NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Siena Basketball overcame a 13-point deficit with 13 minutes to go to rally past defending MAAC Tournament Champion Iona 81-79 in a thriller at the Hynes Athletics Center. Senior guard Marquis Wright hit the go-ahead free throws with 12.3 seconds to go for the Saints which secured a pivotal road win to move into a three-way tie for third place in the MAAC Standings with idle Canisius and Saint Peter's, while also pulling within a game of Iona for second.
Senior forward Javion Ogunyemi led five players in double figures with 17 points for Siena (11-14, 8-6) which has won four of its last five on the road, after having dropped its previous 11 dating back to last season. Wright scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and was clutch late, scoring nine points over the final four minutes.
Ricky McGill led four in double figures with 21 points and seven assists for Iona (16-9, 9-5) which saw its six-game win streak snapped. Jon Severe added 17 points for the Gaels which also had their seven-game winning streak at the Hynes Athletics Center expunged.
Iona led for most of the first half, and took their biggest lead of the stanza when McGill beat the buzzer with a three-quarter court heave to propel the Gaels to a 43-33 lead at the break. Iona would build as much as a 13-point advantage on several occasions throughout the second half, the last of which was at 62-49 with 13:18 to play.
But for the second straight February in New Rochelle, Siena battled back from a sizeable second half hole to secure a major road triumph. The Saints responded with a 19-5 run over 6:26 to take their first lead of the half at 68-67 following a pair of free throws from senior Lavon Long with 6:51 to play. The remainder of the game would be tightly contested, as there would be four ties and five lead changes down the stretch.
Severe made one of two free throws to give Iona its final lead at 79-78 with 17.3 seconds to go. But Wright was fouled seconds later and buried two of the most clutch free throws of his career to put Siena back on top. The Saints were spectacular from the charity stripe throughout, connecting on 18 of their 19 attempts.
The Gaels had a chance to respond, but Severe turned it over after stepping on the sideline with 4.2 seconds left. Freshman Ahsante Shivers, who scored a season-high 11 points during his reinsertion to the starting lineup, added a free throw at the other end, and McGill's game-winning look at a 30-foot runner was off the mark as the Saints prevailed for just the third time in the past 16 meetings between the programs.
Long posted his fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds for Siena which held a 45-29 rebounding advantage, leading to a 20-4 margin in second chance points. Sophomore guard Nico Clareth returned to the team following a seven-game leave of absence to add 14 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench in his first action since Jan. 12.
The Saints, which entered play ranked seventh worst nationally in three-pointers per game (4.5) and 10th worst in three-point field goal percentage (29.4%), shot 7-17 (41.2%) from distance including a perfect 4-for-4 in the second half. Meanwhile Iona, which conversely came in ranked 14th nationally in threes (10.0) and 19th in three-point field goal percentage (.399), was just 6-22 (27.3%) from distance.
Siena returns to action Saturday when the Saints travel to meet I-87 rival Marist for the first time this season. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Poughkeepsie.