MAAC Semifinals: Niagara vs. Iona - LIVE BLOG
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • March 10, 2013 @ 1:44pm
Post-game—Jones runs over and shakes the hand of Anthony Mason, who returns the favor but continues to sneer after the result.
Final—Iona 79, Niagara 73.
:03—Iona beats the press—even though Jones nearly toppled out of bounds on the left sideline—and Bowman head to the line with three seconds left. He makes one of two, but this one is in the books.
:17—It’s Ridley at the line, not Jones. Savvy by MoMo, still. Ridley bangs in the first and the second. 78-71 Iona. Juan’ya drives hard left and finishes at the rim—full timeout for Niagara, who trails 78-73. The Purple Eagles are working hard to extend the game, but Mihalich’s team isn’t gaining much ground. Iona hits its free throws.
:17 —Laury to inbounds under his own hoop. There’s a strange foul away from the ball—before it’s inbounded—on Lemmons, who held the wrong person: MoMo Jones. They’re checking the monitor to see who Lemmons fouled, as Jones confidently stepped to the line. Smart move on the senior’s part, but at least the referees weren’t completely duped.
:28 —Jones sinks the first and the second to make the score 76-69 Iona with under 30 seconds left. Tanksley hits a pull-up jumper after losing his defender with a shot-fake, but it’s a five-point game with 17 ticks left. 76-71 Gaels.
:34—Demanding the ball, Green pulls up for a three, and it’s no good. MoMo Jones shoots two from the line as Anthony Mason, Antoine’s father, yells to Joe Mihaliich, “How do you forget the high-scorer?” The former NBAer is unhappy that his son didn’t receive many touches down the stretch, but the 3-15 Green continued to jack up shots. Jones sinks both free throws, but he fouls Mason, who will shoot one and one himself. First is good, and so is the second. MoMo Jones returns to the line to shoot one and one.
1:21—Green steals the inbound pass from Laury, setting up a great look from the right wing by Jordan in transition. His three is no good, and Cline can’t win the jump for the rebound. One minute left. Armand tosses up a surprise airball, and Niagara has 53 seconds on the clock.
1:35—30-second timeout for Cluess and the Gaels, who could potentially seal the game with a bucket on this trip down the floor. We’ll see who the play is designed for—wouldn’t shock me if Laury received at touch in the paint. 72-67 Iona.
2:28—Laury swishes the first free throw. Juan’ya Green is just 3-14 from the floor today. Laury puts in the second for a five-point lead, ending Iona’s scoreless drought. Green uses his strength to keep Sledge at bay, who’s then called for pushing foul. Sixth team foul on Iona—Niagara will shoot one and one on the next non-shooting foul. Already seven team fouls on NU. Tanksley can’t convert a sweeping left-handed hook shot, and Jones slows the pace again for Iona. 100 seconds to play, Niagara’s down five. Tim Cluess calls for a timeout.
3:37—Green wraps around a down screen and receives a pass from Mason, but Green’s three is no good—ball is tipped out of bounds by Iona. Ridley is whistled for his fourth personal foul trying to block Tanksley, however. Jordan misses a three from the right wing, but Cline snares the board—Green saw the mismatch against Ridley, who has four fouls, and exploded to the bucket for a lay-in. Three-point game, and Iona is still ice-cold. Laury rumbles into Cline and draws a foul—the Niagara assistants are infuriated by that foul call.
3:43—Under four timeout, 70-65 Iona, and it’s Niagara’s ball under Iona’s basket. Obviously, Niagara needs to bear down and capitalize on its offensive possessions, as it’s unlikely that the Gaels stay cold for long. Canisius was able to fight back into yesterday’s game against Iona, cutting the margin to one on two instances, but Iona was clutch from the line and made enough buckets to stave off the rally. In other words, it’s not that easy to complete a comeback against Tim Cluess’ club.
4:12—I think Marvin Jordan has set a season-high for floor slaps today. Jones calls for an iso against Mason, he gets a free look but shoots off the back rim. Cline flips a pass to Mason, who dribbles at Laury but sees his shot blocked by the 6’8 sophomore. 18 points and 14 boards for Laury so far today.
4:47—70-63 Iona, and MoMo Jones loses the ball on the way up and knocks the ball out of bounds off his knee. Great use of Tanksley’s body to shield Laury off on his drive to the left, and Ameen banks in a tough runner. 70-65 Iona now, and the Purple Eagles are chipping away slowly at the deficit.
6:07—10-4 run for Iona to extend its lead, and the Gaels have the ball. Mason nips in for a steal in the backcourt and is fouled on the break by Armand. Mason will shoot two from the line. First is good. Second doesn’t fall, however, and Laury reels in the rebound. Iona slows the tempo a bit, and Laury beats Cline to the baseline but can’t finish. Niagara rushes the ball down to Jordan, who’s fall-away three is off the back rim and out to Iona. Nice anticipation defensively by Cline to intercept Sledge’s interior bounce pass, then Mason misses a jumper—Tanksley’s there for the board, and he’s fouled. He can only hit one of two from the line though.
7:03 —Green slices through a ball screen and a double team but loses possession to Sledge. Costly possession, as Jones whips a pass to Sledge, who sinks a corner three—that’s a big bucket, especially because Sledge is certainly not a shoot-first player. MoMo Jones takes another dubious charge on Antoine Mason—his third—and the Purple Eagles are beginning to unravel. 70-61 Iona. That’s the second charge taken by Jones on the afternoon.
7:21—Now this is apparently the media timeout, but it’s still 66-61. Cline just fouled Ridley inside again after the Iona big established good position inside. Tough afternoon for the Niagara frontcourt. Ridley sinks the first for a six-point advantage.
7:34—Joe Mihalich is pulling every big he can off the bench—save red-shirted Scooter Gillette—to try to deal with the combination of Laury and Ridley, but he’s had rather little luck in containing the inspired Gael interior duo. Perhaps that’s the source of Green’s frustration, as points in the paint are beginning to favor Iona more heavily. Green’s shooting performance today has been abysmal, too, though.
7:34—Under eight timeout, 66-61 Gaels.
7:42—Iona’s biggest lead is right now—66-59, as Jones drove right at Cline and finished a teardrop over the Niagara freshman. Green finds Cline underneath for a bucket, but when Cline goes in for a high-five, he’s rejected by Green, whose body language in the second half isn’t very good.
9:09—In the post at the other end, Laury backed down Thomas and scored off the glass—Green missed a three, but then he swatted Jones’ attempt on the right wing. Good extra pass by Green on the next trip, but Mason’s three is off the rim and to MoMo, who sprints down the floor. A nice entry to Laury draws another foul—this one on Thomas—and Laury cans both free throws. He’s making a strong case for player of the game honors. 64-59 Iona.
10:44—MoMo misses a runner after Laury tore down a rebound of a Mason shot and ignited the fast-break. 13th board for Laury—Joe Thomas misses a runner that rims out, but he defends Jones’ drives nicely by slapping the ball out of his hands and out of bounds. Miscommunication between Bowman and Sledge leads to a brief argument, and Ridley enters for Bowman. Cluess gives Bowman an earful as he takes a seat. Turnaround left-handed shot by Tanksley is pretty—nothing Ridley could do on that one.
11:14—Joe Thomas gave Devon White a breather—that was Thomas’ first action of the semifinal after playing a surprisingly vital role in the quarterfinal. Tanksley re-enters the game with three fouls, and he’s joined on the floor by Jordan, Green, Thomas and Mason.
11:14—Under 12 timeout, 60-57 Iona. Four players in double-figure scoring for Iona, as Laury’s 14, Ridley’s 13, Armand’s 13 and Jones’ 11 shows off just how balance this Iona team can be—it’s not always just MoMo and Armand dominating the scoring column.
13:42—Jordan crosses over Sledge, but his shot is swatted away on the weakside by Ridley—Armand rushes down in transition and knocks in a runner. Mason responds with a floater of his own—his first points of the second half. Ridley bangs in a contested jumper over Cline, and his 13 and five boards have made a serious difference for the Gaels. Green splashes a jumper over Ridley in response. Sledge’s entry pass to Laury caroms off his fingers—leads to an Iona turnover. Armand and Cline trade missed threes, then Green’s throw-ahead to Joe Thomas is picked off by Ridley. Tavon Sledge scores a lay-in, and the game is swinging a little in the Gaels’ favor.
13:58—Under 16 timeout, 54-53 Iona. We’re in for a treat in this second half, as this one promises to be a high-octane, see-saw battle down the stretch. Double-double machine David Laury III has been magnificent in this tournament so far, and at this point, I’d take the present 6’8 Gael over Mike Glover, the long-term MAAC beast for Cluess’ club.
14:24—Pretty penetration and assist from Mason to Cline leads to a weakside layup, but then a David Laury turnaround jumper and lay-in gives Iona its first lead of the half.
16:22—Iona presses after the made free throw, but Niagara breaks it with a long pass from Green to Mason. Green regroups with a dump down to White for a right-handed lay-in. Offensive foul on Taaj Ridley, and Niagara has a chance to add to its three-point advantage. Shot-fake and entry from Green on the screen and roll to White, who fumbles the pass and Iona rumbles down the floor. Ridley is dared into a 15-footer, and that rims out. Cline’s three is off and Ridley boards. Nice drive by Sledge right at Mason—knowing that the Niagara guard has two fouls—and Sledge finishes with his right at the left side of the rim.
17:04—Errant mid-range J by Green is awarded a team rebound to Iona. Jones misses a runner and White tracks down the loose ball. Jordan splits a double team to lay-in softly with his right, but Ridley explodes down the left baseline and is hit by Juan’ya Green. Ridley’s first from the line is no good. 49-47 Purple Eagles.
18:17—Smooth behind the back dribble by Jordan forces Jones to crumple to the ground—he whips a pass to White underneath, who’s hammered by Laury. White makes the back end of two shots, and it’s 44-42 NU. Armand answers with a three from the right wing, and Cline failed to get a hand in the shooter’s face. Sledge hits Cline after the play, but Cline still manages to drain a three. MoMo squirms into the lane and flings up a shot with his right that drops through—not much else White could do to defend that.
18:28—MoMo Jones darts down the left side of the lane and scores off the window—plus the foul! Tanksley’s second personal, and Cline checks in promptly. MoMo drills the free throw. 43-42 Niagara.
19:45—Armand misses a three from the left wing as we’re underway in the second half—White cleans up the glass for Niagara. Iona in man-to-man defensively—Green and Mason each miss threes, but Devon White snags two offensive boards and Marvin Jordan hits a trey from the right wing—that’s White’s value—he’s a beast. Laury gets two chances around the tin and misses—White avoids a foul—but Ridley is fouled as he grabs an offensive board.
Halftime—The Purple Eagles shot only 5-for-18 from downtown in the first half, a 28% clip—Green, Tanksley and Cline are a combined 1-for-9.
Halftime—16 points on 5-10 shooting for Antoine Mason, whose 16 points is easily a game-high. He’ll need to be smart to avoid foul trouble—both Mase and Devon White have two. Kudos to Joe Mihalich’s team for protecting the ball in the first half—only three turnovers is a terrific number (Cline has two of them).
Halftime—Nine turnovers in the first half for Iona, a team that averages only 12 per game. David Laury is the biggest culprit with three giveaways, but he also posted a first-half double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds for Cluess’ Gaels. Iona won the rebounding battle 23-14 after beating Canisius on the glass 37-28 yesterday. The work on the boards has been a pleasant surprise for Iona’s club.
Halftime—Niagara 40, Iona 39.
:02—Juan’ya Green rolled his ankle after Gomez fouled immediately on the inbounds—he limps to the locker room, a rough sight for the Purps. Tim Cluess has a meeting with the officials at midcourt, and now Mihalich steps in to give a piece of his mind as well. It’s not an easy job to be an official at any level. Mason missed a 40-foot leaner at the buzzer that banged off the backboard, a good distance from the rectangle.
:03—Terrific defense in an iso situation by Marvin Jordan on Jones, who forces a fade-away deep three that wasn’t close. Niagara grabs the board and will have a few ticks left on the clock to try to run into the locker room with momentum. Big first half in all facets from Jordan, who’s contributed both defensively and as a facilitator.
1:00—T.J. Cline fights for a rebound, but he turns the ball over on the outlet, and Jones sinks a 14-footer. Green responds with a slash and a shot off the glass. Cline is frustrated with himself after he gave the ball away following a tough rebound. 40-39 Niagara.
2:08—A double team confronts Armand on the perimeter, and he is patient to find a slashing Ridley for an uncontested layup. Ridley is playing like a man possessed today. Mason responds with a trey from the right wing, and he’s unconscious from the field as well. Armand’s three is long, but Laury tracks down the board—he bulls into Mason, and it’s deemed a block. Literally no one in the arena agrees with that call. That’s Mason’s second.
3:09—Ridley and Armand each have eight for Iona, while Mason leads all scorers with 13 for NU. Cline, Mason, Jordan, Tanksley and Green are on the floor for NU, while Bowman, Laury, Ridley, Armand and Jones for Iona. Tanksley nails a three from straight on—Laury responds with a bucket and a foul after a loose ball bounced between Cline’s legs to the Iona big, and he scored off the glass and drew the personal on Tanksley.
3:09—Under four timeout, 32-31 Niagara. Iona’s Tim Cluess can’t be too thrilled with Iona’s turnover numbers in the first half, as the Gaels typically protect the ball very well—granted, their offensive sets don’t last particularly long, so there aren’t many opportunities to turn the ball over.
3:09—Ameen Tanksley is shaken up at the Niagara end, and Taaj Ridley finished a reverse put-back slam of a Laury miss—nice mix of athleticism, strength and aggressiveness. That’s a highlight reel play.
4:33—Nice extra pass from Jordan at the top of the key to Tanksley in the corner, but his three hits the rim and bounces off the top of the backboard. Mason concedes the baseline to Ridley, who glides in for a lay-in. Marvin Jordan with a good look underneath to Cline, who scores a soft lob.
5:57—Mason knocks in both free throws. White checks in for Niagara, and Bowman enters for Iona. Laury backs down White, and he draws a foul on the Niagara graduate student, who now has two fouls—he’ll head to the bench for the final 5:36. He winces in frustration, knowing he should have kept his arms up rather than slapping the Gael. Mason curls horizontally around a screen and sinks a 15-footer—that’s pretty. Jones responds with a pull-up three, and maybe he’s finally heating up. 30-27 NU.
6:39—David Laury III bats in his own miss after Juan’ya Green couldn’t score at the rim—he used his right instead of his left, and that cost him. T.J. Cline posts up down low—not a regular sight—and he scores with a soft touch with his right. 26-23 NU—another steal by Green close to midcourt, and he dishes to his left to Mason—who draws Tavon Sledge’s first foul. Mason will shoot two.
7:44—What would the MAAC Tournament be without a little ‘N Sync? Other than a better MAAC Tournament? We were just treated to a little “Bye, Bye, Bye,” and I swear I saw a grin from Devon White. I may be imagining things. Jones leaves his runner short, and Cline’s outlet to Mason is a little ambitious, and it’s picked off. When a passing lane is cut off, Armand shuffles his feet—a travel. Curtis Dennis enters Iona’s lineup for the first time.
7:54—Under eight timeout, 24-21 Niagara. Even game so far, and Iona’s trying to attack around Armand rather than Jones, who’s clearly hampered by his illness. Ridley and Laury are tenacious and thrive doing the dirty work, and Laury’s vision is a trait that’s underappreciated.
8:35—Green misses a three from just left of the top of the arc, but Tanksley battles underneath for the offensive rebound and the put-back. Great effort from the NU sophomore. Jones leaves his runner short again, but the ball is given back to Iona. Laury leans into Cline and scores a tough left-handed runner off glass—that’s a pro move right there. Mason’s three is off the back rim from the right corner, and it’s a five-second possession for NU. Bizarre buzzer sounds, and there’s an odd under eight media.
10:00—Green drains the bonus free throw after the and-one. Niagara is in man-to-man after the timeout. Jones spins through the lane and tries to draw a foul, but none is called. Jordan leaves a three short, but at the other end, Mason tips a pass off Laury’s fingers and out of bounds—he’s ecstatic about that defensive play. 22-19 NU.
10:00—Under 12 timeout, 21-19 Niagara. Iona has a tendency to play entertaining basketball, as the Gaels are rather reluctant to defend and thrive off a fast-paced, “can you match us?” style. MoMo Jones has looked lethargic so far for Iona—it must be tough playing back-to-back when you’re ill. Mason has nine points to lead NU, while Armand has eight to pace the Gaels. Jones has yet to score.
10:00—Outstanding hoop from Juan’ya Green, who bashes into Ridley, draws the blocking foul and uses his sheer strength to finish off the window. He’s a special player.
12:04—No-look pass into the paint by Jordan to White, who leaves his feet immediately to score off the glass. Bowman responds with a three from the left wing, however. Mason drains a three over Jones, who’s stuck in quick sand. 16-16 tie. The Purple Eagles doing an excellent job breaking the press—Mason finds Marvin Jordan after White kept the ball alive, and Marvin the Microwave cans a three from the right wing! 19-16 Purple Eagles, but Sean Armand swishes a three as he falls to the ground.
12:52—Lemmons replaces Cline, and Niagara gets a bit smaller. Mason drills the second FT. Nice dish from Iona’s DaShawn Gomez across the paint to Tre Bowman, who’s hammered by Devon White—his first personal. Bowman hits his first—he’s been a nice find for Iona after receiving a late scholarship and replacing A.J. English in the rotation.
13:15—In typical Mason fashion, the sophomore wing bowls into the lane and scores a tough shot off glass while he’s hit—no foul, but it’s 11-9 now. Ridley can’t get a short shot to drop, and White boxes out nicely for a team rebound on a deflection. Mason attacks the paint again, and he’s fouled by Bowman. First free throw is good, and it’s an 8-2 run for the Purple Eagles.
15:12—Out of the timeout, Cline kicks out to Marvin Jordan, who swishes his first three-point attempt. Laury misses from inside, but then Niagara can’t finish a jumper either. Green rejects Armand’s three, but the No. 22 bat the loose ball to Sledge, who finds Laury at the opposite block for a hoop. Green coasts down the floor—looks to have drawn a foul—but there’s not one called. Bowman enters for Laury for Iona. TJ Cline was almost just beaten down the floor by Laury, but the pass was just beyond the Iona big’s reach. Mihalich and Mason gave Cline an earful for lack of hustle.
15:38—Under 16 timeout, 9-4 Iona.
15:38—Cline has his three-pointer blocked by Laury, but he hustles after his own miss to poke the ball to Tanksley, who takes one dribble to his left and finishes southpaw. Armand effortlessly launches a three from 24-feet—it’s off, and that brings us to the first media timeout. The Purple Eagle mascot must have gotten good rest—or perhaps a stern talking to—because he’s much more active in the early going. Aggressive wing-flapping.
17:34—Strong tip by Antoine Mason of his own miss, but a nice lob from Laury to Ridley is an easy deuce. After a weak layup attempt by Cline—well-defended by Laury—Armand gets away with a travel on a spin move and running banker. 7-2 Gaels. Tanksley’s three is off left, and Mason doesn’t pursue the rebound to smartly avoid his second foul. Ridley spins quickly past the pylon Cline for a simple one-hander, and Iona is cruising 9-2.
18:14—Officials are checking out the game-clock, and it’s confirmed that there’s 18:15 left. That brief timeout allowed Mihalich a chance to get the Purple Eagles calmed down, and right off the inbounds, Green ducks in and thieves the pass. Armand is forced to foul to prevent an easy fast-break bucket. Devon White was just benched by Mihalich after heaving a 17-footer that wasn’t close. He sulks over to the bench as T.J. Cline checks in for his first action. Green’s three rims out—it was half-way down—but Laury slips on the rebound and falls on the end line.
18:20—Ridley squanders an eight-footer and Green rips down the board. Juan’ya heaves a three at the other end—it’s way off right—but then MoMo Jones is far off right on his next shot. Perhaps the soreness and lactic acid is sticking around a bit after yesterday’s tilts. 3-0 Iona.
19:05—Iona’s Sean Armand picks up where he left off yesterday against Canisius, draining a three before Mason could close. At the other end, Mason steamrolls Jones and is whistled for an offensive foul. Anthony Mason, a former NBAer, is in the crowd for this tournament and doesn’t look particularly thrilled with this start.
20:00—We’re a minute away from tip, and Niagara must jump out to a quicker start than the Purple Eagles did yesterday. We’ll see how involved Marvin Jordan gets in the early going. Right on cue, he catches the deflection off the tip. Mason steps through on Sledge and tries a banker—no good.
Pre-game —Worth noting: Niagara freshman Tahjere McCall has warm-ups on and appears to be off crutches after hurting his knee in the early first half against Siena. He seems in chipper spirits, too, so perhaps the prognosis is a lot more positive than expected.
Iona starters: Taaj Ridley, Tavon Sledge, MoMo Jones, Sean Armand and David Laury III
Niagara starters: Devon White, Ameen Tanksley, Juan’ya Green, Antoine Mason and Marvin Jordan.
Pre-game—Iona’s MoMo Jones, who dropped 33 points yesterday in the Gaels’ thrilling 89-85 win over Canisius, is bundled up with a hoodie—he’s still trying to sweat out the flu that has hindered him the past few days. His hood is now up—worth mentioning since we’re tracking the MAAC Player of the Year’s every move.
Pre-game—No. 1 seed Niagara faces No. 4 seed Iona today in the first MAAC semifinal. The Purple Eagles rebounded from a suspect first half to beat Siena by 12 behind the production of Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason, and the bench contributions from T.J. Cline and Joe Thomas. For a preview of today’s game, head over to our “Five Keys” story on Buffalo.com.