Long after BYU’s historic comeback victory over Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament here, folks were still buzzing about the dramatic game.
You can paint it a couple of ways, BYU was tremendous or Iona choked.
When Brandon Davies blocked a shot in the final seconds and Brock Zylstra took it the distance for a lay-in and was fouled and converted, the Cougar comeback from 25 points down left the arena drained. The first game was similar, but this one took the prize.
Twice in the second half, BYU’s smothering zone confused and frustrated Iona’s guard-heavy offense. Iona had two long scoring droughts of more than 9 and 4 minutes in the second half and it doomed them as BYU plodded along with Davies and Noah Hartsock delivering bucket after bucket.
I credit Dave Rose for this win. It was one of his best coaching efforts of his career. Consider his team was beat up and embarrassed at half, giving up 55 points. His backcourt panicked and stopped or short-circuited the offense by taking ill-advised quick shots. He had the courage to sit down Matt Carlino and go with the junior Craig Cusick and he trusted that if he put in Demarcus Harrison, who’d played sparingly and scarce minutes all year, he’d make some plays.
Rose also trusted that his zone defense would produce stops. It did. Time and time again, Iona’s quick guards made their moves and came up against Hartsock and Davies and a weakside adjustment and it toppled their confidence and led to turnovers or bad shots.
It was a remarkable comeback, perhaps one of the best in school history. Yes, it was against a No. 14 seed, but the Cougars have not been playing very well of late and they looked cooked and done early in this game.
Rose’s ability to create a vision of winning for his team at halftime was a remarkable feat of selling a belief, even if it appeared impossible to sell, he did it.
I credit Davies, Hartsock, Zylstra and Cusick for making big plays in this win. But I’ve got to say this was one of the finest coaching jobs ever by Rose.