Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/14/12
DAYTON - Almost 45 minutes after BYU completed the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history, Tuesday night had become Wednesday morning and Brandon Davies was still sitting at his locker. In full uniform. Davies was reflecting on his own comeback, too. Removed from the team just before the NCAA Tournament a year ago for a violation of BYU's honor code, Davies missed BYU's two NCAA Tournament wins. His absence may have been the reason the Jimmer Fredette-led Cougars didn't get more than two. At the time of his expulsion, the Cougars were ranked No. 3 in the country and might have been in line for a No. 1 seed. Tuesday night, they were one of two No. 14 seeds on the floor at the First Four and seemed in line for a big-stage beatdown. A lightning-quick Iona team dominated the early part of the game and led by as much as 25. Using a zone defense to slow Iona and accentuate its size advantage, BYU steadily rallied through the second half and finally took the lead with 2:26 to go. With the game tied at 72 with 45 seconds left, Davies made a strong move to cause the fifth foul on Iona's Mike Glover and made two free throws to give BYU the lead for good. The Cougars won, 78-72. "They had us down, but we weren't down and out," Davies said. "We tried to get things going inside but until later we weren't able to do that. We had to settle down and slow everything down. "I waited for this. It was hard. It's hard to think I missed it (last year), but it's just good to be playing and moving forward in this year's tournament." Iona's tallest starter was Glover, who's generously listed at 6'7. Speed and outside shooting beat size early, but BYU eventually turned it into a halfcourt game and won it there. The 6'9 Davies and 6'8 Ben Hartsock combined for 41 points and 20 rebounds, with Davies scoring 18, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking two shots. While the nation hardly knew Iona, Davies' story is hard to forget. It wasn't long after his dismissal that the Internet was abuzz with reports that Davies was booted from the team for having sex with his girlfriend, and he was the focal point of more than his share of camera close-ups as he watched last year's NCAA Tournament wearing street clothes on the BYU bench. Davies voluntarily withdrew from school after the season. He was re-admitted to school and the team last August. Adopted by a single mother and raised a Mormon while growing up just a few blocks from BYU, Davies said even in his toughest times over the last year he envisioned being back on the floor in the BYU colors this season. "I'm just grateful to be able to help my teammates and be there for them in the big moments," Davies said. "Those guys were all so good to me when I needed them." Said Hartsock: "Brandon has been a big contributor ever since he's been here. It was tough for him last year. He's glad being back and I'm glad, too. You saw tonight what he means to us." In building a 49-24 lead just 14 minutes into the game, Iona was scoring so quickly that you got the feeling the in-arena video screens' choice of trivia questions and answers -- the all-time record for points in an NCAA Tournament game was 149, by Loyola-Marymount -- was more than coincidence. Iona scored 80 points of more in 19 games this season and was the nation's highest-scoring team at 83.3 points per game. After scoring 55 in the first 16 minutes, the Gaels scored 7 points in the next 16 minutes. A big part of that was a zone defense that caused Iona and its future NBA point guard, Scott Machado, to do more standing and lateral passing and less aggressive attacking. "We've played more zone this year than probably we've ever played in the six years we've been together as a staff," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "It's gotten better for us. And with Brandon, as good as he is in the middle of that zone, as long as he is, as good as he is rebounding and challenging shots, it actually had us look more and more at playing zone and we kept winning games, and so we kept playing it." Davies has controlled the paint for much of the year. He's now blocked 45 shots -- more than he did in his first two years combined -- and also has taken 30 charges. He and Hartsock are both 1,000-point career scorers, and Davies came into the game averaging 15 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Davies had 12 points and five rebounds in the first half Tuesday night but was charged with five turnovers. Besides missing the front end of a one-and-one with 1:18 left, he was much more poised -- and productive -- in the second half. "There was a time where I think Brandon took the ball from half-court and dribbled it on the break and (got called for a) charge, and it just was not him," Rose said. "It's not what he does. And I kind of brought him over at the timeout and just explained some things to him about how important it was for him to play well for us, but for himself; that he waited for such a long time and worked so hard to be in this situation, let's at least play like you play and make the plays you make. "I think he settled down from there, and I'm happy. I'm really happy for him. He's been through a lot, but he's been terrific through the whole thing."
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