The only thing more jaw-dropping than Greg Smith’s resignation letter to Goldman Sachs (a must-read, by the way: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldman-sachs.html?hp) happened at the University of Dayton on Tuesday evening in the First Four round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Iona Gaels took a 55-31 lead late in the first half over the BYU Cougars in a battle of 14 seeds that didn’t look like a fair fight. The Gaels flat-out stomped the Cougars in the first 15 minutes. Iona couldn’t miss from outside and used a fast-paced inside game to tally easy transition buckets. They confused the boys from Utah. Iona’s style, painfully obvious if you watch at least two games on tape, breaks your will early in the game. They followed it to perfection in the first 15 minutes in Dayton. With about four minutes left in the first half, I tweeted out that this was the most impressive half of basketball I’ve seen this season. I watch a lot of basketball.
It’s a shame Iona had to play a second half.
If you went to bed at halftime, and I’m betting a fair number of folks did, you won’t believe the final numbers. BYU shot a better percentage from the field and 3-point range, they racked up more rebounds than the Gaels and finished with more assists. Oh yeah, they had more points when the final horn sounded as well.
It was a straight up collapse that you could see coming, but didn’t want it to happen. Iona only scored 17 second half points. They picked a hell of a time to score their lowest point total of any half all season long. Digest that. The highest scoring team in the country scored only 17 points in the second half of a NCAA Tournament game.
“It’s going to be one that we have to live with the rest of our lives,” Gaels coach Tim Cluess said. “It’s a tough one we let get away. No excuses.”
Cluess said all the right things in the post game presser, but this game will haunt him more than his team for the next decade or so. Iona plays basketball as a bunch of individuals. They are a NBA-based team that has very little chemistry. The team acts as a bunch of movable parts that never gelled. I saw them live at Reitz Arena about a month ago and marveled over how athletic and enjoyable they were to watch. Iona has two slam-dunk pro prospects and a number of other very good players. They just aren’t a team – and the warts showed in the final twenty minutes of the First Four game.
Credit BYU. They won the game with coaching and absolute will. They were the better team. There’s just something about that game most of the country missed on that Tuesday night in Dayton that I won’t forget for a long time.
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