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BYU basketball: Cougars prepare for high-scoring thriller in NCAA Tournament

Published March 13, 2012 5:08 pm

Men's basketball • BYU, Iona bring reputation for speed to First Four 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Dayton, Ohio • Although University of Dayton Arena sits on a street that bears the name of one of the greatest hurdlers of all time — Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses — the last thing the BYU Cougars want to do Tuesday night in their NCAA Tournament First Four game against Iona is turn the game into a track meet.

That little bit of advice comes courtesy of Iona guard Lamont "MoMo" Jones, a transfer from Arizona who knows the Cougars as well as anyone here in maroon and gold, having lost to BYU 99-69 in 2009 in Tucson and 87-65 in 2010 at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.

The 25-8 Cougars and 25-7 Gaels — both 14 seeds — will tip off at approximately 7 p.m. MDT, and President Barack Obama is expected to be among the 13,000 or so fans in attendance, along with Great Britain Prime Minister David Cameron.

They should get quite a show — if offensive basketball is their thing.

"Everybody tries to play like that with us," Jones said boldly at Monday night's Iona news conference. "Even if they don't play that style, they will try to. ... But with BYU [supposedly] playing a fast-paced game — and, again, I have 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."

Consider that throwing down the gauntlet. But Jones' boasting isn't without merit. The Gaels lead the country in scoring, averaging 83.3 points per game.

Thing is, BYU likes to push the pace almost as much as the Gaels do, so this contest on Edwin C. Moses Boulevard promises to be entertaining for the president and a national cable television audience (TruTV), and ultra-competitive.

The Cougars might not be as fast as the Gaels, who don't have a player who logs meaningful minutes taller than 6-foot-7, but they are slight favorites and will have an advantage inside with the 6-foot-9 Brandon Davies (15.0 ppg.) and the 6-foot-8 Noah Hartsock (16.7 ppg.). The Cougars are 13th in the country in scoring, averaging 78.2 points per game.

"What I want to do is get our guys into the flow of the game, how we play," BYU coach Dave Rose said Monday. "And that's an up-tempo, fast-paced game. What we really have to concentrate on is in transition defense, to make them take contested shots. ... Transition defense will be a huge factor in this game."

Despite the boldness of its players — guard Scott Machado said "I think they're right" when it was suggested that some people call him the best point guard in America that nobody has seen — Iona is playing up the underdog role.

"We are looking at it like we are the Cinderella team and we're going to try to go out and show everyone we can play," Iona coach Tim Cluess said, after acknowledging that BYU "has a richer history than we do."

Another factor in the game could be BYU's rustiness. The team hasn't played since that 77-58 loss to Gonzaga 10 days ago. That is probably why the Cougars, having arrived in Dayton around noon on Monday, used about 10 of their allotted 40 minutes on the UD Arena court Monday night to scrimmage.

"Mentally, and how we execute, that will be a question mark for us because of the time [off]," Rose said. "... We need to execute, because all it will take is a few minutes and this [Iona] team can score a lot of points in a very small amount of time."

And turn it into a track meet. —

NCAA Division I Assists leaders

Team APG

1. Iona 19.3

2. Creighton 17.9

3. UNLV 17.4

4. North Carolina 17.4

5. BYU 17.0

NCAA Division I Scoring leaders

Team Games Total Points PPG

1. Iona 32 2,664 83.3

2. North Carolina 34 2,787 82.0

3. LIU-Brooklyn 33 2,702 81.9

4. Belmont 34 2,772 81.5

13. BYU 33 2,581 78.2 —

NCAA Tournament First Four game Iona vs. BYU

P At University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio

Tipoff • 7 p.m. MST

TV • TruTV

Radio • AM 1160

Records • BYU 25-8, Iona 25-7

Series history • First meeting

Last meeting • N/A

About the Cougars • They are making their sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and 27th in school history, but first appearance in a First Four game in Dayton. ... Injured forward Noah Hartsock (knee, ankle) practiced well on Saturday in Provo and at the arena in Dayton on Monday and pronounced himself healthy and ready to go. ... They are a 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. ... They have a 14-29 record in NCAA Tournament games.

About the Gaels • Senior forward Mike Glover, from Bronx, N.Y., played a year of junior college ball at Utah State-Eastern (formerly College of Eastern Utah). ... Coach Tim Cluess was a member of the St. John's team that played against Danny Ainge-led BYU in 1978. ... They are tied for No. 2 in the NCAA with 15 wins away from their home building. ... They are 0-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament after their 1980 appearance was vacated due to violations. —

BYU vs. Iona

P Tuesday, 7 p.m. MDT, truTV