Historic comebacks keep BYU, WKU alive
Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 7:00 pm
By The Associated Press
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — BYU pulled off the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history on a wild opening night.
Noah Hartsock scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half and the Cougars rallied from 25 points down to beat Iona 78-72 in the first round Tuesday night.
BYU trailed 49-24 after less than 14 minutes. It marked the biggest comeback in an NCAA tournament game, the organization said. Previously, the largest deficit overcome was 22 points in 2001 when Duke fought back to beat Maryland 95-84 in the national semifinals.
“We weren’t good enough in the second half to withstand that comeback,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said.
Brandon Davies added 18 points and Damarcus Harrison 12 for the 14th-seeded Cougars (26-8), who advanced to play third-seeded Marquette on Thursday in Louisville.
Iona (25-8) seemed assured of its first official NCAA tournament victory after dominating the first half. But despite 15 points and 10 assists by Scott Machado, the Gaels dropped to 0-8 in NCAA play. Their lone win in 1980 was vacated due to NCAA violations.
Iona came in as the nation’s top-scoring team at 83.2 points per game and didn’t disappoint — at least in the early going. The Gaels scored 55 points in the first 16 minutes, then managed just three field goals and seven points over the next 16 1/2 minutes.
BYU held the Gaels without a point for 9:20 in an 17-0 run to narrow the deficit to 62-61 midway through the second half. With 2:26 left, Hartsock hit a go-ahead 3 for the Cougars’ first lead of the game.
“It’s going to be one that we have to live with the rest of our lives, that we had an opportunity to win and advance,” Cluess said. “It’s a tough one we let get away. No excuses.”
WKU 59, Miss. Valley St. 58
T.J. Price’s three-point play with 33 seconds left completed a furious rally from a 16-point deficit, and Western Kentucky held on to beat Mississippi Valley State.
President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron had front-row seats to see the tournament open with a ragged game that had a record finish. It was the biggest margin overcome by a team in the final 5 minutes to win an NCAA tournament game, the organization said.
The Hilltoppers (16-18) are the longest of long shots, the only squad in the 68-team field with a losing record. They turned up the full-court pressure in the last 5 minutes, overcoming a 16-point deficit with a comeback that won over the crowd at University of Dayton Arena.
Western Kentucky won despite shooting 30 percent from the field and turning it over 28 times. The Hilltoppers move on to play Kentucky — the top seed in the South Regional — on Thursday in Louisville, an all-Bluegrass game for the second round.
Kevin Burwell scored 20 points for MVSU (21-13).
Published in The Messenger 3.14.12