Everything went as planned on Friday for the top two teams in the MAAC Tournament. Friday night started with perhaps a trap game for the #1 ranked Monmouth Hawks, who went up against the #9 ranked Rider Broncs. But as expected, Monmouth was able to take control. And they punched their ticket to the semifinals with a 59-48 victory. Iona was expected to dominate playing against an exhausted Canisius team. And of course, they did. The Gaels left no doubts beating the #7 ranked Golden Griffs, 73-55.
So which team looked better last night? Well, that depends on what side of the ball you’re talking about. As always, Iona was impressive from long range. they drained 13 three pointers while shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. Five of those three pointers came from star guard A.J. English. He finished with a double-double racking up 20 points and 10 assists. But compared to his standards, it was just another day at the office. English also got some help from teammate guard Isaiah Williams. Williams finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Numbers like that will be vital if Iona wants to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Monmouth was impressive for their defensive play. They held Rider under the double-digit mark for the first 15 minutes of the game. Of course, some of the shots the Broncs put up were atrocious. But Monmouth wasn’t going to give them anything easy. If there is a concern for Monmouth, it’s that they had trouble with their own scoring in the second half. And after leading by sixteen at halftime, the Hawks allowed Rider to cut the lead down to six with about six minutes left. Yes, they were able to get the win in the end. But if they have to play Iona, the offense has to improve. By the way, it was an average game for Justin Robinson on the scoring side. He finished with a modest 9 points. He was a defensive force, though, finishing with 8 steals on the night. So if Robinson can put it all together, Monmouth will indeed win the Tournament. But i’m not completely certain that he can.
As far as scheduling goes, Monmouth will play the winner of tonight’s Fairfield vs. Saint Peter’s game on Sunday afternoon. Iona will play the winner of tonight’s Siena vs. Manhattan game on Sunday evening.