Sean Armand might want to play all of Iona’s games at Madison Square Garden after the show he put on at MSG on Tuesday night against Siena in the Gaels’ 95-59 victory. But it didn’t come without a little bit of extra preparation.
Armand scored a career-high 32 points and hit a school and MAAC record 10 threes as Iona ran all over the Saints in its return to MAAC action. One game after the team shot 6-18 from three during a disappointing 83-75 loss at Hofstra, Armand came back and hit that many threes during the first half for the Gaels.
The Iona sophomore came in early and did some extra shooting before the game to get ready for the big lights of MSG. It paid off.
“I came in a little extra early to get shots up and routine stuff,” Armand said. “Tonight I hit more than usual and I’m happy about it. … My friends and my family are here and at Madison Square Garden there’s no better place to do that.”
With Armand providing the offensive firepower, Iona had no problem showing the 9,528 in attendance for the double-header along with Louisville’s 73-58 victory over St. John’s why it is considered the favorite this season in the MAAC. Even after Loyola (Md.) and Manhattan lost on Monday, the Gaels showed up focused and ready ready to dominate.
Unlike the game against Hofstra where Dwan McMillan, turnovers and poor shooting help thwart Iona’s high-octane attack, the Gaels were able to consistently get out on the break against the Saints. Scott Machado finished with nine points, nine assists and nine rebounds for Iona and his running mate the backcourt, Momo Jones, went for 14 points and seven assists.
“I hate losing and I hate losing the way we lost,” said Iona head coach Tim Cluess about the Hofstra game. “I can understand it if we competed and they beat us great. Now they played very well, but we didn’t compete for half a game. We made uncharacteristic mistakes and we got selfish. So tonight to see that passing and the effort back were the two most important things.”
The Gaels have another high-profile conference game on Friday when they take on Niagara at home on ESPNU at 9 p.m. Niagara dominated the first half against Loyola (Md.) on Monday on the way to a surprising 66-61 victory on the road at Reitz Arena.
Iona controlled the first half against Siena on Tuesday. The Gaels started out on fire and built up a big lead thanks to impressive three-point shooting. The hot hand was passed from Jones to Jermel Jenkins to Armand during the first 20 minutes. Jones and Jenkins each hit three in the first 20 minutes and scored in double-figures before halftime. Armand led the team with 20 points in the first 20 minutes and led Iona to a 57-31 lead at the break.
O.D. Anosike grabbed 10 rebounds for the Saints in the first half. He also scored six points, but picked up three fouls while battling with Mike Glover and the surprisingly active Randy Dezouvre in the first half.
For the game Anosike, who called Siena the “Cadillac program” of the MAAC earlier in the week finished with a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds. Evan Hymes led the Saints with 22 points.
Notes: Kyle Smyth started the game for Iona, but Armand started the second half after his scoring outburst in the first… Hymes is one of the fastest players I’ve ever seen in person… Iona is now 9-2 in MAAC regular season games at neutral sites… The Gaels are now 51-46 (52.6%) all-time against Siena… Glover scored 10 points for Iona, his second lowest total of the season… Jermel Jenkins came off the bench to score 16 points for the Gaels.