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The BYU basketball team will face an Iona team Tuesday in the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio, that finished on top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings — a team that finished with a 15-3 conference record and a 25-7 overall mark.
The Gaels lost in the semifinals of their conference tournament to Fairfield, 85-75.
The Gaels are a team that prides itself on being road-warriors — playing eight games in a row on the road early in the season and compiling a 6-2 record during the stretch.
Iona finished the season with an 11-4 road record.
"I think we have the second-most away-from-home wins in the country," said Iona coach Tim Cluess. "Our guys did a phenomenal job (away from home) where we played most of our games against teams from conferences that were ranked higher than ours, so our guys did a phenomenal job and I'm thankful that we've been rewarded for it."
Iona's best road victories came against Denver and Fairfield. They also defeated Maryland in the Puerto Rico Invitational, while losing by just one point to Purdue in the same tournament, 91-90.
BYU and Iona share just one common opponent — Nevada, whom BYU defeated 76-55 while Iona handled them at home, 90-84.
The Gaels use a high-tempo system that relies heavily on guard play. They feature a lineup that includes no player over 6-foot-7 in their regular rotation.
The Gaels leading scorer is 6-foot-7 forward Mike Glover, who averages 18.5 points per game while shooting 64 percent from the field. Their best player is generally considered to be 6-1 point guard Scott Machado, who averages 13.6 points and 9.9 assists per game.
"(We're) a blue-collar team that works really, really hard out on the floor," said Cluess. "We love to share the ball on the offensive end, we work hard on the defensive end … you'll just find that we're a hard-working, great bunch of kids who give it everything they have."
Although Iona isn't too familiar with BYU as of last night, one player on the roster may be able to help familiarize coaches and players. Lamont Jones, 6-foot guard who is the team's second-leading scorer, transferred to Iona after spending two years at Arizona, where he played against BYU both seasons, losing big on both occasions (99-69 and 87-65.)
This will be coach Cluess' first chance to take a team to the NCAA Tournament — an opportunity that he couldn't be more grateful for.
"I can't even put it into words," Cluess said. "They brought me in here with a chance to do something special here. I'm lucky to be in such a great place with great fans and great alums and coach players that want to play hard. It's just a thrill for me as a coach. We completely respect (BYU) and the job that has been done out there and the history of BYU. We're just excited to go out there and compete."
The game will air on TruTV, Tuesday at 7 p.m. MDT.
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