To say Iona is in the midst of a down season would be a major understatement. The Gaels have played in either the NIT or the NCAA Tournament every year since 2012 but they have their hands full if they want to get back to the postseason this year. Iona has won just four of its first 13 games, including just two of its first six conference contests. Meanwhile, the Golden Griffins have battled back from a season-long six-game losing streak to win their last three conference games. Can Canisius keep its momentum going on the road against the struggling Gaels on Friday night?
Golden Griffins push winning streak to three gamesThe Golden Griffins won their third straight conference game on Sunday with a 95-86 victory over Rider behind a balanced scoring effort. Malik Johnson led five Canisius players in double-figures on the night with 18 points while Jacco Fritz chipped in 17 points for the Golden Griffins, who shot 9-for-20 from deep to pull away in the second half.
Reggie Witherspoon’s squad enters the weekend ranked No. 212 in the latest KenPom rankings after improving to 3-4 in MAAC play. Canisius has scored 97.8 points per 100 possessions for the season (242nd in the NCAA) but that number has dipped to 94.9 points per 100 possessions during league play (9th in the MAAC). Turnovers and poor 3-point shooting have held the Golden Griffins back on offense. They have coughed up the basketball on 22.6 percent of their offensive possessions (323rd in the NCAA) while shooting just 29.9 percent from long-range on the season (304th in the NCAA).
On defense, the Golden Griffins have given up 102.0 points per 100 possessions for the season (174th in the NCAA) and just 95.9 points per 100 possessions during conference play (6th in the MAAC). They rely on forcing turnovers to get stops but have been vulnerable from inside the arc. Through seven conference games, Canisius has forced opponents to turn the ball over 22.3 percent of the time (3rd in the MAAC) while holding them to just 32.3 percent from 3-point range (3rd in the MAAC). However, MAAC opponents have shot a red-hot 52.1 percent from inside the arc against the Golden Griffins’ defense during league play (9th in the MAAC).
Gaels battling through rare down seasonIona lost for the second time in three games on Sunday, falling short on the road against Marist 83-73. Asante Gist scored 15 points while EJ Crawford and Isaiah Washington chipped in 14 points apiece in a losing effort for the Gaels, who never led and trailed by as many as 31 points in the loss.
Tim Cluess is trying to navigate through a down season in New Rochelle, New York after four straight NCAA Tournament berths between 2016 and 2019. This year’s Gaels come into the weekend ranked No. 265 in the latest KenPom rankings after going 4-9 through their first 13 games, including a 2-4 mark in league play. Iona has scored only 97.7 points per 100 possessions for the season (246th in the NCAA) while turning the ball over 22.1 percent of the time on offense (318th in the NCAA). Turnovers have remained a problem for the Gaels during conference play (10th in the MAAC) but they’ve managed to improve on some of their offensive numbers against league opponents. Through six conference games, Iona has scored 98.1 points per 100 possessions (6th in the MAAC) while sporting an effective field goal percentage of 51.5 percent (2nd in the MAAC). They have shot 47.3 percent of their total attempts from beyond the arc (2nd in the MAAC) and have connected at a rate of 35.9 percent from 3-point range (6th in the MAAC).
Getting stops on defense has been a different challenge entirely for the Gaels, who have been getting torched from beyond the arc all season long. Iona has given up 106.1 points per 100 possessions for the season (272nd in the NCAA) while allowing opponents to shoot a blistering 40.7 percent from 3-point range (352nd in the NCAA).