LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels became the first team in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference history to beat an AP Top-10 team after disrupting No. 10 in Alabama by 72-68 Thursday night.
Nelly Junior Joseph and Walter Clayton Jr. made key free throws in the final seconds to lift Iona in the opening round at the ESPN Events Invitational.
Clayton got an offensive rebound and made one of two free throws to 70-68 with 20 seconds left. After Jahvon Quinerly missed a shot for Alabama, Joseph secured the victory with two penalty throws with 9 seconds left.
The MAAC teams are now 1-119 in matches against an AP Top-10 team. Pitino has now defeated a top-10 team at four different schools (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville, Iona).
Tyson Jolly had 13 points, Elijah Joiner 12 and Quinn Slazinski 11 for Iona (6-0). Alabama (4-1) got 19 points from Jaden Shackelford. Quinerly added 15.
Joiner hit a 3 to bring Iona up 69-65, but Shackelford joined from long range to make it a one-point game with 56 seconds left.
Joseph made two penalty throws during an 11-3 run to give Iona a 59-57 advantage. Alabama’s Darius Miles responded with a layup, but Jolly made a 3 to put Iona ahead 62-59 after 4 minutes. Shackelfords 3 put Alabama ahead 54-48.
Iona won despite a stretch of 4 ½ minutes early in the second half without a field goal. Alabama was up 33-29 at halftime, matching the biggest lead in the first 20 minutes.
The win serves as revenge for Gaels, who lost to Alabama in the first round of last season’s NCAA tournament.
Iona will play in the semifinals Friday against the winner of Belmont-Drake, while Alabama falls into the consolation round to take up the fight against the loser.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.