The Iona College men’s basketball team earned another trip to the NCAA Tournament by defeating Fairfield University, 83-71, for a third consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament (MAAC) championship at the Times Union Center in Albany March 5.
The 15th-seeded Gaels was scheduled to play second-seeded Duke in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh March 15.
“It’s the best thing you could ever describe as a coach because you’re so proud of your guys and you feel so good they had a moment like that together last night and they’ve accomplished something they’ve worked hard for,” said Iona head coach Tim Cluess of winning the tournament.
Iona holds the MAAC record with 11 conference men’s basketball championships, and it joined Siena College (2008-2010) and La Salle University (1988-1990) as the only MAAC men’s basketball programs to win three consecutive titles.
The Gaels lost four of their last five regular-season games before winning three in a row at the MAAC Tournament. In the win over Fairfield, Iona extended its six-point halftime lead to 20 in the second half before a late run by Fairfield cut the Gaels’ lead to six with a minute left.
Junior guard Roland Griffin came off the bench to score a career-high 29 points to go with eight rebounds and four blocks for Iona (20-13). Zach Lewis, a graduate student voted the tournament’s most outstanding player, contributed 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. Junior guard Rickey McGill had 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists.