DAYTON, Ohio – After trailing by 25 points in the first half, senior Noah Hartsock led the BYU men’s basketball team to the greatest comeback in NCAA Tournament history to secure a 78-72 win against the Iona Gaels in the First Four opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Hartsock scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half to lead BYU to the victory, including giving the Coguars their first lead of the game on a 3-pointer with 2:26 left in the game. Junior Brandon Davies scored 18 and snagged 15 boards, while Damarcus Harrison came of the bench to add 12 points. The three combined to shoot 22 of 34 from the field.
After Iona shot 24 of 41 (59 percent) in the first half and scored 55 points, the Cougar defense held the Gaels to just 7 of 29 (24 percent) in the second half and just 17 points. BYU held Iona scoreless for 9:16 in the second half during a 17-0 run to get back in the game.
Iona jumped out to a dominating 49-24 first half lead with sharp shooting and strong defense that forced BYU into 13 first half turnovers. The Cougars began their comeback by closing the half with nine-straight points to put make the score 55-40 heading into the break.
The Gaels extended the lead back to 18 at 60-42 early in the second before BYU shut down the Iona attack. BYU went on a 19-2 run keyed by Hartsock to get within one point at 62-61 with 8:42 left. The Cougars held the Gaels scoreless from the 17:20 mark until Iona nailed a three with 8:04 left in the game.
BYU narrowed the lead back to one at 65-64 with a Harrison trey with 6:51 left. Iona again refused to relent the lead and extended it back to six at 70-64. Hartsock then went on a personal 7-0 run to give the Cougars their first lead of the game at 71-70 with 2:24 remaining.
Davies helped seal the game with a two free throws and a blocked shot, which led to a breakaway three-point play for Brock Zylstra to put BYU up 76-70. Matt Carlino iced the game with two more free throws following a made Iona basket.
With the win, BYU advances to the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Cougars will take on Marquette in Louisville, Kentucky on Thursday at 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS.