Iona (15-11) at Fairfield (16-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, February 18, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Webster Bank Arena (10,000) -- Bridgeport, Connecticut. Television: SNY. Home Record: Iona 9-1, Fairfield 6-4. Away Record: Iona 5-7, Fairfield 7-7. Neutral Record: Iona 1-3, Fairfield 3-0. Conference Record: Iona 9-6, Fairfield 8-7. Series Record: Iona leads, 58-40.
GAME NOTES: The tightly contested Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference race continues on Monday as the Iona Gaels visit Webster Bank Arena to tangle with the Fairfield Stags.
The Gaels downed Fairfield, 84-73 on Jan. 18 in New Rochelle as Lamont Jones scored 27 points and Sean Armand added 23 to propel Iona to the win. Derek Needham scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half for Fairfield, but it wasn't enough. The win gave Iona a 58-40 all-time series lead.
Iona is coming off its third overtime loss in five games. The Gaels were edged, 74-73, in double overtime by Manhattan despite Jones scoring 17 points. They were held to 38.5 percent shooting from the floor and allowed the Jaspers to connect on 41.2 percent of their field goal tries. The loss dropped Tim Cluess' squad to a 15-11 overall record.
Jones is pacing Iona with 22.7 points per game, making him the fourth leading scorer among Division I players. Armand (17.9 ppg) and David Laury (13.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg) are both big time scorers as well while Jones is dealing out 3.7 assists per contest. Jones and Armand are the top scoring tandem in the nation, averaging a combined 40.6 points per game. Cluess' run and gun philosophy has yielded the MAAC's best and nation's third-best scoring offense average (82.2 ppg) in addition to the worst scoring defense mark (77.2). Iona is also 26th among Division I programs with 15.7 assists per outing.
Fairfield continued its late season surge on Thursday with a 74-52 rout of Siena that marked its sixth win in seven outings. The recent hot streak has risen the Stags to a 16-11 overall record, including its 8-7 standing in the MAAC. Derek Needham erupted for 31 points with an 8-of-11 clip from beyond the arc versus the Saints to lift his team-best scoring average to 14.8 ppg.
The Stags have been fierce defensively in recent weeks. They have held their opposition to just 51.7 points per game over their last eight outings. Fairfield has been sporadic offensively. After shooting just 25.4 percent versus Manhattan in its previous outing, Fairfield shot 50.9 percent (29 of 57) against the Saints (6-20, 4-11), including 11 of 25 from 3-point range. Needham checks into Monday with 91 assists, just nine short of the century mark. Needham is trying to become the fifth player in school history to dish 100 assists in four different seasons. The Stags had outrebounded the opposition only three times through the first 17 games of the season. Recently, Fairfield has secured more boards than the opposition in seven of the last eight games.
Fairfield is going to be a much more difficult foe for the Gaels the second time around. Needham is having an all-conference caliber season for the Stags, but he will need some help to out-duel Jones, Armand and the rest of the Gaels.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fairfield 71, Iona 68
02/18 10:32:34 ET