Iona (3-3) vs. Rutgers (4-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 9:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York. Television: MSG2, MSG+. Home Record: Iona 2-0, Rutgers 3-1. Away Record: Iona 0-1, Rutgers 1-1. Neutral Record: Iona 1-2, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: Iona 1-1, Rutgers 0-0. Series Record: Rutgers leads, 2-1
GAMES NOTES: As part of the MSG Holiday Festival the Iona Gaels will take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a non-conference battle at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Iona suffered a difficult 64-62 loss to Saint Peters which came on a last second jump shot. The loss, which was in the first true road game for Iona, evened the Gaels' overall record this season to 3-3. A trip down to Athens to face Georgia awaits Iona following this tilt.
Rutgers was also handed a loss in its last outing. The Scarlet Knights faced Ole Miss on the road as part of the Big East/SEC Challenge and were taken down 80-67. The loss ended a four-game winning streak for Rutgers. In home contests Rutgers is 2-1, with the only loss interestingly enough coming against Saint Peters in the season opener. Rutgers will next begin a four-game homestand against George Washington on Tuesday.
There have only been three previous meetings between these squads. The last matchup came during the 2006-07 season when Rutgers downed the Gaels 66-51 to earn its second win in the series.
Iona led by as many as 11 points against Saint Peters but was unable to hold it together down the stretch. The Gaels had a 60-59 lead with 2:06 remaining but then allowed a layup plus a foul shot that put them down 62-60. Lamont Jones answered with a jump shot to even it up with 40 seconds remaining. However Blaise Ffrench nailed a jumper of his own with four seconds left on the clock and Jones missed a final shot at the buzzer. Sean Armand led the scoring for Iona with 19 points to go with eight rebounds.
The offensive showing for Iona against Saint Peters ended a four-game streak of at least 81 points scored by Iona, which has had no shortage of offense this season. The Gaels are scoring 79.5 points per game and shooting a respectable 45.5 percent from the field. The Gaels' scoring average ranks as the 25th best in the country. Iona's defensive efforts have been less than stellar with the Gaels allowing 74.3 points per game on 45.2 percent shooting. Jones (21.0 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Armand (20.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.0 apg) have provided a dynamic scoring duo in the backcourt. Jones has shown no fear in hoisting up shots but hits only 43.1 percent, while Armand has been more efficient (55.0 FG percentage). Tre Bowman (12.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is also scoring in double figures, while Tavon Sledger (8.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Taaj Ridley (7.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) power the team on the boards.
Rutgers managed to secure a 36-32 lead at halftime against Ole Miss by limiting the Rebels to 35.3 percent shooting, while hitting 40.0 percent of its own shots. The Scarlet Knights also benefited from a 6-of-21 effort from the free-throw line by Ole Miss in the first half. Rutgers couldn't keep up the pressure on defense in the second half as Ole Miss hit 53.3 percent of its shots to run away with the win. Rutgers committed 31 fouls as a team and had two different players foul out.
In comparison to the rest of the Big East, Rutgers is a rather mediocre offensive team. The Scarlet Knights are scoring 72.2 points per game and shooting 46.7 percent from the field which rank eighth and fifth in the conference, respectively. The Scarlet Knights are also managing to control the glass with a +6.5 edge in rebounding. Rutgers also commits the most fouls per game (19.7) of any team in the Big East. Eli Carter (16.7 ppg) leads the scoring charge out of the backcourt but his contributions in other areas have been rather limited. Myles Mack (14.8 ppg) has had similar productivity issues. Wally Judge (7.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg) doesn't light it up, but is the team's top rebounder, while Dane Miller (7.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) has had success when given the opportunity to score, hitting 65.5 percent of his shot attempts.
The scoring tandem of Jones and Armand gives Iona a chance against just about every team it faces. Rutgers doesn't have the individual scoring punch to match but may be able to outlast the Gaels with its superior depth.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 74, Iona 72
12/08 10:37:33 ET