Iona just finished off Wake Forest, 85-81 in Winston-Salem, NC. The game wasn’t exactly pretty, but the Gaels did earn a victory over an ACC squad on their home court.
Here are three thoughts from the big win:
1) Ryden Hines had some moments – Due to David Laury’s foul trouble, Hines got to play more in this game than he did in the first two when he averaged just 5 mpg. He took advantage by shooting 2-4 from three in 15 minutes. Wake Forest really didn’t know what to do defensively when Hines was in the game due to his ability to stretch the floor. Last season Hines shot 6-15 from three (47%). These are small sample sizes, but he certainly looks comfortable shooting from the wing. Hines also looked comfortable disrupting dribblers and passes into the paint. He got his hands on a couple balls and forced turnovers or at least disrupted the Demon Deacons’ rhythm on a couple of possessions.
On the other hand, Hines played 15 minutes and grabbed exactly one rebound. Considering he’s listed at 6’10” and played center for a good portion of those minutes that’s an issue. Wake Forest dominated on the offensive glass when Hines was in the game and grabbed 21 overall. Those second-chance opportunities could’ve come back to haunt the Gaels. Other players, such as Isaiah Williams who had 10 rebounds in 36 minutes before fouling out, can help, but Hines has to be more assertive on the glass if he wants to get playing times in situations other than when Cluess is forced to put Laury on the bench due to foul trouble.
2) Iona hung tough throughout – The Gaels did a good job building up a halftime lead and then defending it throughout the second half. It would’ve been nice to see Iona hit a couple more free throws, but they also could’ve had a number of close calls go in their favor that didn’t due to the environment. The 12-24 from the free throw line certainly doesn’t look pretty, but it was just enough to hold onto the four-point victory. Laury in particular struggled from the line, shooting just 3-9 from the stripe. He shot 59% from the line last season and teams will target him and Kelvin Amayo late in games if they continue to struggle from the line. Wake Forest even fouled Laury before Iona could inbounds on a couple plays. Personally, I like when Laury is the inbounder in these situations, because it prevents that from happening.
3) A.J. English looked the part tonight – The other reason Iona hung on? A.J. English continued to deliver three pointers at critical moments. A couple of those calls from earlier certainly didn’t go English’s way, but when he got open looks he consistently knocked them down. His threes were Iona’s answer to any run Wake Forest made until the very end of the game.
English finished with 27 points, eight rebounds, and five assists in 36 minutes. He shot 9-18 from the field and 6-12 from three. Four other Gaels finished in double-figures alongside English, but he was leading the way for most of the night. It led to a great night overall for the Iona offense. The Gaels scored 1.08 points per possession (85 points in 79 possessions), mostly thanks to hot shooting from three and few turnovers. It could’ve been even better if they just knocked down a few free throws at the end.
Iona now heads down to North Texas for a game on Sunday before heading back to New Rochelle. The Gaels can’t afford to backslide in the game against the Mean Green. Hopefully Hines’s finger and Amayo’s knees are alright for the game Sunday, because it’s one the Gaels shouldn’t lose.