Massachusetts Daily Collegian

1st round games bring madness early

By Patrick Strohecker

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If Tuesday night’s first round games were any indication of how the rest of the NCAA tournament will play out, it should be clear that no lead is ever secure until the game ends.

Both Western Kentucky and the Brigham Young overcame substantial second-half deficits to move onto the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

In Tuesday’s early game, Western Kentucky (16-18) overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat Mississippi Valley State, 59-58.

The first half was a mess for both teams on offense and neither shot well.  But in the second half the game began to open up, and the Delta Devils (21-13) pulled away to a 16-point lead with just under five minutes remaining.

Then, things got interesting.

With their season on the line, the Hilltoppers found their stroke and began slowly chipping away at the  Delta Devils’ lead. With just two minutes remaining, the 16-point lead evaporated and Western Kentucky trailed by only five. The comeback became complete when, with 33 seconds left, T.J. Price converted a three-point play to push the Hilltoppers into the lead.

The Delta Devils had a chance to tie the game up on their last possession, but air-balled a 3-point attempt and the two-point put back only pulled them to within one point as time expired.

Over the course of the final four minutes and 51 seconds of the game, Western Kentucky outscored the Delta Devils 22-5 and Mississippi Valley State turned the ball over on six straight possessions.

Western Kentucky was the first team with a losing record to make the NCAA Tournament since 2009 when Coppin State made the field. Their comeback victory was also the largest comeback victory in the last five minutes of a game in NCAA Tournament history, eclipsing the previous record of 15 points when Illinois beat Arizona in the 2005 Elite Eight.

Western Kentucky will now go on to play the tournament’s top-seed Kentucky today.

Cougars claw past Gaels

In the second game of Tuesday night’s double-header, Brigham Young did its best imitation of Western Kentucky, overcoming a 25-point deficit to defeat Iona, 78-72.

Iona (25-8) looked like a Top-10 team in the country, coming out and scoring 55 points in the first 16 minutes of the game. The lead left the Cougars (26-8) down by 25 points at the time, but they were able to close the gap by halftime to only 15 points.

The 10-0 run to close the half was the jumpstart that BYU needed to get its offense going. Slowly, but surely, the Cougars began cutting into the Gaels lead, until they finally overcame the entire deficit.

BYU was led by key returners Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock, who each made huge shots in the second half to lead the charge back from 25-points down. Davies was the key big-man in last year’s tournament that was suspended from the nationally ranked Cougars’ team last year for a violation of the school’s honor code.

The key moment in the game came when BYU kept the Gaels off the scoreboard for nine minutes en route to a 17-0 run, to cut the deficit from 25 to eight points.

Hartsock hit the key shot with two-and-a-half minutes remaining when he drained a three-pointer to give the Cougars their first lead of the game to go up 71-70. Davies then hit two free throws and Brock Zylstra capped off the comeback with a huge three-point play that put the game on ice.

After scoring 55 points in the first 15 minutes of the game, Iona only scored 17 points in the final 24:30 of the game, all of the points coming in the second half.

BYU will now take on the third-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles today in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at MDC_Strohecker.

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