Men’s Basketball Falls in MAAC Semi-Finals

MBBThe men’s basketball team was eliminated from this year’s MAAC Championship Tournament after falling to top-seeded Iona in the semi-finals at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY this past Sunday, March 8.

One day after beating Canisius in the tournaments quarterfinal round, the Hawks could not overcome Iona’s record breaking performance from the three-point line and fell by a final score of 95-77. The Gaels knocked down a MAAC Tournament record 19 three, four more than the previous high of 15 made by La Salle in 1990. 

“Our kids gave us everything,” said Head Coach King Rice following the loss. “Nobody thought we’d be here. I truly thought, and I told my kids all day, that we were going to win this game, but Iona was the better team. A lot of credit to them.”

Senior captain Max DiLeo went five for seven from behind the three-point line and hit six of his seven free throws in route to a career high 21 points to lead the Hawks. Junior guard Deon Jones went 8-14 from the floor and finished just behind DiLeo with 18 points, while senior forward Brice Kofane also reach double figures on the night with 10 points and also recorded a team high seven rebounds.

Iona star A.J. English led all scorers on the night with 29 points. English went 11-16 from the floor and made seven of his ten attempts from the three-point line. Isaiah Williams finished right behind English with 27 points, and set an individual MAAC Tournament record by draining nine trifectas.  

Despite shooting over 60 percent from the field, including a 54.5 percent mark from three-point range, in the first half, the barrage of Iona threes was too much for MU, who trailed 57-45 heading into the half. 

The Hawks only lead of the game came just four minutes into the contest when a layup from sophomore point guard Justin Robinson made the score 6-5. 

A Kofane layup three minutes into the second half brought MU back to within six, but English responded right back with one of his seven makes from beyond the arc to push the lead back to nine. 

The Hawks were unable to get closer than that over the final 15 minutes of play as Iona continued to stay hot from the field and closed out the victory. 

With the win the Gaels will advance to their third straight MAAC Tournament final. It will be a familiar scene in the Times Union Center as Iona will meet Manhattan, who also reached the final for the third consecutive season. 

Despite the disappointment with the loss, this season was a changing point in the program. Pending an invitation to a postseason tournament, MU will finish the season with an overall record of 18-15 and a 13-7 mark in conference play. 

It is the first time the Hawks will finish with a record above .500 since the 2005-06 season, and they also won a conference tournament game for the first time since 2006. 

Robinson will lead a young nucleus of talent returning to the team next year, and the MAAC First-Teamer has high hopes for the future. 

“We’re going to be right back here next year,” said Robinson. “With the guys that we add and the guys that we have coming back we’re looking to take the next step. Pat ourselves on the back for this year, but we’re not content.”

Rice added, “You have to go through times like this to be champions. But we’re coming to be at the top of this league, and everyone knows it. That’s what I’m here for, that’s what these guys came to the school for, and we’re coming after it every single day.”