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Griffs fall to undefeated Iona

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

A second-half rally was outweighed by a lackluster first half and it ended with the Griffs falling to league-leading Iona on Friday night at the Koessler Athletic Center, 70-62.

Iona came into the game flying, opening up a double-digit lead within the first six minutes and having it up to as many as 23 during the first half, with Canisius cutting it to 19 by the break.

However, the Griffs were not going to go quietly on Friday. After Iona scored the first four points of the second half the Griffs scored 15 points in less than three minutes to cut the deficit to 11, highlighted by a put-back dunk from Xzavier Long, a steal and ensuing dunk from Armon Harried, who also hit a three during the run and led the Griffs with 14 points on the night, as well as a three from Jordan Henderson.

After Iona did not commit a turnover in the entire first half, the Griffs’ defense forced the Gaels to turn the ball over three times within the first four minutes of the second half.

“You can’t have a team play 20 minutes and they don’t turn the ball over at all. That’s a lot of shots they're getting at the basket and they’d have to shoot terribly for you to have any chance if they have zero turnovers,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “I think we were just kind of waiting and hoping in the second half, and we did play harder.”

Iona shot 53% in the first half and 20 of their 40 first half points came in the paint. The Gaels also shot 4-8 from three-point range in the first stanza.

The Griffs’ defense did pick up in the second half and forced Iona to 30 points in the second on 43% shooting.

“They got a lot of steals because we didn’t run the ball into our hands, we turned it over and they did a good job,” Iona head coach Rick Pitino said.

“I thought defensively we played a lot harder,” Witherspoon said. “We did a few things differently but I don’t think the strategy was the difference, I think the guys were the difference.”

Iona, without their starting point guard in Elijah Joyner, were led by 17 points from Nelly Junior Joseph and 16 from Tyson Jolly.

Following the loss, the Griffs fall to 3-9 in MAAC play and 7-16 overall. They will be back at it on Sunday afternoon for a home game against Manhattan.

“Cautiously encouraged,” Witherspoon said. “I always say, we’ll see what happens tomorrow. What our energy is like tomorrow and the next day and we can see if we can build on that.”

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