LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 02: Simi Fajemisin #25 of the San Diego Toreros looks to pass as he is guarded by Nate Austin #33 and Noah Hartsock #34 of the Brigham Young Cougars during a quarterfinal game of the Zappos.com West Coast Conference Basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena March 2, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
BYU's star forward Noah Hartsock put his team on his back and carried them to victory in the WCC tourney quarter finals tonight despite his bad knee. In a game rife with turnovers and sloppy play from the Cougars Hartsock did what he has done all season for BYU -- steady the ship and get buckets. Hartsock led BYU with 19 points and chipped in with 5 rebounds and a couple of big blocks as well. Noah's big night culminated with him drilling two free throws at the end to secure the win for BYU.
While Hartsock had a huge night, some of BYU's other starters had shaky nights. Matt Carlino was off all night. He turned the ball over a startling 9 times on the evening and the ball seemed to be almost slipping out of his hands the whole game. Davies and Abouo had solid but not stellar nights overall and Winder didn't play big minutes despite starting. Brock Zylstra on the other hand had what I believe was the second best performance of the night for BYU logging minutes at the 2 and 3 spots during the game after starting at the 4 spot in place of Hartsock. Zystra's early 7 points got BYU off to a nice lead in the 1st half.
Hartsock actually performed pretty poorly coming off the bench in the first half. He looked injured and committed a couple of ugly turnovers. But in the second half Noah was a new man and played almost as if he weren't injured at all. It is not clear whether it was adreneline or just grit but Hartsock was back to his star self when it mattered most.
USD put up a valiant effort. Their guards consistently harassed BYU's guards and got steals, their bigs were banging around down low, and they even got some threes from the big guys. BYU did do a nice job on USD's sharpshooter Johnny Dee though holding just 3 of 11 shooting.
BYU's win tonight makes the team's chances of getting an at-large invitation to the NCAA tournament more likely than not. But BYU will still want to win tomorrow night against Gonzaga to avoid a nervous Selection Sunday. The question is how will Hartsock's knee hold up on day two. With any luck the Hartsock BYU saw in the second half tonight will be there tomorrow night the entire game. BYU could use a much better performance from Carlino too. If those two guys can perform well despite being banged up BYU's chances seem pretty strong.