BYU basketball: Iona playing up the underdog role vs. Cougars
Published: March 12, 2012 06:23PM
Updated: March 13, 2012 12:17AM

Dayton, Ohio • Drawing upon what Virginia Commonwealth did last year in the NCAA Tournament after appearing in a First Four game, Iona coach Tim Cluess said the Gaels are playing up the Cinderella angle as much as they can as they approach Tuesday’s game against BYU.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. MDT or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the night’s first game, and will be televised by TruTV.

“I wouldn’t even say that we’re on an even playing [field] with BYU,” Cluess said at Monday’s introductory news conference. “BYU is I think a Sweet 16 team or something last year and has a richer history than we do. So for us to go into this game, we’re looking at it like we’re the Cinderella team, and we’re going to try to go out and show everyone we can play.”

Iona’s players, however, spoke confidently about their chances to win the game and advance to a Thursday meeting with No. 3 seed Marquette.

Guard Lamont “MoMo” Jones said that if the Cougars try to get into a track meet with the Gaels, they will come up short.

“With BYU playing a fast-paced game — and, again, I’ve played against them twice — I don’t think they play nearly as fast as we do. I think we still have a speed advantage on them.”

The Gaels lead the country in scoring, while the Cougars are 13th.

Jones played on a pair of Arizona teams that BYU defeated in Jimmer Fredette’s junior and senior years.

“To be honest, I remember Jimmer Fredette,” Jones said, when asked for his recollections of the Cougars. “That sticks out like a sore thumb. The rest of it was just kind of a blur.”

As for the Cougars, senior Noah Hartsock and junior Brandon Davies were selected to sit at the podium and answer questions, and both said they are hoping experience gained in previous NCAA Tournament appearances will help BYU on Tuesday night.

“The opening round games — they go right down to the wire, it seems,” Hartsock said. “We’re ready for that.”

BYU coach Dave Rose said the Cougars don’t necessarily want to run with the Gaels. But they do want to contest shots.

“Transition defense will be a huge factor in this game,” Rose said.

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay