GAMES NOTES: In a critical Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference matchup the Iona Gaels will take on the Rider Broncs at Alumni Gymnasium Sunday afternoon.
The Gaels topped Fairfield on Friday night, 84-73, to earn their sixth straight victory. The win also improved Iona's MAAC record to 6-1 which is tied with Niagara for the top spot in the conference. Next up Iona hosts Saint Peter's before playing three straight on the road.
Rider is on a winning streak of its own after earning its third straight victory with a 66-54 win on the road at Saint Peter's. With the win the Broncs remain just a game behind the Gaels and the Purple Eagles for first place in the conference at 5-2. This is the first of a three-game homestand for the Broncs that continues against Canisius next Friday.
Last year Iona earned a season sweep against Rider and has won six of the last seven meetings, overall. The Gaels now lead the all-time series by a 27-22 margin.
Iona was able to overcome an erratic shooting night against Fairfield by consistently getting to the free-throw line. The Gaels hit 21-of-31 shots on the night, while the Stags managed only 13 total attempts. The Gaels also had a 27-18 edge from beyond the arc.
There has been no shortage of offensive firepower for Iona. The Gaels lead the MAAC in scoring (82.6 ppg), assists (16.1 pg) and field-goal percentage (.459). In fact only four other teams in the country are scoring at a higher rate than the Gaels. Defense is another story, as the Gaels let up a generous 76.6 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting. The high-octane offense is powered by Lamont Jones (22.3 ppg) and Sean Armand (19.2 ppg), who are the top two scorers in the conference. Adding punch after missing the first nine games of the season is David Laury (14.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg), who has been a force inside since his return.
Rider saved its best effort for the second half against Saint Peter's. The Broncs nailed 54.5 percent of their field goal attempts over the final 20 minutes. With their hot shooting the Broncs turned a 3-point lead at the break into the 12-point final margin.
Despite having four players averaging in double figures, Rider cannot boast nearly the same type of offensive production as Iona. The Broncs are netting 65.3 points per game, while shooting at a 43.3 percent clip overall. Both of those marks are good enough for fourth in the league. Anthony Myles (12.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is the team's top scoring threat. Jonathon Thompson (11.1 ppg, 3.3 apg) is the second option and top distributor, while Danny Stewart (10.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Nurideen Lindsey (10.2 ppg) have also been solid contributors.
Controlling the tempo will be key in this matchup. If Iona can force Rider to try to win a shootout the Gaels will have a huge advantage.