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Frank Becerra Jr. / The Journal News / USA TODAY NETWORK

Iona was one of the few MAAC teams to win on Tuesday night

The Iona Gaels are going to be a dangerous basketball team this year. They played an ugly, see-saw-type game against Appalachian St., an NCAA Tournament team last season that returned 90% of its minutes.

Points were few and far between, physicality was the default style of play, and Rick Pitino was wearing one of his trademark suits. App St. might be part of the Sun Belt, but this one had all the look and feel of a MAAC game.

Neither team could pull further away than a handful of points for the first 37 minutes of the game. Those last three minutes were a different story. The Mountaineers pulled to within three points, but that triggered a spurt from the Gaels. They finished the game on a 10-0 run to win 65-53.

Iona’s ability to freely switch on defense helped slow down ballhandlers and stymie the App. St. offense. Time and time again, App St. would look to take advantage of the big guys on switches. But Nelly Junior Joseph, Dylan Van Eyck, and Quinn Slazinski were able to lock down on the perimeter.

Tyson Jolly and Elijah Joiner are two transfers who play suffocating defense in the backcourt. They might not have the offensive punch of last year’s Isaiah Ross-Asante Gist duo, but this year’s Gaels should have a balanced offensive attack with multiple options to go to late in games.

Everyone seemed to make a play during crunch time and some made plays on both ends. Who cares if it wasn’t always pretty? Iona can put a W on the schedule next to last year’s Sun Belt champion.

Let’s take a look at how the rest of the MAAC did on opening night.

Other MAAC Notes

  • Overall, the MAAC was 2-9 on opening night. Woof.
  • Other than Iona, Manhattan was the only team to win. They beat Division III Manhattanville College, a school best known for sending me hundreds upon thousands of grad school advertisements in the mail between 2015 and 2018. You can ask them to stop, but they just keep coming. The same can’t be said of their basketball team. Manhattan won 99-42.
  • Saint Peter’s nearly upset VCU in the Siegel Center. They had a lead with under a minute left, but two late turnovers and a miraculous tip-in ultimately doomed the Peacocks. Despite the loss, they acquitted themselves well.
  • Providence and Xavier were two Big East teams on upset alert throughout FS1’s Big East Tip-Off Show. Fairfield gave Providence all it could handle, losing by seven. Meanwhile, Niagara stayed within striking distance all game in a three-point loss.
  • Siena (No. 23 St. Bonaventure) and Quinnipiac (No. 21 Maryland) battled early against ranked teams, but faded to lose in second-half blowouts.