Thursday, March 21, 2013
W2W4: Iona vs. Ohio State
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch for when Iona (20-13, 11-7 MAAC) plays Ohio State (26-7, 13-5 Big Ten) on Friday at Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
Tipoff is at 7:15 p.m., and you can watch the game on CBS.
REDEMPTION? Iona is in the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row, but the Gaels don't bring happy memories with them. Last season they blew a 25-point lead and lost to BYU in the opening round, the biggest collapse in tournament history.
They've earned a chance to redeem themselves, however, and they'll be playing in the same building as last year. So they should be more comfortable than a typical No. 15 seed. They're a confident bunch, too. Starting guard Sean Armand told the New York Post earlier this week, "It's a game we should win," and "I'm planning to play on Sunday."
CULTURE CLASH: Iona is the second-highest scoring team in all of Division I (80.7 ppg), while Ohio State is 15th in the country in scoring defense (57.9 ppg) -- something's got to give. The pace of the game will be critical. Iona wants an up-tempo affair, while Ohio State will try to make it a half-court muddle.
Keep in mind, the Gaels aren't just good on the fast break -- they're No. 4 in the nation in free-throw percentage (77.8), and No. 15 in 3-point makes per game (8.4). Iona can hurt you in different ways -- and if the Gaels are red-hot from deep, they're capable of beating anybody. Armand, the team's second leading scorer (16.6 ppg), takes almost eight treys per game, and is shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc.
STAR POWER: Armand is important, as is 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore forward David Laury, who is averaging a double-double (13.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg) in his first season of Division I play. But Lamont "Momo" Jones is the key to Iona's success.
Jones, a 6-foot senior, is the third-leadiing scorer in the country, averaging 23 points per game. He's not as good an outside shooter as Armand. But he's very quick, has a knack for getting to the foul line, and shoots 88.7 percent from there. He also has more NCAA tournament experience than his teammates -- Jones played for Arizona for two years, before transferring to Iona, and as a freshman helped lead the Wildcats to the Elite Eight.
Jones is the kind of player who can go off for 40 points on any given night and propel his team to victory. But he'll likely have one of the best defenders in the country guarding him, in Ohio State's Aaron Craft. It'll make for a fascinating matchup.
On the other side, Iona will have to try to contain an elite scorer as well. Ohio State's DeShaun Thomas, a 6-7 junior forward, is 21st in the country, averaging 19.5 points per game. He's the only Buckeye averaging in double figures. Craft averages 9.9 points per game.