Miller's double-double leads Iona to MAAC title
Updated: Tuesday March 06, 2001 7:47 AM
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Nakiea Miller's second-half domination left him so exhausted that he had nothing in reserve to celebrate Iona's third NCAA tournament berth in four years.
As his teammates jumped around Buffalo's HSBC Arena court, enjoying their second consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, Miller collapsed from dizziness and had to be revived with smelling salts.
Miller, the tournament's MVP, matched a career high with 24 points, leading the Gaels past Canisius 74-67 on Monday night.
"I was just so exhausted. I'm out of breath right now," said Miller, who scored nine points and added two defensive blocks during the Gaels' decisive 13-1 second-half run. "I'm about to fall over right now. I'm just barely standing up."
Miller, a 6-foot-9 senior center, carried the top-seeded Gaels during the final nine minutes.
After cutting Canisius' lead to 54-53 with a layup, Miller tipped in consecutive misses and, following a Dyree Wilson's basket, added a turnaround 6-foot jumper from the baseline as the Gaels eventually opened a 64-55 lead.
"I just knew I had to step it up. If I didn't step it up, we weren't going to win," Miller said.
Earl Johnson added 20 points and Miller pulled down 15 rebounds as the top-seeded Gaels (22-10) became the first team to repeat as MAAC champions since LaSalle won three in a row from 1988-90.
"It's always tough the second time, but this feels great," said Wilson, who was held to six points. "[The NCAA's] are going to be better the second time. Last year, everyone was nervous. But we're looking to win games this time."
Iona also won its conference-leading sixth title in the school's ninth title championship game appearance.
The seventh-seeded Golden Griffins (20-11), attempting to be the first team to win four games for the championship, went almost seven minutes before scoring a basket.
Brian Dux finally ended the drought with a putback, cutting Iona's lead to 64-57 with 2:28 remaining.
The Golden Griffins cut the lead to 71-67 when Clive Bentick completed a three-point play with 19.9 seconds, but Johnson responded by sinking two free throws.
"Their defense, I thought in the second half, really hurt us. We just couldn't score," Golden Griffins head coach Mike MacDonald. "There are a lot of guys crying in there. I was just crying in there. I wasn't crying because we lost, I'm upset because it could be the last time we're together."
His was a special group that rallied to win seven of its last 10 regular-season games, and reached the title game by beating second-seeded Niagara and third-seeded Siena, who finished in a three-way tie for first with Iona in the regular-season standings.
Canisius was attempting to become only the third school seeded seventh or lower to win the title.
Bentick led Canisius with 14 points.
Fenn finished with 10 rebounds, giving him 48 in four games, eclipsing a tournament record shared by LaSalle's Lionel Simmons and Fordham's Sanford Jenkins, who each had 38 in the 1990 tournament.
Fenn tied the record with his 15-rebound performance in Sunday's 76-64 semifinal victory against Siena.