ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Daniss Jenkins scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half and Walter Clayton Jr. scored 17 points and Iona beat Marist 76-55 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament championship game on Saturday night and clinched an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Patrick Gardner scored 23 points and reserve Kam Farris scored 12 for Marist.
The Gaels never trailed.
“Man, I wanna cry right now, you know," Jenkins said after the game. “We put in a lot of hard of hard work; a lot of dedication, baby, and a lot of determination, you know. I told my guys tonight, let's just go out and play with a lot of passion, a lot of confidence, baby. This is what we worked for; we earned it... so let's go out and take what's ours."
Iona led 35-26 at halftime before Marist outscored the Gaels 20-9 in the first nine-and-a-half minutes of the second half with half Marist's points coming from the foul line.
Farris made a 3 to tie it at 46-all. Jenkins made a 3 with 9:27 left and Iona gradually distanced itself. An 11-0 run turned a 57-53 lead to a 15-point advantage and the Gaels cruised from there.
Iona (27-7) entered as the conference's top seed while Marist (13-20) was the 11th and final seed. Iona entered with a 13-game winning streak where the average margin of victory was 16.3 points per contest.
Iona was playing in its 20th MAAC championship game in the conference's 42-year history while Marist was playing in its first. The last time the Red Foxes reached a title game was in 1992 when Robert Morris beat them in the Northeast Conference final.
Marist entered the tournament having lost five of its last seven before putting together a three-game win streak to reach the conference championship game.
Marist had a season in which it had a pair of five-game losing streaks, a four-game losing streak and a three-game skid.