<
>
12-10, 6-6 Conf
57
Final
12T
RID263157
IONA284169
69
1-22, 1-12 Conf

After 0-22 start, Iona is last Division I team to get win

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- All season long, as the losses mounted without a victory, Iona coach Jeff Ruland told his players to hang in and focus only on their next game.

"The kids have been great. They've taken it one game at a time, and kept playing hard," said Ruland, after the Gaels ended their distinction as Division I's only winless team by defeating Rider 69-57 on Saturday.

Devon Clarke scored 19 points and Justin Marshall came off the bench to add 12 points for Iona (1-22, 1-12 Metro Atlantic), which had lost 23 in a row dating to the first round of last season's NCAA Tournament.

Jason Thompson scored 18 points and Harris Mansell 14 for the visiting Broncs (12-10, 6-6), who have lost four of their past six.

"Coach [Ruland] has always said this streak would end if we played 40 minutes," said Marshall, a senior forward. "The last couple games, we played 39:57 and it hasn't worked out. But we knew if we played hard and didn't let up, this would be the result."

The Gaels have lost three games in overtime and two games in regulation by just one point this season.

With three would-be starters representing 30.3 points per game sidelined by injuries or academic issues, Iona started five freshmen, including guards Mike Harris and De'Shaune Griffin, who scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Gaels last previous victory came March 6, 2006, when they beat St. Peter's 80-61 in the MAAC championship game.

"This [losing streak] was something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," said Ruland, who is in his ninth season at Iona and has taken the team to three NCAA Tournaments. "One thing I've got to say: Our fans have not stopped coming to the games. They have been very supportive."

Before a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 2,111 at the Hynes Center, the first half against Rider produced 12 lead changes with Iona on top at the break, 28-26, for only the fourth time this season.

The Broncs led 43-38 after Thompson made two free throws with 12:49 remaining.

Clarke converted a three-point play with 8:32 left to provide Iona with a 48-47 edge, a lead it never relinquished. Clarke's two free throws with two minutes left capped a 14-5 run that propelled the Gaels to a 62-52 lead.

"We made the stops [on defense] when we needed, and we made our free throws at the end, and that's what wins ballgames," Ruland said. "Especially our defense. It was a big key."

Iona scored all of its final 13 points at the free throw line. The Gaels shot 54.5 percent from the field to Rider's 30.4 percent.

"Now we can get on with the business of winning some more games this season," Ruland said.