Iona looked to have it locked down; their first ever win in an NCAA tournament. Any team would feel comfortable after scoring 55 points with four minutes remaining in the first half. But BYU had other plans.
The Cougars accomplished the largest comeback in NCAA tournament history Tuesday night, overcoming a 25-point lead to stun the Iona Gaels 78-72.
It was mid-way through the second half when BYU head coach Dave Rose knew he might be witnessing something special.
"The look in our players' eyes at that time was, `Game on. We've got a chance here," Rose said. "And we were able to finish it off."
Noah Hartsock dropped 23 points while Brandon Davies added 18 for the 14th seeded Cougars, who will now advance to take on third seeded Marquette in Louisville, Ky. on Thursday.
"This is a team that's worked hard all year, that's never given up," Hartsock said.
Tuesday night’s game was the biggest margin overcome by a team in the final five minutes to win an NCAA tournament game, as announced by the NCAA.
Previously, the largest deficit overcome was 22 points in 2001 when Duke rallied to knock out Maryland 95-84 in the national semifinals.
Amazingly, BYU's incredible turnaround was the second comeback of the night in Dayton. With President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron watching from the sidelines, Western Kentucky rebounded from a 16-point deficit in the final five minutes to beat Mississippi Valley State 59-58.
Iona came into the BYU match as the nation's top-scoring team at 83.2 points per game. After surging out of the gates, scoring 55 points in the first 16 minutes, their offense stalled, not scoring a single basket in the final 4:30 of the first half. That delay in offense was just the small window BYU needed to creep back in and start chipping away at the upset.
"It's going to be one that we have to live with the rest of our lives," Gaels coach Tim Cluess said. "It's a tough one we let get away. No excuses."
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