USA TODAY Sports
On a night in which BYU's leaders struggled, three unheralded players stepped in and imposed their wills.
BYU earned a win in their first conference road game of the season Saturday night, beating the San Francisco Dons on their home floor for the second year in a row.
Things looked bad for the Cougars for a long time. BYU started inept on defense and watched as San Francisco hit four of their first five three pointers, but that was just the beginning. Brandon Davies picked up his second foul with 13 minutes left in the first half and left the game, putting pressure on players who for a long time didn't look ready to handle it. USF was physical with Tyler Haws early and took him out of his game. He appeared frustrated with himself and forced a number of shots, and no one else seemed to have the answer.
As BYU struggled, Rose took the risk and put Davies back back in with six left in the first half. In just over two minutes, he picked up his third foul (he would eventually foul out with a significant portion of the second half yet to be played), and BYU fans began wondering if a victory was even possible, let alone likely.
Enter Carlino, Zylstra, and Sharp--three players who have each been targets of BYU fan frustration at times. Zylstra hit several key baskets when BYU was down, Sharp fought hard for loose balls, and Carlino defended effectively, hit several big threes, and played the all-around great point guard we have all hoped he would become.
Even for much of the second half, BYU struggled, but the Cougars kept finding ways to claw back. Josh Sharp made a key offensive rebound with under a minute to play and then made a critical defensive stop, guarding USF point guard Cody Doolin, who had played well all night, into a miss on the Dons' last attempt to even the score. Carlino grabbed the rebound and sealed the victory with free throws.
It was one of the more rousing victories of the year--not just because of the uncertain outcome but because of the way players who receive a lot of criticism took up the mantle when Davies fouled out and earned a hard-fought victory. This is the kind of game that makes watching sports fun.
BYU has a knack for creating rivals who want to beat them. I think the relationship between BYU and the University of San Francisco took another step in that direction tonight as BYU beat the Dons on their homecourt in a nail biter for the second year in a row.
BYU improved to 12-4 overall and 2-0 in conference play.