Dick Harmon: BYU basketball comeback over Iona lingers as Marquette game awaits
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LOUISVILLE — You set records and people won't let it rest.
Despite today's showdown between No. 3 seed Marquette and No. 14 BYU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Cougars' remarkable comeback win over Iona College Tuesday in Dayton lingered in the air on media day Wednesday in Louisville.
The breakdown of the 78-72 win over the Gaels followed BYU to the team hotel in Dayton after the game, and then 152 miles on the bus to Louisville as friends and family called, texted and emailed comments. When the team got to the KFC Yum! Center, the win remained front and center, just like ESPN SportsCenter the night before.
The Cougar comeback — a win after a 25-point deficit — ranks among the best in school history and established a new NCAA Tournament record. If you count the BYU six-point margin of victory, it was a stunning 31-point reversal.
Previously, the largest NCAA tournament deficit overcome was 22 points when Duke found a way to beat Maryland 95-84 in the 2001 national semifinals.
As BYU coach Dave Rose left the KFC Yum! Arena after practice on Wednesday, a random fan yelled his name to shake his hand on the win. "I got them down 25 and the players took a turn getting it back," Rose told the elderly man.
"I've never seen a comeback like that," said West Coast Athletic Conference publicist Jeff Tourial, on hand for this regional.
"It was a lot of fun, something I'll always remember, but it's a quick turnaround and we have to put it to rest. We have another game to play now," said senior Noah Hartsock.
"It was a crazy game, to come back from that much," said freshman Matt Carlino. "I've never seen anything like it, ever."
"That was the biggest comeback I've been a part of," said senior Charles Abouo. "It was amazing. To see players who hadn't played that many minutes come in and step up was unbelievable."
The players he spoke of were freshman Damarcus Harrison and junior transfer Craig Cusick, who replaced Abouo and Carlino for much of the comeback.
"It is like a blur, it's hard to remember everything," said Harrison, who scored a career-high 12 points. "The heart was racing, everyone was together."
For the Cougars, Tuesday's comeback was the biggest since Utah came to the Marriott Center with brothers Britton and Jeff Johnsen, Feb. 23, 2002 and raced to a 21 point lead. The Cougars, led by Travis Hansen, Matt Montague, Eric Nielsen and Mark Bigelow outscored the Utes 37-18 in the second half and won 62-61.
Down 55-40 at the half, Hartsock said Rose didn't make any remarkable halftime speech. He just made it technical, about how 15 points was nothing and turnovers were killing the Cougars. "He told us we could come back if we played our best."
Abouo noticed Iona looked different when they walked out of the locker room to start the second half. "Just the way they walked, they looked tired and were not the same."
At halftime, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe followed the team and Rose into the locker room and thought, what is coach Rose going to say to his team?
"What is he going to say, hold them to 150? He basically plotted exactly what they needed to do in the second half to win and they did exactly what he asked. Why they didn't do it in the first half, I'll never know.
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