Belated Iona wrap-up
Just realized I never linked to my 800 Games Project write-up of last week’s Iona game here. Well, here it is. Excerpt:
As Iona closed Denver’s 66-55 lead to 66-60, then 68-64, then 70-67, a feeling of mild, but building, concern became apparent in Denver’s normally disciplined, controlled play. The Pios were nervous. They really wanted this game, and they felt it slipping away — and you could tell. Iona’s full-court press, which the Pioneers had weathered all night, suddenly began to rattle them.
They composed themselves long enough to take a 74-67 lead with 3:51 left on yet another highlight-reel-worthy Chris Udofia #OMGDUNX…
…but then things really began to unravel. Iona scored seven consecutive points to close out regulation, with Denver’s sense of desperation becoming more palpable on each possession, even as they maintained the lead until 1:12 left. A series of uncharacteristic mistakes — a player stepping on the baseline, two guards miscommunicating and throwing the ball away — started to feed on themselves, and it suddenly felt like the Pioneers couldn’t do anything right. Excitement had become #PANIC.
Even so, Denver had a chance to win the ballgame in the final seconds of regulation. After a #superhoop attempt by Iona’s Lamont Jones airballed out-of-bounds with 5.2 seconds left [and the score tied 74-74], Denver inbounded it to Brian Stafford, who looked ahead to see Udofia streaking down the court with an excellent chance to make a game-winning layup, or at least draw a foul. But Stafford, his veins clearly pumping with adrenaline, overthrew Udofia, who had to leap up and toward the baseline to try and get the ball, and wound up knocking it out of bounds.
That sent the game to overtime, where Iona jumped out to a 4-point lead, Denver battled back to tie it up, and then, as I note in the write-up, “the Pioneers watched helplessly as Iona’s Randy Dezouvre nailed the game-winner with 1.6 seconds to go.”
A heartbreaking loss for the Pioneers, who are now a still-impressive 6-2, and finally ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25. Tonight, they have a chance to get back in the win column, at Greeley against Northern Colorado in the Colorado Mid-Major State Championship. More on that a bit later.