Iona (18-13) vs. Niagara (19-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, March 10, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: MassMutual Center (7,552) -- Springfield, Massachusetts. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Iona 11-1, Niagara 11-4. Away Record: Iona 5-9, Niagara 7-7. Neutral Record: Iona 2-3, Niagara 1-1. Conference Record: Iona 11-7, Niagara 13-5. Series Record: Iona leads, 38-34.
GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Niagara Purple Eagles head back to the hardwood on Sunday afternoon as they clash with the fourth-seeded Iona Gaels in the semifinals of the 32nd annual Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
Niagara, which earned a bye through the first round of the tournament, hit the ground running on Saturday afternoon with a convincing 74-62 triumph over the Siena Saints. The Purple Eagles are now 22-21 all-time in this event and are seeking their third championship, the first since 2007.
As for the Gaels, owners of a league-record seven tournament titles, they were caught up in an offensive battle with fifth-seeded Canisius on Saturday and ended up on the right end of an 89-85 final in order to advance.
These two teams kicked off the MAAC schedule rather early this season back in late November, with Iona posting an 83-72 win at home. However, the Purple Eagles returned the favor at the end of January with a 93-90 overtime decision which means the all-time series now stands at 38-34 in favor of the Gaels.
The winner of this contest will head to the tournament's title game on Monday night versus the survivor of the Manhattan/Fairfield meeting.
Except for Tavon Sledge who came up scoreless through 24 minutes of action, every starter for the Gaels hit for double figures in the win versus Canisius yesterday, beginning with Lamont Jones who dropped in 33 points as he converted all 14 of his attempts at the free-throw line. Sean Armand tallied 24 points, Taaj Ridley added 13 and David Laury registered a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds for a squad that used a 34-12 scoring advantage at the free-throw line to survive a game that featured 11 ties and seven lead changes.
Jones, one of the top scorers in the country and the MAAC Player of the Year, is pouring in an incredible 23.5 ppg and is also first on the unit in assists with 109. A fixture at the free-throw line (208-of-236), Jones has accounted for a huge portion of the team's 487 conversions at the charity stripe in 2012-13. Armand (17.1 ppg) is a fantastic second option who has made good on 104-of-250 beyond the arc.
Niagara shot only 40.4 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent behind the 3- point line on Saturday when it clashed with Siena, but those were not the most important stats in the meeting. More of an indicator for how the game would play out was the 22-9 scoring edge for the Purple Eagles at the free-throw line and the 20 turnovers the team forced. Antoine Mason scored a game-high 21 points, hitting all 10 of his chances at the charity stripe, followed by Juan'ya Green with 15 points, six assists and five rebounds for the top squad in the tourney.
Mason and Green are the ones who make the Niagara offense go these days, scoring 18.4 ppg and 16.9 ppg, respectively, as they combine to make 290 of the unit's 495 shots at the free-throw line. Green is also the leader when it comes to assists with his 157 dishes, adding a team-best 58 steals at the other end of the floor as well.
Obviously the Gaels have great offensive potential, but the same goes for a Niagara squad that is probably more comfortable when the scoring gets out of hand.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Niagara 83, Iona 77
03/10 10:30:45 ET