NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – As low-scoring affairs proliferate around the country, today’s BracketBusters game between Nevada and Iona gave us something far different.
Despite an inconclusive at-large impact, these two offensive-minded teams provided a nice respite from the many slow-paced and low efficiency games we’ve become accustomed to as the Gaels prevailed with a 90-84 win, the first ever meeting between the two programs.
With 13 NBA scouts and a national audience fixated on the play of the Gaels Scott Machado, the senior guard may have turned the Best Point Guard in the Country argument into a definitive statement, finishing with a game high 15 assists (eclipsing Siena’s Ronald Moore’s to become the MAAC’s all-time leader) including a handful of dazzling passes that left Wolf Pack defenders flummoxed.
The consummate point guard, Machado attempted only seven shots but still managed to finish with 13-points, contributing to exactly half of his team’s point total.
“He knows each of his teammate’s strengths and where different guys can score,” said Iona head coach Tim Cluess after the game. “And because he’s shooting the three well this year, people have to honor that. When he comes off a pick and roll…that sometimes takes two defenders, and he knows where the open guy is.”
Trailing for most of the opening minutes, the Gaels turned the game in their favor with three minutes remaining in the first half. Down six, Iona went on a 13-6 run to take the lead by applying a full-court press that buckled the Wolfpack’s offensive attack, a run that was spearheaded by many of the team’s bench players.
In the second half, Clueess kept the game in fifth gear by continuing with a high-energy press that wore the Wolf Pack down. The strategy helped turn 16 forced turnovers in to 20 of his team’s points, and proved to be the key to victory.
Following the loss, a portion of the attention and post-game praise went to Nevada’s Olek Czyz. A former Duke Blue Devil who returned home to Reno in 2010 to finish out his college career, Czyz showed versatility at both ends of the court, finishing with career high 28-points on 9-16 shooting.
With both teams currently projected as NCAA Tournament #12 seeds, the door to securing an at-large bid may be closed; their hopes hinge on winning their respective conference tournaments.
While Nevada appears to lack enough ball-handlers to compete with an up-tempo type team for 40-minutes, the Gaels certainly have the personnel to stir an upset in the NCAA Tournament, assuming they can play some semblance of defense to compliment their vaunted offense.
While Machado, “MoMo” Jones and Mike Glover demand a majority of the attention this team receives, the Gaels bench is composed of a number of shooters that help spread the floor and keep defenders honest, including guard Randy Dezouvre, who finished tonight’s game with a career high 17-points on 8-10 shooting.
“My man Randy is the energy guy that helps off the bench,” Machado said after the game. “Our bench got stops and forced turnovers to help us get the lead before half. This was a big game, and we’re just trying to get on a roll before the playoffs.”
At 13-3 with only two conference games remaining, the Gaels currently hold a one-game lead over Loyola. With wins over Maryland and St. Joseph’s, many expected a near perfect MAAC campaign to follow and a historic season to be in the works.
But because of a few unforeseen losses, even the guys in-house aren’t looking to declare themselves as automatic quality.
“Who am I to judge? But we definitely just want to be in the tournament,” Machado said. “We can compete with anybody, as long as we bring it.”
Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.