After scrambling to find a game after the postponement of their A-10 conference matchup against St. Bonaventure, the Billikens have scheduled a game against the Iona Gaels at Chaifetz Arena to fill the hole on the Saturday night schedule.

The Billikens could schedule another non-conference game due to canceling the scheduled game versus Drake in Las Vegas. They will continue conference play on Tuesday when they battle their rival Dayton Flyers. Saint Louis had not played since beating Richmond in their A-10 opener last Sunday, with their midweek matchup with La Salle was also canceled due to Covid-19 protocols with the Explorers.

Saint Louis found out about the cancellations right before their practice Thursday ended and couldn’t find a new game until later in the evening as they were waiting on the A-10 to try and schedule a replacement conference game. At one point, Saint Joseph’s was in line to be coming to Chaifetz Arena, but transportation could not be organized in time.

The Iona Gaels are led by Travis Ford’s old Kentucky Head Coach and College Basketball legend Rick Pitino. Travis played Point Guard for Pitino’s Final Four team in 1993.

Ford said that Pitino was his first text inquiring about a game when the search for a non-conference match began. After no response from the famed Coach came, Ford became concerned as he explains his relationship with Pitino indicates that the Gaels coach usually responds, “very quickly.” After reaching out to Pitino’s son, Richard Pitino, current Head Coach of New Mexico State, it became clear the missed connection was due to a change in phone number; after that, the link quickly happened, and a game was agreed upon quickly.

Iona College mens basketball coach Rick Pitino gives instructions to his players during Wednesday’s game versus Marist on December 1, 2021.
Marist Vs Iona Basketball

The Billikens coaching staff worked into the wee hours of Friday morning, not leaving the office until 2 am iron out the details of the game. Part of that deal included a return game to New Rochelle, NY, next season. Though another host venue in the New York area may be used.

Travis Ford has taken on his former coach on four separate occasions going 1-3 against his mentor, winning while Head Coach at UMass over Pitino’s Louisville. Saint Louis has only taken on the Gaels once in school history, falling 77-74 in 1987.

Iona has opened their season very strong, going 11-2 with a signature win over Alabama. Their two losses come to Belmont and Kansas. However, beyond those three games, all played at the ESPN Events MTE in Florida, the non-conference schedule has been pedestrian. SLU will represent their next best threat.

Still, the Gaels are the clear favorite to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and make back-to-back NCAA tournaments.

The matchup in Midtown is scheduled for a 7 pm start at the Jewel of Midtown, Chaifetz Arena. Season ticket holders will have the new game folded into their original plan. Tickets to the game are going for as low as $5, with lower bowl seats going for as low as $10.
The TV broadcast is TBD, ESPN+ is the fallback option for streaming. Bob Ramsey and Earl Austin Jr. will have the call on the radio on KFTK 97.1 FM.

Carter Chapley
Carter Chapley

Carter Chapley has burst onto the scene becoming one of the most trusted voices in Billikens Athletics and beyond for Scoops with Danny Mac.

Starting at the University News, Carter joined Scoops in 2019 and has provided coverage primarily on Saint Louis University Athletics, including Basketball, Soccer, and Baseball. He has also written on such major events as the NCAA Tournament, Arch Madness, the NHL All-Star Game, the founding of STL City FC, and the NCAA reaction to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

You can find Carter more on Twitter at @ChapleyMedia where he will always be talking Billikens, Sports, and More!