Saint Peter's wins MAAC crown
Peacocks return to NCAA tournament for first time in 16 years
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Jeron Belin scored 17 points and St. Peter's beat Iona 62-57 to secure the school's first NCAA tournament berth in 16 years and win the MAAC championship Monday.
Nick Leon added 15 points for the fourth-seeded Peacocks (20-13), who upset top-seed Fairfield 62-48 Sunday.
Michael Glover had 23 points for Iona, which came in averaging almost 80 points per game. Scott Machado added 15 and Rashon Dwight added 10.
The Gaels trailed by as many as 12 in the second half before mounting a furious comeback that fell short. Iona's 57 points were a season low, two below the 59 they had in a two-point loss to Rider in January.
This was St.' Peter's seventh appearance in the MAAC championship game, but its first since 2006. The school last won the tournament and earned an NCAA bid in 1995.
St. Peter's controlled the tempo throughout. Iona came in shooting almost 48 percent from the field, but made just 19 of their 59 shots on Monday. Iona, second in the conference in 3-point shooting, was 3 for 18 from behind the arc, while the Peacocks hit seven 3-pointers.
St. Peter's led by six at intermission and went up by nine early in the second half.
Machado found Glover on an ally-oop to cut the lead to 37-33, but the Peacocks had a quick response.
A blocked shot from Ryan Bacon and a 3-pointer from Leon pushed the lead back to nine at 42-33, and a Jenkins' 3-pointer gave them their biggest lead of the game at 45-33.
St. Peter's led 49-38 with just over 4 minutes left and began to spread the floor on offense.
That's when Iona made its final push.
Glover scored eight points down the stretch, and Iona cut the lead to 56-52 on his layup with 45 seconds left.
A steal from Iona gave them a chance to cut it to one, but a 3-point attempt from Trinity Fields hit the rim. St. Peter's made six foul shots down the stretch to seal the win.
As the final buzzer sounded, St. Peter's players ran to center court and into a pile to celebrate the victory.
Iona hit just three of its first 10 shots, and were outrebounded in the first half 17-13.
Iona also had just two field goals in the final 7 minutes of the half and trailed 26-20 at intermission.
Iona guard Kyle Smyth appeared to re-injure his left shoulder diving for a loose ball with about 3 minutes left in the first half, and was taken to the locker room. Smyth, who averages almost 11 points a game, also left the team's semifinal win over Rider with a shoulder injury.
Iona had won nine in a row and came in off two blowout wins in the tournament, 94-64 over Siena and 83-59 over Rider in the semifinals.
This was the eighth time to two teams have met in the MAAC tournament. Iona came in 5-2 in those games.
Iona won both regular-season meetings between the two teams, 70-52 at home in January and 73-59 at St. Peter's on Feb. 25.