The player who scored the winning points in the only two victories in Bryant University's short history as a Division I program admits the emotions he experienced were totally different after both games.
Hitting the go-ahead free throws against Wagner last February was an enormous relief for guard Raphael Jordan because it snapped Bryant's winless streak after 26 straight losses to start the season. Knocking down a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to seal a 74-72 victory over Iona on Sunday night was a far more joyous moment since Jordan is hopeful it will propel his team to a more successful season.
"This shot was just a really good feeling," Jordan said. "It just goes to show how much better a team can get over the course of an offseason. I think we're definitely going to be a better team than we were last season."
A neutral-court win over Iona might not mean that much to most marquee programs, but this was a landmark victory for Jordan and his Bryant teammates. The Gaels won 21 games last year and entered the new season amid expectations that they could contend for the MAAC crown along with Siena and Fairfield.
The improvement Bryant has made from the end of last season can be attributed both to the memory of last season's struggles and to the seven newcomers who joined the squad this season.
An ugly record was inevitable for Bryant last season because most of its players were recruited for the Division II level, but the returning players focused more in the weight room and in practice over the offseason to ensure they'd be more competitive. And the newcomers provided a much-needed talent boost, most notably Ohio transfer Frankie Dobbs and freshman forward Alex Francis.
"We're much more talented this year and we're much more mature," Jordan said. "We're still young, but we have young players on this team who went through last year's struggles and know it wasn't a good feeling. We never want to experience that again."
Bryant dropped its first two games this season to Cleveland State and Kent State, but the Bulldogs caught Iona perhaps a bit unfocused. They rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to match last season's win total on Jordan's clutch shot.
"We don't have any respect right now from a lot of programs, so I definitely think Iona thought it would be a cakewalk for them," Jordan said. "One thing I can say about last year is it built a lot of character. The experience of getting close but falling short so often last year helped us win the Iona game."