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Kragthorpe: BYU faces reality of Marquette after historic rally

Published March 14, 2012 4:58 pm

NCAA Tournament • Now the Cougs face a No. 3 seed in a CBS game.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The day after BYU produced the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history, a coach whose future was tied to the outcome said, "I've never seen anything like it in my life."

That would be Marquette's Buzz Williams, who was an interested viewer of the BYU-Iona telecast, knowing his team awaited the winner in a second-round game Thursday afternoon at Louisville, Ky.

Marquette's scouting report changed radically when BYU rallied from 25 points down late in the first half to take a 78-72 victory.

Iona coach Tim Cluess described Tuesday's turnaround as "one that we have to live with the rest of our lives," and the same is true for BYU, in a much more enjoyable way.

The game was carried by truTV, which markets itself as "television's destination for real-life stories" with the theme of "Not reality. Actuality."

Now that the Cougars are playing on CBS, a more traditional sports network, the actuality of a high-level opponent will hit home. That's how this tournament works. BYU faces a No. 3 seed, barely more than 36 hours later.

That's fine with BYU coach Dave Rose. "It's what you want to be doing at this time of year," Rose said during Wednesday's news conference in Louisville. "You want to be preparing for the next team."

Regardless of when the Cougars exit this tournament, Tuesday's seemingly unreal sequence of events will remain indelible for everybody involved. That's especially true for BYU senior forward Noah Hartsock, who missed his Marriott Center farewell last month because of an injury; junior center Brandon Davies, who missed the NCAA Tournament last March because of a school-imposed suspension; and freshman guard Damarcus Harrison, who missed five games this season via coach's decision.

They were at the forefront of the rally, which is best chronicled by reviewing some checkpoints:

• With 6:12 remaining in the first half, Iona went ahead 49-24. BYU outscored the Gaels 54-23 the rest of the way.

• Iona's 55th point of the game came after 15 minutes, 26 seconds. In the final 24:34, the Gaels scored 17 points.

• Even after their halftime lead dipped to 15 points, the Gaels led 62-44 with 17:16 remaining. BYU closed with a 34-10 run — including 17-0 at one stage, then 14-2 in the last five minutes.

At some point, BYU became destined to win this game. The best evidence came just inside the five-minute mark, with Iona leading 70-64. BYU's Brock Zylstra missed a 3-pointer, then Iona's Lamont Jones rebounded the ball and passed ahead to a streaking Randy Dezouvre, who missed a layup amid some pressure from BYU's hustling Craig Cusick.

Whatever degree of blame can be assigned to Rose for allowing his team to fall behind by 25 points is more than offset by the offensive and defensive adjustments that accounted for the 31-point improvement that ensued. Hartsock was brilliant in scoring 23 points. Davies gathered himself after a conversation with Rose that followed a charging foul late in the first half and finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Harrison's play in a 12-point effort was a nice bonus.

It all added up to a rally surpassing Duke's 22-point comeback against Maryland in 2001. BYU's effort in the First Four topped the Blue Devils' work in the Final Four.

Naturally, the Cougars hope that was just the start for them in this tournament. Yet even if the end comes against Marquette, they're in the record books. BYU's recovery against Iona will have lasting impact. And never mind what made it necessary. All the Cougars will remember is the finish.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt