Quinnipiac wins MAAC regular season title beating Iona 69-53

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (AP) Despite losing the first three conference games, Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri wasn't worried. She knew her team would jell.

The Bobcats haven't lost since, clinching their second straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season title with a 69-53 victory over Iona on Sunday.

''We needed time to figure it out,'' Fabbri said. ''For me that has been the most fun. Coaching a new team, figuring it out. We knew we would be in any game because we could defend.''

Maria Napolitano scored 16 points and Paula Strautmane added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bobcats (22-7, 17-3), who are the top seed in the conference for the second consecutive season.

''We started out 0-3 and that can hurt your confidence a lot,'' Napolitano said. ''It's going to come together. We're a very talented team, it's going to click.''

And it certainly has as the Bobcats have won 17 straight. They will be the top seed in the conference tournament which begins Thursday. The Gaels are the No. 2 seed. Both teams have byes until the quarterfinals Friday.

''The way the tournament's set up this year, it's important to secure a (top seed),'' Fabbri said. ''To have the day off Saturday to hopefully get ready for a Sunday-Monday run, that's real important for us.''

Iona (20-11, 16-4) was trying to win its first outright title. The Gaels shared the regular-season championship in 2014.

Trailing 32-29 at the half, Quinnipiac scored the first eight points in the third quarter to take control.

Napolitano's 3-pointer capped the run and made it 37-32. Joy Adams got the Gaels within three, but the Bobcats slowly pulled away. Strautmane, who was scoreless in the first half, had 11 points in the third quarter as she hit all five of her shots. Quinnipiac led 51-40 after the three quarters and scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to put the game away.

''They came out with fire in the second half and we came out going through the motions and not being ready to do what we need to do to play at a game of this level,'' Iona coach Billi Godsey said. ''This time of year teams turn themselves up to the next level and we didn't do that today.''

Early on this game looked like it would be a blowout the other way. Iona scored 11 straight points to build a 13-2 lead with 4:22 left in the first quarter. Then the Gaels went cold from the field, missing nine straight shots and going 7:40 without a field goal. Quinnipiac rallied, scoring 16 of the next 17 points to take a 18-14 lead on Napolitano's 3-pointer with 7:02 left in the half.

Marina Lizarazu finally ended Iona's drought with a 3 of her own. The Gaels led 32-29 at the half.

Lizarazu finished with 14 points to lead Iona while Adams had 11.

TIP-INS:

Quinnipiac: Since the 2011-12 season, the Bobcats are 126-37 (.773) - the second most wins and second-best winning percentage for any team in New England. They only trail UConn. ... This was the fourth game in eight days for the Bobcats, who own the sixth-longest winning streak in the country. ... Quinnipiac became the first team in the conference to lose its first three MAAC games and still win the title since Marist did it in 2004-05.

Iona: Adams is the all-time rebounding leader in the MAAC and at Iona with 1,545 boards. She has 78 double-doubles in her career, but failed to get one against Quinnipiac for the second time this season.

UP NEXT:

Quinnipiac: MAAC Tournament.

Iona: MAAC Tournament.

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