Coming off a disappointing loss against Morgan State on Tuesday, the Gaels looked like a different team tonight at Fairfield. Iona absolutely annihilated the Stags tonight, there’s no other way to put it. With Asante Gist back and playing in his first full game, the Gaels leaned on all three of their senior captains to lead the team to a dominant performance.
We saw more of the same from senior Isaiah Ross tonight, who scored 30 points and was an impressive 60% from the field. Finding ways to score in a variety of ways, his hot start to the season seems like it can be sustainable, and he is looking more and more like a guy who can carry the scoring the load on a nightly basis.
As I said earlier, after playing just a few minutes in the second half of Tuesday’s game against Morgan State, senior point guard Asante Gist returned for real tonight, and his positive impact on the team was as clear as day. Gist tallied 13 points along with 5 assists, but to me, the stat sheet doesn’t represent how his presence truly takes the team to a whole new level. In the first few games of the season, Iona was essentially playing without a point guard. The team was committing turnovers left and right and the offense was simply out of sink. With Gist back at the point, the Gaels now have a confident and incredibly talented player running the show, and as we saw tonight, his court vision is off the charts and he makes all of his teammates better while also being an effective scorer himself.
I couldn’t recap this game without acknowledging how great senior forward Dylan Van Eyck played. He posted a double double tonight, with 14 points and a whopping 12 rebounds. He was the glue guy for Iona last year, and while he continues to be that guy this year, he has also expanded his offensive game immensely. He was 2-4 from beyond the arc tonight, and it seems like he is a much more confident shooter this year. On top of that, Van Eyck has shown off very good passing ability this season, which isn’t very common at the power forward position.
Aside from the three seniors, Iona got hardly any production from the rest of the team, although junior small forward Berrick JeanLouis did have an impressive 7 rebounds to go along with 5 points on 2-4 shooting. JeanLouis is a special athlete and I have no doubt that we will see him blossom into a polished basketball player as Rick Pitino continues to develop his game.
After starting the first game of the season and getting significant minutes in the other two, sophomore guard Tahlik Chavez did not check in to this game until the final 2 minutes. With Gist returning tonight, it was assumed that both Chavez and freshman guard Ryan Myers would naturally lose some playing time. However, instead of equally distributing the minutes of Chavez and Myers, Pitino opted to remove Chavez from the rotation entirely while giving Myers 14 minutes and clear backup point guard duties. This decision was clearly made based on how each player has performed so far this season. Myers has a significantly higher field goal percentage (42.1%) than Chavez (24.1%), and he has looked much more comfortable with the ball in his hands thus far. That being said, Chavez’s shooting ability is undeniable, and he is a guy who is capable of scoring points in bunches. While Myers looks like the better option right now, it is completely possible that this changes if Chavez goes on a hot streak at some point during the season.
Iona plays Fairfield again tomorrow night. Same place, same time. With the MAAC opting to have a schedule that requires teams to play back to back days against the same opponent, I believe it puts even more of a value on coaching. The team that can make more adjustments will usually be the team that puts itself in a good position to win the second game of the back to back. Luckily for Iona, they have one of the greatest coaches of all time on their sideline! Regardless, the Gaels are significantly more talented than Fairfield, and I expect another big win tomorrow night.