this game we lost it, but we're right there. If we can compete with a team like them, then nobody in the league can beat us as long as we come in with the right mindset to attack down the stretch and band together so we can win games. After today, I know for a fact that no matter who we play, we can compete. We may have lost this game, but we were up. This is on us."

The Red Foxes entered Sunday's game with considerable momentum. After a 2-4 start to the year, they won four of the next five games.

They also improved on the defensive end. While they didn't rely on the zone in Sunday's game, they limited Iona to just 3-of-22 from the three-point line.

Marist coach John Dunne is pleased with his team's growth over the course of the season, but there's still further room to improve and develop.

"I was curious to see what our effort and energy was going to be like here," Dunne said. "I knew we weren't going to sneak up on them in their gym, coming off of our last game, so I knew they were going to come out and play hard. I thought we matched their intensity, which is the first battle. We played with confidence and we played pretty well on offense, with exception to all the turnovers.

"In the end, a couple off-balance paint shots with all the turnovers, you just can't beat a team like that. We've made great strides, but we're not there yet. We can get there, but we're not there yet to beat a good team in the last couple of minutes. We just have to grow and get better, but I'm proud of my guys."

Iona coach Rick Pitino yells at his team during a MAAC conference basketball game against Marist at Iona College Jan. 2, 2022. Iona defeated Marist 69-66.
Iona coach Rick Pitino yells at his team during a MAAC conference basketball game against Marist at Iona College Jan. 2, 2022. Iona defeated Marist 69-66.

COVID scrambles

Although the 2021-22 season has been an overall step closer towards normalcy, the last few weeks have been a reminder that COVID-19 is still apparent.

Iona has had three college basketball games canceled in a two-week period, most recently losing out on games against Siena and Fairfield. Marist had its games against Monmouth and Saint Peter's postponed after those two teams were put in COVID protocols.

As a result of the scheduling shakeup, the two teams agreed to move up their rematch, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 21, to Sunday.

"This was the first in my 30-something years of coaching that we prepared for three different teams on Thursday," Dunne said. "We woke up preparing for Monmouth, that got canceled in the morning. We had a walkthrough and watched film of Saint Peter's in the afternoon and a half hour after that practice, it got canceled. Then, it got on the table to play Iona."

Iona also played without its top defender and starting guard, Berrick JeanLouis, who recently entered COVID protocols.

"We were a little rusty and we haven't played, they haven't played, but (Marist) deserves a lot of credit because they played a terrific basketball game," Pitino said.

While Marist fell short once again, Dunne doesn't blame the COVID scrambles for its loss.

"We had a couple days to prepare," Dunne said. "At the end of the day, two days is good enough for preparation, and we had already played them too."

Follow Eugene Rapay on Twitter at @erapay5 and on Instagram at @byeugenerapay.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: College basketball: Three takeaways from Iona's 69-66 win over Marist

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting