PROVO — Are the Cougars capable of playing the fast-break game they did earlier this season? They'll certainly need to in the Big Dance starting Tuesday.
BYU's first experience as a "Last Four In" NCAA Tournament team will be against Iona, a team that likes to run, a mirror image in style of game that the Cougars like to play.
"They like to score the ball and have a point guard in 'MoMo' Jones who some of our players played against when he was at Arizona," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "They are a very talented team, a conference champion who lost in their conference tournament."
Iona College (25-7) and BYU (25-8) play Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, at 7 p.m. MDT, in a contest that should be a shootout. The team with the best defense will likely win. The game will be televised on TruTV.
"We didn't play our best game the last time out and you always want another chance. We got another chance," said Rose.
Both BYU and Iona are coming off losses in the semifinals of their league tournaments. While the Cougars lost to Gonzaga for the second time, Iona lost to Fairfield (19-14) by a score of 85-75.
On Sunday after the CBS Selection Show, Rose and his staff scattered to prepare for a "sped up" experience. They were awaiting information on travel while assistant coaches researched Iona and prepared a game plan for players Monday — not knowing what time they could get to the court.
"There won't be much sleep tonight," said Rose as he left reporters.
While the Cougars led the WCC this past year in scoring, just under 80 points a game, Iona is the nation's top-scoring team with an average of 83.3 points per game. The Gaels also lead the nation in assists at 19.3 per game as regular-season champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The winner of this game will advance as a No. 14 seed to face No. 3 Marquette on Thursday in Louisville, Ky., as part of the West bracket.
In Iona, the Cougars will take on a talented, quick team comprised of New York City-area athletes including Jones, a 6-foot guard from Harlem, who is second on the team in scoring at 16 points a game.
One of BYU's biggest challenges will be trying to contain the magic passing of senior Scott Machado, the NCAA's assist leader. As a top-15 finalist for the John Wooden Award, Machado is described as the country's "best setup man." He is from Queens, N.Y.
The leading scorer for the Gaels is 6-foot-7 Mike Glover — who played at the College of Eastern Utah before enrolling at Iona — at 18.5 points and nine rebounds a game.
In Iona, the Cougars face a team that has struggled in the NCAA Tournament over the years — something BYU has also done in this postseason affair.
Iona is 1-8 in NCAA appearances. The Cougars have made 26 NCAA Tournaments and have a 14-29 record.
"I got to watch Iona when they played in the bracket-buster game against Nevada," said BYU senior Noah Hartsock. "They have great guards and are a very great team."
Hartsock has played against MoMo and he knows what he can do.
"We'll be amped up to play this game," he said.
Hartsock said BYU is well-rested and anxious to keep playing. He said his knee and ankle are "much improved" and he was able to actually pull off a turn-around jumper this past week in practice.
The Cougars struggled to pull off their patented transition game in the latter part of the season due to injuries to point guard Matt Carlino (knee) and Hartsock (knee, ankle).
In BYU's last two games against a worthy opponent, Gonzaga, both resulting in losses, the Cougars scored a total of two points off their fast break. In both those games, their leading rebounder, Hartsock, was hobbled.
If the Cougars are to defeat Iona and advance to Louisville, they'll need to match the firepower and get rebounds. Iona ranks 155th in the country in rebounds and if Hartsock, is really healthy, it will prove a huge key for Rose.
The game will air on TruTV, Tuesday at 7 p.m. MDT.
How to get TRUTV: www.trutv.com/about/zipcode/index.html
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