ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands Any thoughts that Iona may have been dispirited or fatigued after its overtime loss to Quinnipiac Friday night were quickly dispelled on Saturday afternoon.
The Gaels got off to a blazing start and never looked back, cruising to a 94-68 victory over Wake Forest in the Paradise Jam. Sean Armand scored 28 points and Lamont "Momo" Jones added 21 for Iona, which will now face the University of Illinois-Chicago in the loser's bracket finals on Monday at 5 p.m.
"That's the pace we like to play at," Gaels coach Tim Cluess said after watching his team score more than 90 points for the second night in a row. "Our guys did a very good job at establishing that."
Iona (2-1) had dropped a 98-92 heartbreaker about 14 hours before the opening tap of Saturday's game. But the Gaels hit their first nine shots against Wake Forest (1-2) and held leads of 8-0, 30-3 and 48-11 after a Tre Bowman basket 5 minutes, 19 seconds before halftime.
The Gaels hit 18 of their first 25 shots, including eight of their first nine 3-pointers.
"I preached to the guys (Friday) night and this morning, 'You've kind of got to let that (Quinnipiac) loss go,'" said Jones, who poured in 40 points in that loss. "If you don't, you'll come out and put your season in jeopardy by losing two games in a row."
Armand buried seven 3-pointers and the Gaels knocked down 14 as a team. Jones and Armand each doled out six assists. Bowman added 15 points for Iona.
"I give my guys a lot of credit," said Cluess.
Wake Forest misfired on 13 of its first 14 shots. The Deacons had a 7-0 mini-run late in the first half and went into the break down 30. Iona picked up right where it had left off, as Jones scored the first five points of the second half and Armand later added a 3-pointer to give the Gaels a 67-30 lead, matching their largest margin of the game.
Even in the waning minutes, the Gaels kept their foot on the pedal, never giving Wake even a hint at a comeback chance.
"We can't show our opponents any mercy," said Jones, "because our opponents aren't going to show us any mercy."
The Deacons will face Mercer on Monday at 3:30 p.m.