Men’s basketball saw its season come to an end on Tuesday night at the hands of Iona in the first round of the conference tournament in Atlantic City, falling 70-60.
The game was close most of the way, with the Griffs taking an early lead and holding it for a good portion of the first half, but faltered late and gave the Gaels a four-point lead at the half. In the second half, the Griffs tried to make a run, but they were only able to tie the game and never led in the second half, resulting in the 10-point win for the Gaels.
The Griffs gave themselves opportunities on offense, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds, something that they had done well with all season and as a result of that had 17 more field goal attempts than the Gaels.
However, the efforts of Iona’s EJ Crawford and Isaiah Washington, who had 25 and 24 points respectively. The Griffs were led by Corey Brown’s 16 points, as well as 13 from Malik Johnson, who both played in their final collegiate game.
“We had our opportunities. I thought we were good with the basketball by limiting our turnovers, which was a big part of what we had game-planned,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said.
Johnson said of his college career coming to a close, “One thing I’m going to miss is just the camaraderie. Each year is a different group of guys, they all bring something different to the table, all different personalities, and I think that’s the fun in college basketball. I think the biggest thing is making relationships and over four years I built a ton of relationships I think will last a lifetime.”
Johnson never missed a game in his college career, and Witherspoon noted that Johnson had never missed a minute of practice either. “His spirit, his determination, his will, his desire,” Witherspoon said. “He’s just so determined, he has been great to work with, and we’ve had a lot of success with him. He was a big part of the team that hung a banner for the first time in almost a quarter-century.”
The Gaels did lose on Wednesday night to St. Peter’s to snap their four-year reign over the MAAC, and the league will have a new champion for the first time since 2015. The Griffs finish the season with a record of 12-20, their worst season since 2011-12, when the Griffs went 5-25.
On top of losing Johnson, who was also a three-year captain, the Griffs will lose Brown as well as Dantai St. Louis heading into next season. They return key pieces in Harried, Jacco Fritz, Majesty Brandon, Jalanni White and Jordan Henderson heading into next season.
Witherspoon said, “I think as we went through the season the challenge is to get guys seasoned enough to be ready to play on this stage. I think our guys got a lot better as the season went on. I think we have a really good nucleus of guys to work with and while we’re just ending this year I’m already looking forward to next year.”