MAAC Tournament
(Courtesy of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)

Monmouth, Siena end seasons with losses at MAAC Tournament

Day Three of the MAAC Men's Basketball Tournament on Wednesday featured the top two seeds in the tournament, Siena and Monmouth. The game everyone was waiting for was the first game of the evening between Siena and Iona. The Gaels, although a ninth seed, is better than their seeding for the MAAC Tournament. They played above their seed on Wednesday in Atlantic City.

No. 7 Fairfield 79 No. 2 Monmouth 60

Courtesy of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Coming off of his third MAAC Coach of the Year honor, King Rice brought his high-powered Monmouth Hawks to Boardwalk Hall to face Fairfield in the quaterfinals of the MAAC Tournament. The Stags survived an overtime thriller against Manhattan on Tuesday, and early on, Fairfield looked to be feeling the effects from that game.

As the first half went on, Fairfield got their bearings as they went on a 20-5 run over five minutes to take a 36-25 lead with 2:39 left in the first half. Monmouth cut the lead 41-34 after a last-second three from George Pappas. Fairfield shot a blistering 54 percent from the field, including 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.

The lead continued to move into double digits for Fairfield as Monmouth started to hit their shots. Two consecutive threes from Melik Martin and Deion Hammond pulled the Hawks to within four points of the Stags with 11:39 remaining in regulation. Fairfield responded with a 17-5 run to stretch the lead to 73-54 late in the game en route to the Stags' second win in two days. Fairfield will face the winner of the Saint Peter's-Rider matchup.

"The caches came out with a great game plan," said Taj Benning, who finished with a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds. "We had one day prep, and like my brother (Jesus Cruz) said last night, we trying to survive and advance, so that's all the motivation we need to get through this game."

Senior Melik Martin finished with 12 points for Monmouth, while George Papas ended his collegiate career with nine points and three rebounds.

"I lost a lot of times in my life. This one feels a little bit different," Monmouth head coach King Rice said after the game. "We'll start off by saying how incredible Fairfield played. They just out-toughed us. They hit us in the face. They were solid.

"Tonight, their defense messed us up and we just could not guard them. I think their discipline in this game was tremendous, and they just 100 percent outplayed us."

No. 9 Iona 55, No. 1 Siena 52

Courtesy of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Going into the game, Siena was 0-10 against Iona in MAAC Tournament games. On Wednesday, the streak went to 11 games for the Saints.

The first half was defensive as Iona struggled, shooting 24 percent from the field. While the Gaels held a considerable advantage on the boards against Quinnipiac on Tuesday, Siena had an 18-17 rebounding advantage. Simultaneously, the Saints turned the ball over eight times in the half in what would foreshadow their struggles in the second half. For Iona, you could not have a worse offensive half of basketball.

Both squads came out firing to begin the second half, but not many shots were going down. As the second half progressed, Siena began to pull away from Iona as a 9-2 run was capped with Colin Golson Jr.'s alley-oop connection from Jalen Pickett to put the Saints up by nine points, 39-30. From here, the game began to change for the worst for Siena.

A scoring drought of over eight minutes stopped Siena's momentum as Iona began to rise to the occasion. Led by Isaiah Ross and Asante Gist, the Gaels took the lead after two free throws by Dylan Van Eyck. Iona did not look back as Siena finally got on the board after a three-pointer by Jackson Stormo with 19 seconds left in the game. Before that basket, Siena last scored at the 8:33 mark of the second half. During that span, Iona forced four turnovers as they tightened their play on the defensive end.

"This is one of my favorite wins in my 40+ years of coaching because when it's not going your way and you can fight that adversity and win the game. One of my favorites of all-time," Iona coach Rick Pitino said after the win.

Asante Gist, who shot 2-for-15 from the field, led Iona with 16 points after going 10-of-10 from the foul line. Iona advances to the MAAC Tournament Semifinals to face the winner of Thursday's Marist-Niagara matchup.

Here is the lineup for Thursday's action at the MAAC Men's Basketball Tournament in Atlantic City, NJ:

No. 3 Saint Peter’s vs. No. 11 Rider, 5 p.m.

No. 4 Marist vs. No. 5 Niagara, 7:30 p.m.

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

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