NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- A quick take on Iona's 77-72 win over Fairfield on Friday night at the Hynes Athletics Center.
WHAT IT MEANS: With a win over second-place Fairfield, coupled with Loyola (MD) losing at Rider earlier in the evening, Iona clinches its first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title since 2001. The Gaels, under second-year coach Tim Cluess, are now 23-6 overall, 14-3 in the conference, and will be the top seed in the MAAC tournament.
THE SKINNY: After falling behind 4-0, Fairfield took control and led by as many as eight, 21-13. Iona erased that gap, even taking the lead again briefly at 29-28. But Fairfield closed the first half on a 10-4 run and led 38-33 at intermission.
Fairfield upped the lead back to eight early in the second half, 42-34, but Iona responded with a 10-0 run to re-take the lead. The game was a see-saw battle for the next several minutes. The difference down the stretch? Sophomore guard Sean Armand, who scored 15 straight points for Iona from the 7:50 mark to the 2:44 mark, when the Gaels turned a two-point deficit into a six-point lead. Iona was able to put Fairfield away from there.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Armand -- who was scoreless in 10 minutes of action in the first half, missing both of his shot attempts -- was sensational in the second half, pouring in 17 points and shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the field. Mike Glover had 13 points and seven rebounds, while Scott Machado had 10 points and seven assists.
Rakim Sanders had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Stags.
NUMBER CRUNCH: As a team, Iona shot 12-for-30 (40 percent) from the field in the first half, and an incredible 16-for-22 (72.7 percent) in the second half. Also, Fairfield had 18 turnovers, to just nine for the Gaels.
Fairfield did dominate Iona on the boards -- 37 to 25 overall, 16 to 9 on the offensive glass.
WHAT'S NEXT: Iona will close out the regular season at home against St. Peter's, Sunday at 5 p.m. Fairfield will play at Rider on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
The MAAC tournament, in Springfield, Mass., begins on March 2, a week from today.