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Iona-Monmouth postgame scuffle ends in vicious slap

There's a new mid-major rivalry that demands your attention.

Not everyone loves the Monmouth bench mob, which has made a name for itself this season with its over-the-top in-game celebrations.

At the top of that list is Tim Cluess, the head coach of two-time defending MAAC regular season champion Iona. At the press conference the day before his team's game against the Hawks -- who, it should be noted, are 13-4 and in legitimate contention for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid -- Cluess was asked about the antics of the Monmouth bench players. He had nothing nice to say.

"Are they on the team?" Cluess asked rhetorically. "I didn't know if they were on the team or wearing uniforms as cheerleaders. I've never seen them on the court doing anything, so to me, they're not basketball players."

The comments ratcheted up the intensity for what was already set to be a marquee game in the MAAC, with Iona defending its 26-game home winning streak and perfect 6-0 mark in league play. Despite 45 points from star guard A.J. English -- who consistently barked at the opposing bench after made shots in the first half -- Monmouth managed to walk away with a 110-102 victory to state their claim as the team to beat in the conference.

Then things got a little ugly.

Words were exchanged at some point during the postgame handshake line, and not too long later, Iona's Jordan Washington connected with a slap to the face of Monmouth big man Chris Brady.

Both teams remained on the court for several minutes, but some shouting and a bit more pushing and shoving was all that transpired.

Monmouth coach King Rice, who also got into it with Cluess during the semifinals of last season's MAAC Tournament, wound up getting in the final shot of the night to the Iona crowd.

The rematch, for those interested, will take place on Feb. 19 at Monmouth.