After cruising to an easy win Friday night, game two against Rider did not go nearly as smoothly for the Gaels. Iona got off to a great start in this game and it initially looked like they would have another dominant win, but this was not the case. Rider fought hard and kept the game close, even leading at certain points during the second half. With that said, the Broncs ultimately could not contain the senior backcourt tandem of Asante Gist and Isaiah Ross, who both got the job done down the stretch for the Gaels.
Isaiah Ross once again played a great game, scoring 25 points and continuing to prove why he’s one of the premier shooters in the country. This was Ross’s most efficient game of the season, shooting 7-9 from the field and 5-6 from beyond the arc. His ability to consistently convert on contested three-point shots is an absolute luxury for Iona. No shot is a bad shot for #20 on the Gaels. On top of his incredible shooting performance, it was also great to see Ross continue to make smart cuts to the basket and use his strength and size to finish at the rim. The development of his basketball IQ has been one of the many areas where Ross has improved immensely this season, and it’s been contagious to the whole team.
Ross’s backcourt mate, Asante Gist, had a great game in his own right on Saturday night. The senior point guard posted a double-double, scoring 15 points and dishing out a whopping 10 assists. Gist’s court vision has been nothing short of elite so far this season, and it has opened up a plethora of scoring opportunities for his teammates. As far as his ball handling goes, Gist’s ability to dribble through traffic has allowed Iona to exploit the full court press which leads to easy baskets. He’s done a great job controlling the pace of the game and valuing each and every possession, which are both things that the Gaels struggled with earlier in the season when Gist was injured. It’s no secret that Gist is the only reliable point guard on the roster, which is why Iona will go as far as he takes them.
It is also worth mentioning Nelly Junior Joseph’s performance in this game. The freshman big man scored 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to go along with 2 blocks in the contest. His frontcourt presence has been a key for the Gaels on both sides of the ball. Only a freshman, Nelly already seems to be one of the best big men in the MAAC, and it is very exciting to think about how high his ceiling might be.
In the beginning of this game, junior Berrick JeanLouis came out hot, converting on three 3-pointers in the first few minutes of the game. This was the extent of JeanLouis’s scoring tonight, but I thought it was a huge positive to see him continue to build on the confidence that he is starting to develop as an outside shooter. If JeanLouis becomes a reliable scoring option, it will take the Iona offense to new heights.
Iona’s next game will be home, Wednesday at 1:00 against Coppin State, a non-conference opponent. Coppin State has a horrible record of 1-6, but it should be noted that three of their losses were against high major schools, including Duke, Georgetown, and Virginia Tech. With this in mind, the Gaels should not take Coppin State lightly, as there is a very good chance that they are better than their record. However, if Iona continues to jump out to early leads the way they did this weekend, they will be a tough team to beat. It was a successful weekend for Iona, now let’s hope they have a few good days of practice and continue the winning streak on Wednesday.