Gaels get historic win over ‘Bama on Thanksgiving


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Junior Joseph earned his fourth double-double of the season in Iona’s rout of Rider.  

Jordan Score, Staff Writer

The Iona men’s basketball team secured a 72-68 upset win over No. 10 Alabama in their Thanksgiving matchup at the 2021 ESPN Events Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.   


The tournament opened with a rematch of last year’s March Madness first round matchup between Iona and Alabama. Alabama came into the tournament ranked as a top 10 team in the nation with a record of 4-0 while the Gaels came into the tournament with a record of 5-0.  


Iona was seeking revenge against Alabama in the quarterfinal round. The Gaels, led by head coach Rick Pitino, gave a team effort with five players scoring more than ten points while playing strong defense to take down Alabama.  


Sophomore Nelly Junior Joseph led the Gaels in minutes played with thirty-five. Joseph contributed a double-double with fifteen points and eleven rebounds.  


Joseph’s eleven rebounds lead the team as well as tying freshman Walter Clayton Junior in points with fifteen. Clayton Jr, who was named the Ridgewood Savings Bank Student Athlete of the Week, provided his fifteen points in just twenty minutes off the bench.  


Pitino showed confidence in Clayton Jr. by leaving him in the game during the closing minutes of the second half.  


Graduate student Tyson Jolly contributed the third most points with thirteen in thirty-three minutes of game time. With five minutes left in the game, Jolly made a three to give Iona the lead they never gave up.  


Jolly commented on the team’s performance in the matchup and their undefeated start to the season in the postgame press conference. 


 “It was one of our first goals and we accomplished it,” Jolly said. “Our goal was to start the year 6-0 and we did that tonight.”  


Graduate student Elijah Joiner and Junior Quinn Slazinski were the other two players who scored over ten points with twelve and eleven respectively.  


Pitino praised his team’s execution of the game plan against an Alabama offense that is skilled on the perimeter as well as in the lane.  


 “I try to create good spacing and movement and coach defense and it’s their game,” Pitino said. “They made the plays.”  


Iona held Alabama’s offense to just seven assists throughout the game. Joseph led the team defensively with three blocks along with two steals.  

This defensive effort was highlighted by senior guard Berrick Jeanlouis’ chase down block on a potential game-tying Alabama layup with 10 seconds left in the contest, sealing the win for Iona.  


Iona looked to improve upon their six-game winning streak as they faced Belmont in the Semifinal Round on Nov. 26. Belmont headed into this game with a record of 4-2.   


The Gaels came up short by a score of 72-65 moving them to 6-1. Clayton Jr. provided more than 10 points again leading the team with 13. Joseph and Joiner played the most with thirty-four minutes. Joseph had another double-double outing scoring twelve points while leading the team with fifteen rebounds.   


Iona looked to bounce back against Kansas in the third-place game on Nov. 28. Kansas came into this game with a record of 5-1 and were ranked number four in the nation. Iona ended up losing 96-83, moving them to 6-2 on the year.   


Iona had five players score ten or more points against another top ranked team in the nation. Ryan Myers, who is currently a sophomore, tied Jolly in leading the team in points with fourteen. Jolly played the most with 32 minutes.  


Pitino explained that despite the loss, the team was able to take away some good experience from the matchup and that competing against such a successful program gave the Gaels an example of what they hope to build in New Rochelle. 


“We’d like to get to the point where we have the same type of talent that Kansas has,” Pitino said. “That’s our goal.”  


Iona completed their recent stretch of play with conference wins against Marist and Rider to bring them to a current 8-2 record. Their next game will come under the lights of the Barclays Center against Yale on Sunday.