CollegeInsider.com Tournament Quarterfinal Recap - Iona 83, East Tennessee State 80

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After falling short in one championship game a few weeks ago, the Iona Gaels will get a chance to win another. 

Iona streaked to a 14-0 lead five minutes into the CIT tournament semifinals at East Tennessee State on Saturday afternoon, and although there were only two lead changes and the score was tied just four times, the Gaels defeated the Bucs in a close contest to advance to the tournament championship game on Wednesday night.

Iona suffered the profound pain of many mid-major teams during Championship Week. Thrust into the cauldron of a conference tournament, the Gaels reached the championship game of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but the second seed – spared from having to play host school and top seed Fairfield – missed its golden opportunity to get back into the Big Dance. Iona fell to fourth-seeded St. Peters in a clear and undeniable upset. The loss to the Peacocks ruined Iona’s NCAA hopes, but it’s clear that the setback didn’t rob this team of its desire to play deep into March. Iona coach Tim Cluess has to be extremely proud of the way his team has competed in the first three rounds of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

After Iona’s 14-0 streak to open the game, ETSU answered with a 28-4 run before the home crowd at the MHSA Athletic Center and took a 41-35 lead into halftime. After the Bucs took a 55-49 lead three minutes into the second stanza, Iona answered with a 20-4 run to lead 69-59 with eight minutes left in the game.

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The Bucs’ Adam Solazzo hit a layup to bring ETSU within two points, at 77-75, with 1:46 remaining; then the Gaels’ Mike Glover converted a layup and foul shot to extend the score to 80-75. Justin Tubbs landed a long range 3-pointer for the Bucs with 56 seconds on the clock to close within two; after Glover hit one of two free-throws after being fouled in the lane by Mike Smith, Micah Williams scored a layup to make the score 81-80 with 11 seconds on the clock. Smith fouled Iona’s Trinity Fields, who promptly hit both foul shots with three seconds remaining, and Solazzo narrowly missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to deny overtime in the thrilling finish.

ETSU finished its season 24-12, led by Williams with 23 points on 4-for-7 three point shooting. Solazzo contributed to the Bucs’ cause with 21 points, while Mike Smith added 18 points, and Justin Tubbs pitched in with 13 points and eight rebounds.

The Gaels advanced to the tournament title game behind Glover’s 33 points and 10 rebounds, and Sean Armand’s 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting from three-point range. Scott Machado had eight points and 11 assists in the victory for the “MAAC Daddy” in this particular postseason tournament.

Iona will host Santa Clara in the CIT championship game on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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