Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Drexel Dragons 70 at Iona Gaels 77 (NCAA Basketball) - December 28, 2015

There are 14 Division I basketball programs in the New York area, and I have attended games at all but two: Iona and Fordham. With the winter still quite warm, I decided to complete the list as soon as possible, and so I headed to New Rochelle on Monday night to see the Gaels hosting Drexel in non-conference action.

New Rochelle is about 30 minutes from Grand Central on Metro North's New Haven line. A one-way, off-peak ticket is $7.75, while a peak train costs $10.50. I decided to save the difference and caught the last off-peak train at 3:58. Iona College is about a mile from New Rochelle station along North Avenue, but with about 90 minutes before doors opened at Hynes Athletic Center, I stopped along the way at the Smokehouse Tailgate Grill, where pints are only $3 during happy hour, conveniently between 4 and 7. So yeah, I saved $2.75 on the train, but spent quite a bit more on a very enjoyable dinner.

The entrance to the college is just a couple of blocks further along North Avenue and clearly marked. Just inside the gate is the Hynes Athletics Center, which contains the gym where the Gaels play.

I entered by the first door I saw, which leads to the Hall of Fame (below) but not the ticket window, which is outside and up a small hill.

There were numerous options and I chose the cheapest naturally, $12 for general admission, which includes all seats on the far side of the court. Reserved seats are $14 while those with chair backs are $25, but the best reason to choose GA seats is that the cheerleaders welcome you as you come through the door (below).

I was surprised at how many fans were in the GA side at least 30 minutes before tipoff and made my way to the top of the section. The ceiling is very low here and there is netting hanging down, which made it a bit claustrophobic. The chair back seats are in yellow across the way.

Near the end of the game, I moved down a few rows, and you can see the difference when the ceiling is not so close to your seat.

This is the view of the court from the entrance; unfortunately you cannot stand here during the game. In fact, there is really no place to stand at all, and with 2,711 on hand for this one, not a lot of room to move around.

Iona came in 4-6 and 13th in the nation in three-point attempts (10.4 per game) while Drexel (who are from Philadelphia and play in the Colonial Athletic Association) was 2-8. It did not take long for the Gaels to show their long-range ambitions as their first four attempts were from beyond the arc, with two successful. Unfortunately the Dragons were very cold from everywhere on the floor and Iona stormed to a 25-6 lead with Jordan Washington scoring 9 points. I did notice that Iona took too many 3-point shots without setting up the play, i.e. with 20+ seconds left on the shot clock, a silly strategy when leading.

Anyway, the only question was whether Drexel could make it respectable, and they eventually did, getting back within 8 at 43-35 early in the second half. A 15-4 run by Iona followed, highlighted by a 3-point shot from Isaiah Washington that seemed to end any hopes for the visitors, but Tavon Allen responded with a quick ten points as the Dragons got it back to 72-68 with just over 3 minutes to go. Drexel missed their next three shots, but a couple of Allen free throws got them within 2. Washington added a charity shot for Iona, and Drexel had four chances to score with 3 offensive rebounds, but all fell short, including a couple of treys from Allen. The Dragons were forced to foul and Iona made four to win 77-70. Like Iona, I took the shot below a bit early.


Drexel has Mohammed Bah from Mali, who wears uniform #15. With the year nearly over, I found his jersey a worthy commentary on the past 365 days.

Iona finished 8/21 from three-point land and 19/30 from inside the arc, suggesting they should shoot less from long range. And judging from some of their possessions, that would be good advice. Too often they ran the break and shot immediately, rather than setting a play. Mark Jackson recently commented on the rising number of three-point chuckers, blaming Steph Curry, but the problem is that the line is too close and the payoff is actually higher if you can shoot above 33% from afar and less than 50% from in close. which is the case for many teams. I think the line will eventually have to be moved back in the college game as too many squads are too good at the long-range jumper.

Next Up

An afternoon college games to end the year with Indiana at Rutgers tomorrow to open up the Big Ten. As always, check back for more thrilling posts and the first release of the 2016 SportsRoadTrips schedule.



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