Iona men’s basketball home winning streak snapped by Rider


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Iona won against Manhattan College after losing at the Draddy Gymnasium last season.

Lachlan Wellington, Sports Editor

The Iona men’s basketball teams’ home winning streak of 21 straight games was ended by Rider University as the Gaels fell to a 70-67 defeat on Jan. 15.  

Iona led by 18 points in the second half before the Broncs beat them late with a three-pointer from Dwight Murray – the same player who knocked the Gaels out of the 2022 MAAC Tournament with the winning shot.  

The loss to the Broncs summarized a mixed bag of results over the break for the team as they struggled for consistency, dropping three contests and two in conference play.  

The Gaels current record stands at 13-6 and 6-2 in conference play, leaving them second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) regular season standings behind Siena College in first who have a 13-7 overall record and 7-2 in MAAC play.  

After the MAAC opening weekend, where the Gaels swept 2-0 against Niagara University and Canisius College, the team won another three on the bounce, at home against Saint Louis University and at neutral sites against Saint Bonaventure at the Barclays Centre and Princeton at Kean University.  

Iona began the festive period in Albuquerque, New Mexico where Rick Pitino came up against his son Richard Pitino who is the head coach of New Mexico University. Rick Pitino had won the previous two meetings against his son, but the Lobos proved too much for the Gaels, as Iona dropped the contest 74-82.  

The Gaels then flew straight to Hawaii to compete in the Diamond Head Classic, hosted at the Stan Sheriff Center.  

Iona went 2-1 in the tournament, beginning with an 81-85 loss against Southern Methodist University (SMU). The Gaels led by six at the halfway point, and three players scored double digits but lost the game.  

The Gaels then responded with back-to-back wins against Seattle University and Pepperdine University. The game against Seattle University was tied 29-29 at the half, but the Gaels scored 54 in the second half to take the win and set up a match against Pepperdine. Nelly Junior Joseph led the team with 26 points, while Daniss Jenkins contributed 19.  

Rick Pitino’s team concluded the Diamond Head Classic tournament with a 76-66 victory over Pepperdine University. Nelly Junior Joseph again led the Gaels with 20 points and 13 rebounds. 

The team resumed MAAC play with a pair of wins against Saint Peter’s University 73-55 on Jan. 1 and Marist College 84-57 on Jan 6. Nelly Junior Joseph was key to the Gaels’ success in both games, getting a double-double in both with 16 points and 14 rebounds against the Peacocks- who went on that famous NCAA Tournament run to the elite 8 last season and 19 points and 12 rebounds against the Red Foxes.  

Iona was then blown out against Quinnipiac University 81-58 on Jan 8, their first MAAC loss of the season. The team then returned to winning ways at home against Fairfield University, beating the Stags 75-69 at the Hynes Athletic Center.  

The defeat to Rider University was followed by a win against local rivals Manhattan College at the Draddy Gymnasium in Riverdale, New York. The Gaels beat the Jaspers 84-76 in overtime after overcoming another fightback from opposition.  

Walter Clayton Jr.’s return from injury helped the Gaels to win, as he scored 21 points and assisted six. Clayton led five players who scored double digits for the Gaels including Berrick Jeanlouis who had 18.  

Next up for the Gaels is a game against the current MAAC pace setters Siena College in Albany, New York at the MVP Arena.  

The Gaels are building towards the MAAC Championships taking place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, April 7-11. Iona will be hoping to rebound from last year after being knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Rider University.