EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ Arnie Russell broke a tie with two free throws with 1:01 to play as Iona edged Fordham 57-54 Monday night to capture the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Russell's free throws broke a 54-54 and Troy Truesdale added a free throw with three seconds left after Fordham's Tony McIntosh missed an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key with five seconds to play.

The victory raised the Gaels record to 26-4 this season and was their seventh straight over their New York rival. More importantly, it sent Iona to its second straight NCAA tournament and fourth trip in seven years.

The defeat dropped Fordham to 19-11 this season. The Rams will need an at- large bid to make their first trip to the NCAA tournament since the 1970-71 season, the year Digger Phelps coached the school to a 26-3 mark.

Tony Hargraves, the tournament Most Valuable Player, topped Iona with 14 points. Russell finished with 12 and Rory Grimes added 11.

Steve Samuels led Fordham with 23 points, hitting all five of his second half shots from the field. McIntosh added 15 points.

Fordham held a 41-34 lead early in the second half, but Iona chipped away and tied the score 48-48 on a jumper by Grimes. The lead changed hands twice before Iona took the lead for good on Russell's free throws.

The first half was played in spurts, with Fordham running off a 10-1 streak to snap a 7-7 tie and take a 17-8 lead with 9:51 left in the half. Samuels, who hit six of nine shots in the first half and scored 12 points, had four during that period.

The Gaels then outscored Fordham 12-2 over the next four minutes as Russell and John Kijonek scored four points apiece.

The lead seesawed the next two minutes, but Fordham had a 7-3 run in the final four minutes to take a 30-27 lead to the locker room.

The meeting was the third between Fordham and Iona this season, and the Gaels won the first two by margins of 53-47 and 66-65.