Three Keys for Men’s Basketball to beat Iona in the MAAC Quarterfinal


Photos: Liz Flynn

Steven McAvoy

The No. 8 seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats are coming to Atlantic City hungry.

The Bobcats have made just one semifinal match in Baker Dunleavy’s four years at the helm, and they’re looking to change that.

The first step comes Tuesday night against the No. 9 Iona Gaels.

Due to multiple COVID-19 shutdowns, the Gaels only managed a 13-game slate, finishing 8-5 overall with a 6-3 MAAC record. Despite the lack of game action, Iona is no slouch.

This isn’t the first time these teams have seen each other this year. Back in February the Bobcats took out the Gaels 74-70 in a late game thriller.

But come tournament time, a lot can change. Here are three keys to the Bobcats beating the Gaels in the MAAC Quarterfinal:

#1 Shut down Isaiah Ross

Senior Isaiah Ross led the MAAC in scoring this season as the only player to average over 20 points per contest, resulting in an All-MAAC First team selection.

He’s the catalyst behind an Iona offense that shoots 45 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep, both second in the MAAC. He’s the number one priority on the floor for the Bobcats.

#2 Capitalize on turnovers

While the Gaels are elite in all facets of their game, one area they don’t want to be top-three in is turnovers.

The Gaels force almost 16 turnovers per night, but they allow almost as many at just over 14 per game.

Iona has two top rebounders in the league in Nelly Junior Joseph and Dylan Van Eyck, so they’ll have trouble gathering second chances points on the boards.

The Bobcats need as many chances as possible to score, and capitalizing on those extra possessions will be vital.

#3 Learn and Adjust

The biggest storyline from this matchup comes from off the court.

When Iona head coach Tim Cluess resigned last season due to health concerns, many fans of the Gaels wondered if anyone would be able to replicate Cluess’ success making the MAAC finals seven straight seasons from 2013-2019.

Of all the people the small New York college managed to hire, no one could’ve been as high profile as Rick Pitino. 770 wins, 21 NCAA tournament appearances, seven final fours and one championship, that’s what came to New Rochelle.

Now Pitino is ready to get Iona back to the pinnacle.

As the numbers show, Pitino is an elite coach. Like many of the legends in the sport, he’s great at adjusting on the fly, learning from his teams’ previous mistakes, and capitalizes on every teaching moment possible.

Pitino is the most important person the Bobcats need to focus on. Learn from the legend, adjust to changes, and make sure to be one step ahead.

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