|Vinny Zollo (41) and Teeng Akol celebrated Western Kentucky’s comeback victory against Mississippi Valley State. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)|
Down 25, BYU makes history
Obama sees WKU move on; UK next
BYU pulled off the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history on a wild opening night in Dayton, Ohio.
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.
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, Ky.
It marked the biggest comeback in an NCAA Tournament game. Previously, the largest deficit overcome was 22 points in 2001 when Duke fought back to beat Maryland, 95-84, in the national semifinals.
It was the second incredible turnaround of the night at University of Dayton Arena. With President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron watching, Western Kentucky came back from a 16-point deficit in the final 5 minutes to beat Mississippi Valley State, 59-58.
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 opening 16 minutes. The Gaels scored 55 points in an eye-popping display of passing wizardry and outside shooting, and didn’t score over the final 4:30 of the first half.
Machado, averaging just under 10 assists a game, had nine at the break.
BYU then took control. The Cougars held the Gaels without a point for 9:20 in a 17-0 run to narrow the deficit to 62-61 midway through the second half.
After 55 points in the first 16 minutes, Iona managed just three field goals and 7 points over the next 16 1/2 minutes.
Jermel Jenkins ended the drought with a three from the left corner with 8 minutes left.
From there, the teams traded baskets as the pace slowed. Machado’s 3-point play pushed the lead to 70-64 with five minutes remaining before Hartsock hit an outside shot. After two missed foul shots by the Gaels, he hit another short turnaround jumper to cut the lead to 2.
With 2:26 left, Hartsock popped out on the right wing to hit a go-ahead three. It was the Cougars’ first lead of the game.
W. Kentucky 59, MVSU 58 - The only team with a losing record in the NCAA Tournament got it started with a classic March comeback.
T.J. Price’s 3-point play with 33 seconds left completed a furious rally from a 16-point deficit, and the Hilltoppers beat the Delta Devils (21-13).
Obama and Cameron had front-row seats to see the tournament open with a ragged game that had an engrossing finish.
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.
After the buzzer sounded, Obama and Cameron headed out, fans still buzzing over what had just happened. Somehow, the Hilltoppers won despite shooting 30 percent from the field and turning it over 28 times.
Western Kentucky moves on to play Kentucky - the top seed in the South Regional - on Thursday in Louisville.
The Hilltoppers were the losers’ favorite in the bracket - the first team since Coppin State in 2009 to make it to the tournament with a losing record.
Kevin Burwell had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds for the Delta Devils, shooting a 3-pointer in front of Obama. It missed and Cor-J Cox had a putback at the buzzer.