NCAA tournament 2012: BYU, Western Ky. comebacks highlight first play-in night

Both BYU and Western Kentucky overcame large second half deficits to down Iona and Mississippi Valley State, respectively, in Tuesday night's 'First Four' NCAA tournament games in Dayton, Ohio.

Matt Sullivan/REUTERS
Brigham Young forward Brandon Davies (L) and Noah Hartsock (34) celebrate after a basket against Iona during the second half of their NCAA men's college basketball tournament game in Dayton, Ohio, March 13.

President Obama and his special guest British prime minister David Cameron were in attendance Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio for the first NCAA tournament play-in game between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State.

The two leaders saw the Hilltoppers overcome a 16-point second half deficit to edge the Delta Devils, 59-58. At that moment, it was the biggest margin overcome in the final five minutes of an NCAA tournament game in the event's history, according to the NCAA.

The President and Prime Minister left after the first game to return to Washington. Too bad for the 'First Hoopster', for he missed a record-setting comeback in the nightcap. BYU, behind Noah Hartsock's 23 points, came back from 25 points down to defeat Iona, 78-72. The Cougars will meet Marquette in Thursday's second round in Louisville, Kentucky.

The previous largest deficit overcome mark was held by Duke, which came back from a 21-point deficit to beat Maryland in a 2001 NCAA national semifinal contest, according to the Washington Post.

In the evening's first game, both teams had a tough time shooting the basketball. The second half saw Mississippi Valley State build a 16-point lead with just over five minutes to go. The Hilltoppers then went on a 22-5 run to advance to a second round matchup with South No. 1 seed Kentucky, also in Louisville.

Western Kentucky guard Derrick Gordon said his team felt pressure playing in the glare of the NCAA tournament spotlight and in front of President Obama.

“We wanted to put on a show. I mean, things didn’t work out our way in 35 minutes, but it came out the W. I’m sure he liked what he saw,” Gordon told the Sporting News.

In the nightcap, Iona raced out to a 15-point halftime lead on 24-of-35 shooting from the floor. But BYU methodically chipped away in the second twenty minutes and took the lead with just under two and a half minutes to go on a Hartsock 3-point shot.

Cougars head coach Dave Rose said his team had confidence they could make a run at the Gaels in the second half.

"Coming back from 25 points down is really satisfying now that we've won. At the time it wasn't that satisfying being down 25," he joked. "But I don't think that any of us, especially the coaching staff or our players, doubted the fact that we could chip into that lead," Rose told

Wednesday night, there are two more NCAA 'First Four' play-in games. Vermont plays Lamar in the first contest to determine the 16th seed in the South region. South Florida takes on California in the second game to find out who will be the South's 12th seed. Both games will be televised on truTV beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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