With Game 1 of the QuadPIG over, it was time to kill the massive amount of time between games. Since my evening food consumption to that point consisted of a giant candy bar and NCAA-appropriate sports beverage, I headed to the concession area. As expected, the area was packed, but hardly anyone was actually buying concessions. Most eyes were glued to the television sets around the concourse. I took a look to see what was on; it was the Dayton-Iowa NIT game. Dayton should have been hosting according to seed, but the evening's activities at UD Arena precluded that. The loyalty of Dayton fans should never be questioned, as they continued to watch even with the Flyers down double figures with less than a minute remaining.
After the acquisition of nourishment, I wandered back to my seat. Canned music was still playing, as the band changeover was still taking place. Both band areas had been put on one end, so President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron could have a seating area. While two bands were leaving, only one band was entering. The Iona band had not made the trip to Dayton, to my great disappointment. I had been looking forward to hearing them after hearing them play Steely Dan's "Peg" on a Friday night ESPNU broadcast.
The second game tip-time of 9:45 thinned the crowd considerably. Obama and Cameron were heading back to Washington for a day of meetings Wednesday. With work calling me at 8 a.m., I was secretly hoping for a bit of a rout so I might sneak out a little bit early. In the beginning, it looked like I was going to get it. Iona came out on fire. Scott Machado pushed the pace of the game through BYU's slow transition defense. Five minutes into the game, Iona already had posted 18 on the scoreboard and led by eight.
The Gaels' assault continued for another three minutes. A Sean Arnaud jumper, a Mike Glover dunk off a Machado assist, another Arnaud basket, a putback by Ra'Shad James, a MoMo Jones jumper. It was 28-10 with 12 minutes to go in the half. Some fans that were teetering on the stay-or-go decision took the opportunity to head up the aisles. Enough folks left the lower level that folks in the cheap seats started moving down.
With the Iona band not present, the BYU band had some extra time. While the Cougars' band played a set list as inspiring as its white polo shirts and khaki pants, Cosmo the Cougar totally rocked it on the court. Cosmo was entertaining the remaining fans with an array of standing flips that NBA mascots usually need a trampoline to pull off and a series of breakdancing moves that would be worthy of making the next "Breakin'" movie, whenever that comes out.
Cosmo gave BYU a little energy, and the Cougars would go on their own run to make the score 30-20 just past halfway through the first half. It turned out that Iona was just catching its breath, and another assault was ready to begin. Two superhoops from Jermel Jenkins, an and-one by Randy Desouvre, a layup and superhoop from Machado. The stat crew probably needed a case of Full Throttle to keep up (it would have to be the Coke-produced energy drink, of course). A Glover layup put the Gaels halfway to 100 with 5:15 left in the first half! BYU would chip away at the lead again, but Iona still held a 15-point advantage at the half, 55-40.
It was gut-check time for those remaining. The few Gaels faithful who made the trip were obviously staying. Most of the BYU fans, which there were surprisingly large number of, would stay too. But at 10:45 p.m. with a 20-minute halftime looming, most of the remaining fans headed to the exits. The appropriate Guided By Voices song for the evening seemed to be "People Are Leaving." I decided I would stay until the at least 10-minute mark -- I was going to be a zombie at work the next day anyway. The few left in the upper deck filled up the lower bowl; the ushers didn't care enough to stop them. The usher in my aisle took a seat a row in front of me.
The decision would prove to be a wise one. After a figurative stalemate for the first five minutes of the half, BYU took a page from the Western Kentucky comeback instruction manual and switched defenses. Unlike WKU, which went high pressure, BYU went into a switching 2-3/3-2 zone. It baffled the Gaels. From a 62-44 deficit, the Cougars went on a 17-0 run. Most of the run was created by Noah Hartsock, who chipped away at the lead two points by two points with a series of turnaround jumpers from about ten feet out. With 8:44 left to play, the Iona lead was one. I was in it until the end.
The run got the BYU fans into the game; heck, it was only 9:30 Mountain Time. The BYU band led the fans in a familiar cheer. It was the same cheer the Dayton band uses; instead of "Go, Dayton Flyers," it was "Go, Fighting Cougars."
Iona recovered enough to go on a spurt, with Jenkins scoring the next five points. Then Machado got a three-point play to extend the Gael lead to six. With five minutes to play, that was almost the final basket Iona would get on the evening. It was time to finish doing the collapse.
Hartsock resumed his torrid shooting night. He would finish 10-for-14 from the floor for 23 points. Two more jumpers and a superhoop gave BYU the lead at 71-70 with 2:25 left. The BYU defense stepped up again and forced a shot-clock violation on Iona, something inconceivable to think of when Iona was scoring four points a minute in the first half. Another empty possession started the foul parade. BYU would go 5-for-5 at the stripe to seal the win. BYU had finished the largest comeback in NCAA tournament history, rallying from 25 down to win 78-72.
It proved that the more appropriate Guided By Voices song would be "Sad If I Lost It." Iona certainly was sad that they did. It was a harsh end to a great season for the Gaels and proof once again that the game will hurt you. Just remember the good times and the following words from Robert Pollard:
And the courage seekers Of the aborted logos Of declaration "no-go" are gone But I'll keep a light for 'em, Hold down the fort for 'em , And wear my maroon blazer all the time.
BRIGHAM YOUNG 78, IONA 72 03/13/2012
IONA 25-8 (15-3) -- S. Machado 6-9 2-2 15; M. Glover 6-12 0-2 12; L. Jones 3-15 0-0 6; S. Armand 4-8 0-0 10; R. Dezouvre 4-7 1-3 9; J. Jenkins 5-10 0-0 13; R. James 3-6 1-1 7; T. Ridley 0-1 0-0 0; K. Smyth 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 31-70 4-8 72. BRIGHAM YOUNG 26-8 (12-4) -- N. Hartsock 10-14 2-2 23; B. Davies 8-14 2-5 18; B. Zylstra 2-5 1-3 6; C. Cusick 0-4 0-1 0; M. Carlino 2-7 2-2 6; D. Harrison 4-6 2-3 12; A. Winder 2-5 2-4 8; C. Abouo 1-5 0-0 2; N. Austin 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 30-62 11-20 78.
Three-point goals: IONA 6-25 (S. Machado 1-4; J. Jenkins 3-7; K. Smyth 0-1; L. Jones 0-6; S. Armand 2-6; R. James 0-1), BYU 7-20 (B. Zylstra 1-3; C. Cusick 0-2; C. Abouo 0-1; N. Hartsock 1-2; A. Winder 2-3; M. Carlino 0-3; N. Austin 1-2; D. Harrison 2-4); Rebounds: IONA 32 (M. Glover 9), BYU 39 (B. Davies 15); Assists: IONA 19 (S. Machado 10), BYU 21 (C. Cusick 8); Total Fouls -- IONA 19, BYU 14; Fouled Out: IONA-M. Glover; BYU-None.