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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Two historic comebacks kick off tournament


Two all-time Men’s Basketball Championship records were set Tuesday, setting the bar high for an exciting tournament that continues Wednesday.

BYU trailed Iona by 25 points in the first half, but moved into the Round of 64 with the largest comeback in Men’s Basketball Championship history.

Western Kentucky, the only team in the field with a losing record this season, trailed Mississippi Valley State by 16 points with under 5:00 remaining. The Hilltoppers moved on to the Round of 64 with the largest final-5:00 comeback in Men’s Basketball Championship history.

(14) BYU 78, (14) Iona 72
BYU has won a tournament game for the third straight season, the first time in school history with such a streak, after holding Iona to just 17 points over the final 24:34 of the game.

Iona scored 55 points and shot 69 percent from the field and 71 percent on 3-pointers in the first 15:26 of the game and went into halftime with a 55-40 lead.

In the final 24:34 of the game, the Gaels scored 17 points, shot 20 percent from the field and went just 1-for-18 from 3-point range -- and 15 of their 18 turnovers came during that span.

The Gaels went scoreless for a 9:13 stretch while BYU went on a 17-0 run.

Noah Hartsock scored a game-high 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting and Brandon Davies notched his eighth double-double of the season with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Scott Machado had 15 points and 10 assists in the loss, his 11th double-double of the season.

(16) Western Kentucky 59, (16) Mississippi Valley State 58
Western Kentucky trailed by 16 points (53-37) with 4:51 remaining but came back to beat Mississippi Valley State. The Hilltoppers ended the game on a 22-5 run, making their 16-point deficit the largest ever overcome in the final five minutes of an NCAA Tournament game.

The comeback began with a 15-0 run to cut the lead to one. The previous largest comeback was set by Illinois, which came back from 15 points down in its 90-89 OT win over Arizona in the 2005 Elite 8.

Western Kentucky is just the sixth team with a losing record to win a game in the Men’s Basketball Championship. There have been 26 teams with sub-.500 records to make the NCAA Tournament and five of the past six have won their first game.

Western Kentucky has won seven straight games after starting the season 9-18, and will put that winning streak on the line Thursday against top overall seed Kentucky.

Western Kentucky had 28 turnovers, the most by a team in a tournament game since 1996, when Tulsa turned it over 28 times in a Round of 64 OT loss to Louisville. No team had turned it over 28 times in a tournament win since 1988, when Kansas had 30 turnovers in a Round of 64 win over Xavier.

The Jayhawks went on to win the national championship that season.

Mississippi Valley State is now 0-5 all-time in NCAA Tournament games.