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BYU roars back to beat Iona

DAYTON, Ohio – Noah Hartsock scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half to fuel BYU’s incredible comeback from a 25-point deficit, leading the Cougars past Iona 78-72 in the first round of the NCAA tournament Tuesday night.

Brandon Davies added 18 points and Damarcus Harrison 12 for the Cougars (26-8), who advance to play third-seeded Marquette on Thursday in Louisville, Ky.

Iona (25-8) seemed assured of its first NCAA tournament victory after dominating the first half. But despite 15 points and 10 assists by Scott Machado, the Gaels dropped to 0-8.

Iona came in as the nation’s top-scoring team at 83.2 points per game and didn’t disappoint – at least in the opening 16 minutes. The Gaels scored 55 points in an eye-popping display of passing wizardry and outside shooting. Then they didn’t score over the final 4:30 of the first half.

Machado, averaging just under 10 assists a game, had nine at the break.

BYU then took control. The Cougars held the Gaels without a point for 9:20 in an 17-0 run to narrow the deficit to 62-61 midway through the second half. BYU made up ground with a trapping halfcourt defense that forced the Gaels out of their hurry-up-and-shoot-3s attack. At the other end, the Cougars were getting buckets from Hartsock on fallaway jumpers.

Iona scored 55 points in the first 16 minutes, then managed just three field goals and seven points over the next 161/2 minutes.

Western Kentucky 59, Mississippi Valley St. 58: T.J. Price’s three-point play with 33 seconds left completed the Hilltoppers’ furious comeback for a victory over the Delta Devils (21-13) in an NCAA opener.

The Hilltoppers (16-18) are the longest of long shots, the only squad in the 68-team field with a losing record. They overcame a 16-point deficit in the final 5 minutes.

Western Kentucky moves on to play Kentucky – the top seed in the South Regional – on Thursday in Louisville.

MVSU couldn’t close it out. Western Kentucky won despite shooting 30 percent from the field and turning the ball over 28 times.