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Iona Blows Biggest Lead In NCAA Tournament History

For the first half, it looked like no one could stop the Iona Gaels.

For 16 minutes, the Gaels played about as good as any team could, facing BYU in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Then, the wheels came off the bus and the Cougars roared back, completing the comeback, with a 78-72 victory and advancing to face Marquette, on Thursday.

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Iona led by as many as 25 points, 49-24, with 6:12 to play in the first half. The deficit is the largest overcome in NCAA tournament history.

Iona, which was a surprise to make the field, following a loss in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference semifinals to Fairfield, scored just 17 points in the second half and only managed 19 points in the game’s final 25 minutes. That’s incredible for many reasons, but mainly because they were on pace for 137 points, with four minutes to play in the first half.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This was a terrible giveaway by the Gaels, who are now 0-8 all-time in NCAA tournament play, but it wasn’t out of nowhere. Twice this season, Iona gave up leads of more than 15 points, losing to Manhattan at home, and Siena, in Albany.

In the game against the Saints, Iona led 20-2, before losing the game 65-62, on Jan. 23. The Gaels also defeated Siena 95-59, when they had everything rolling for both halves, on Jan. 3.

The way Iona played in the first half, I think they could almost beat anyone in the country, but it takes a full 40-minute effort to win, especially in the NCAA tournament. Just like in Albany, earlier this year, and other times, the Gaels seemed to come unglued, once their shots stopped falling and they could no longer push the tempo.

The careers of Scott Machado and Mike Glover come to a close and this will be a much different Iona team next season.

While I think the Gaels were talented enough to be playing in the NCAA tournament, they proved on more than one occasion that they don’t belong among the elite teams in the country.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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