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Thursday, March 15, 2012

BYU completes largest rally in tourney history


DAYTON, Ohio — With his team in the midst of the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history, BYU coach Dave Rose caught the look in his players' eyes and was reassured.

A rally for the ages was in the making.

Noah Hartsock scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half and the Cougars came back from 25 points down to beat Iona 78-72 in the first round Tuesday night.

During a timeout after the Cougars had pared the lead to single digits midway through the second half, Rose saw something he'll never forget.

"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."

Brandon Davies added 18 points and Damarcus Harrison 12 for the 14th-seeded Cougars (26-8), who advanced to play third-seeded Marquette on Thursday.

It marked the biggest comeback in an NCAA tournament game, the organization said. Previously, the largest deficit overcome was 22 points in 2001 when Duke fought back to beat Maryland 95-84 in the national semifinals.

Hartsock was a little hurt that President Barack Obama, who watched the early game in Dayton, wasn't around to see the fireworks.

"I started looking around and didn't see him," Hartsock said with a grin. "But I'm sure he had some important things to take care of."

WKU shines for Obama


DAYTON, Ohio — So many things happened in those five final, furious minutes that Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper had trouble taking it all in.

"Wow," he said, his face still flush with March emotion. "I don't know where to begin."

The only team with a losing record in the NCAA tournament got it started with a classic March comeback — in front of a presidential audience, no less. T.J. Price's three-point play with 33 seconds to go completed the Hilltoppers' rally from a 16-point deficit over the last 5 minutes for a 59-58 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday night.

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron had front-row seats to see the tournament open with a ragged game that had a record ending. It was the biggest margin overcome by a team in the final 5 minutes to win an NCAA tournament game, the organization said.

"It's a crazy feeling," said Derrick Gordon, who had 11 points. "That's the president of the United States coming to watch our game. We wanted to put on a show. Things didn't work our way for the first 35 minutes, but we came away with the W."

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