Iona’s Troubling Collapse At Niagara

It happened again.

With 6:53 remaining in the second half at Niagara with a chance to earn a share of first place in the MAAC, Iona lead by 15 points. The Gaels’ win probability climbed as high as 98.9% according to Ken Pomeroy.

That moment came with Iona leading 81-74 with 54 seconds to play in the game. Then it all fell apart.

The Gaels collapsed down the stretch thanks to this sequence:

  • Antoine Mason jumper
  • Sean Armand misses two free throws
  • Juan’ya Green makes two free throws
  • Sean Armand turnover
  • Three Niagara offensive rebounds
  • Juan’ya Green three

Overtime was hotly contested, but as Juan’ya Green stepped into his final three it almost seemed destiny for the Purple Eagles. They’d come so far back, so improbably. It went down and there was bedlam in upstate New York.

Niagara is getting closer and closer to being the No. 1 seed in the MAAC tournament and Iona is generating more and more questions.

Those were the only free throws that Armand, a 75 percent free throw shooter, missed all game. The Gaels shot 23-29 from the line. The chances Armand misses both? About 6 percent.

Niagara grabbed 19 offensive rebounds in the game. They dominated on the glass, with a 37 percent offensive rebound percentage. It’s still incredibly unlikely that they manage to get four looks from three and get three long rebounds in order to win the game.

If this was any team besides Tim Cluess’ Iona Gaels it wouldn’t concern me. I’d chalk it up to bad luck. But then Manhattan and BYU slip into your mind and you wonder.

Iona has been one of the unluckiest teams in college basketball this season according to Ken Pomeroy’s “Luck” metric, but as Thursday night showed. Sometimes you make your own luck.

Let’s see if Iona can rebound in what is now a huge game on Saturday against Canisius. Because ultimately this was just one game, but a lost weekend in upstate New York would be a blow and potentially drop the Gaels into a humongous tie-breaker for second place.

As for Niagara. It’s a big win and the team’s seventh in a row, but it doesn’t get any easier. Their next three games are Loyola (MD), Rider and Canisius. Last night this team was dead, but they found a way. Now it’s time to ride that momentum to a top seed and a bright future for this talented young team.

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