Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Cougars rally for historic victory

Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012

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Just days after the BYU women's team made history by winning their first West Coast Conference tournament championship, their counterparts on the men's team were making history of their own.

On March 13, the "comeback" Cougars overcame a 25 point deficit in their game against the Iona Gaels to claim a 78-72 victory in the first round game of the NCAA Tournament. The rally set a record for the largest comeback in the tournament's rich history.

Photo by Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
BYU's Noah Hartsock attempts to get off a shot during March 13 NCAA Tournament game versus Iona.

The win also earned BYU the right to advance to the "Big Dance"'s traditional field of 64. They were scheduled to play Marquette on March 15 in the tournament's West Region in Louisville.

Despite being down 55-40 at halftime, the squad was confident they could, well, make history.

"I don't think that any one of us, especially our coaching staff and our players doubted the fact that we could chip into that lead," coach Dave Rose told the Deseret News. "When we got the thing down to (seven points), the look in our players eyes at the time was 'Game on. We got a chance here.' And we were able to finish it off."

The Cougars faced several challenges during their 2011-2012 campaign. For one, they had to deal with the loss of star guard Jimmer Fredette — last season's national player of the year — to the pros. They also had to play in a new conference.

In the end, the Cougars won 24 regular season games and finished third in the competitive West Coast Conference.

Their invitation to the "play-in" round would mark BYU's sixth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.