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BYU rallies from 23-down to top Dayton in OT of Battle 4 Atlantis finale


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SALT LAKE CITY — BYU couldn't have started much worse in its Battle 4 Atlantis finale against Dayton.

The second half, though, couldn't have been much better.

Gideon George poured in 21 points and six rebounds, and Dallin Hall added a career-high 12 points, three rebounds and five assists as BYU rallied from down 23 points to force overtime Friday and take the Cougars' first win at Paradise Island 79-75 over Dayton in The Bahamas.

The game marked the third game to feature overtime, a first in the eight-year history of the tournament. It's also BYU's largest comeback under head coach Mark Pope.

Jaxson Robinson added 14 points, two rebounds and two assists, including a 3-pointer to pace a 10-4 start to overtime. Freshman Richie Saunders supplied 8 points — one off his career high for the Cougars, who trailed by as much as 23 points in the first half before attempting a comeback.

Rudi Williams supplied 11 points and three assists with a season-low two turnovers for BYU (4-3), which had just 11 giveaways.

"I think tonight showed a lot about our character, that we can always come back and win," said Hall, a freshman who starred at nearby Fremont High. "When they jumped us early, we had a timeout and coach told us that we needed to compete. Then we got a couple of defensive rebounds and got out and ran.

"After that, I felt like we had a chance at winning. We just had to do it one possession at a time."

DaRon Holmes II had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead Dayton (3-4), and Mike Sharavjamts added 15 points for the Flyers, who played overtime without two starters.

But the biggest thing for the Flyers, and understandably so, was turning their hearts toward teammates like point guard Kobe Elvis, who had to be carried off the court with lower body injury. Dayton coach Anthony Grant said the extend of the injury is unknown, but the image left a burning impression on his players.

"It sucks, honestly," Holmes said of his teammate. "But we've got to keep moving forward and seeing what we could do."

Holmes, who averaged a team-high 15.5 points in the Flyers' first six games of the season, nearly matched that total by halftime with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with six rebounds and three blocked shots.

Dayton didn't hold a Spencer Johnson-less Cougars squad scoreless for the whole game. But it was close enough through the first half, controlling the glass and putting in a 20-3 run to lead by as much as 32-9 on Toumani Camara's dunk with 6:01 to play.

BYU shot just 31% from the field en route to a 40-24 halftime deficit, needing a 7-0 run late to cut into a 23-point deficit just before the break. The Flyers outrebounded the Cougars 24-16 on the glass, scored 9 points off eight turnovers, and kept each BYU player to one make or less until Atiki Ally Atiki scored his second field goal with 4:26 on the clock.

"I probably didn't do a great job of preparing us for this game," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "We really started out on our heels. We were trying to play cautious, and we have some holes in our game right now that we are trying to address.

"Dayton's a great team; top 25 a week ago, and they're veteran guys who know how to play together. All of that led to a tough start. I couldn't be more proud of these guys; they're hungry to get better, and they are so much approved."

With all that in mind, it would've been natural for the Cougars to get down, mentally prepared to go 0-for-3 in their first trip to the Bahamas for the eight-year tournament.

But did they ever think a comeback was too far out?

"It was a rough first half, and I knew everybody felt down," Robinson admitted, with a bit of candor. "But we all knew that we couldn't go out like that; we all knew that we had to fight, and that's exactly what we came out and did."

The Cougars knocked down seven of their first nine shots of the second half, including Robinson's dunk in transition after George corralled a long rebound to open the Arkansas transfer with a dunk that cut the deficit to 44-35 with 15:47 to go.

George knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to cut the deficit as low as 4 with nine minutes left in the game. About three minutes later, Hall drained his second 3-pointer to pull within a possession.

Robinson's 3-pointer forced a 2-point game with 3:08 left to play — a 62-60 game that seemed impossible for anyone who witnessed the first half. But the Cougars shot 52% from the field, including 6-of-13 from 3-point range in the second half, and held the Flyers to just 37.5% to come all the way back.

BYU kept chipping away, until George's step-back 3-pointer with 2:19 to go gave the Cougars their first lead of the game on their seventh triple of the second half.

But every time the Cougars made a run, the Atlantic 10 favorites had an answer — through Holmes, through Camara, or through Mike Sharavjamts, who finished with 12 points that included a layup with less than two minutes remaining to put the Flyers back up before a late-game defensive stop by Williams, and an injury to Elvis, led to overtime.

BYU used a 10-4 run to outscore the Flyers 15-11 in the extra period and hold on for the win.

"We've got a long way to go, clearly. But we also can travel great distances in a short time," Pope said. "These guys can get better. They're hungry to get better. Our expectations as a team are that we are going to get better and get better. We're not a great team right now, but we all believe we have a chance to be a really good team. We have a lot of work to do."

BYU returns to the mainland Tuesday to host Division II Westminster at Vivint Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST on BYUtv.

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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