Fairfield, MAAC Tournament
Courtesy of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Iona advances, Fairfield survives at MAAC Tournament

Tuesday was Day 2 of the MAAC Men's Basketball Tournament at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. Monday night saw the first upset as number 11 seeded Rider defeated Canisius to advance. The second day featured Rick Pitino leading the Iona Gaels into tournament play as a nine seed and playing in the early game. The nightcap would feature Fairfield and Manhattan, with the winner moving on to face two-seed Monmouth on Wednesday night in AC.

No. 9 Iona 72, No. 8 Quinnipiac 48

Iona head coach Rick Pitino (Courtesy of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)

The first half was a challenging shooting period for Quinnipiac and Iona, as both teams shot under 35 percent from the field. The key to the Gaels' success in the first 20 minutes of play was their dominating 27-15 rebounding advantage, which included eight offensive rebounds. Quinnipiac fell victim to Rick Pitino's vaunted tight defense as the Bobcats went 1-for-7 to end the half as Iona held a 25-20 lead at halftime.

Quick stat break: In a rare occurrence, Iona finished the first half with zero assists.

The second half was just as tough and rugged as the first half. Iona showed flashes of pulling away after Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy picked a technical foul at the 15:18 mark of the half. However, the game's pace slowed as both teams struggled to make a basket as Iona held a 46-35 lead at the midway point for the second half. Iona started to pull away late, converting seven of their final nine shots to advance to face Siena on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Isiah Ross led Iona with 20 points as the Gaels finished with a 17 rebound advantage and held the Bobcats to 28 percent shooting from the field.

"We wanted to win it on defense tonight. I thought we played excellent defense," said Pitino after the game.

No. 7 Fairfield 59, No. 10 Manhattan 58 (OT)

The Jaspers made life difficult for Fairfield early in their First Round MAAC Tournament matchup on Tuesday night with their physical play. While Manhattan ground the pace of play down, a five-minute Jaspers scoring drought allowed Fairfield to cut the Manhattan lead to five after a Jake Wojcik basket at the 4:01 mark of the first half.

From there, Manhattan dominated the remainder of the first half holding the Stags to 25 percent shooting and forcing eight turnovers. Ant Nelson led Manhattan with seven points and seven rebounds in the first half as the Japers led by as much as 11 points in the first half and went into the locker room with a 25-16 advantage.

Fairfield stormed out for the second half as Manhattan went on a five-minute scoring drought. Jesus Cruz's deep three-pointer capped a 10-0 run for the Stags to tie the game at 29. After Fairfield took its first lead since the start of the game, Warren Williams hit a hook shot inside to tie the game at 37, with 7:31 remaining in regulation.

Down 45-44 with two minutes remaining, Nelson committed an offensive foul. On the ensuing Fairfield possession, Cruz's jump hook gave the Stags a three-point lead. Samba Diallo's three-point play pulled the Jaspers to 48-47. Wojcik hit two free throws, but Ethan Lasko's three-pointer at the buzzer forced our first overtime game of the MAAC Tournament.

Fairfield held the lead throughout the overtime period as Manhattan frantically attempted to stay in the game. Wojcik, a 90 percent free-throw shooter, missed two free throws as the Stags' lead remained at 59-58 with ten seconds to go. Lasko's drive to the basket for Manhattan was no good as Fairfield survived and advanced to play Monmouth on Wednesday night.

Cruz led Fairfield with 16 points, while Nelson led the way with 16 points for Manhattan.

Stay with Jersey Sporting News all week long for continuing coverage of the MAAC Men's Basketball Championship from Atlantic City.

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