SAN DIEGO — On a night that saw BYU's "Old Reliable," senior forward Noah Hartsock, experience his worst shooting performance of the year and fail to score in double figures for the first time this season, Brock Zylstra, and the other guards, turned in big performances from outside.
While Hartsock shot an uncharacteristic 2-of-12 from the floor (and one of those was a 3-pointer), Zylstra finished with five 3's and a game-high 17 points to help lead BYU to a 82-63 victory over San Diego before a crowd of 3,204 at Jenny Craig Pavilion Monday night.
Zylstra drilled his first shot, a 3-pointer at the end of the first half to give the Cougars their biggest lead of the contest, then he nailed another 3-pointer to start the second half.
Charles Abouo and Matt Carlino each contributed 14 points. As a team, the Cougars knocked down 11-of-24 3-pointers.
"San Diego did a really good job of attacking our post guys early in the game," said coach Dave Rose. "For us, it was a little bit different all night because our post guys the last two or three games have scored so consistently. San Diego was determined not to let that happen, so we had to find other ways to score … We really depended on our guards to score for us."
BYU improved to 16-4 overall and 5-1 in West Coast Conference play. The Toreros dropped to 6-11 and 1-4.
"It's a credit to Noah and Brandon getting double-teamed," Zylstra said of his effort. "That's what happens to them every single game. And so when they double-team them in the post, someone is open. It happened to be me tonight."
In the first half, BYU got off to a sluggish start, making just one of its first 10 shots. The Cougars trailed 9-2 over the first five minutes of the game.
But Craig Cusick, Carlino and Hartsock each buried a 3-pointer as BYU started a 9-0 run. The Cougars took their first lead, 19-17, with 9:48 left in the half and did not relinquish it.
Zylstra's 3-pointer just before the first-half buzzer propelled the Cougars to a 37-29 halftime lead.
"The shot Brock made late in the first half gave us a lot of momentum and confidence," Rose said.
Zylstra wasted little time building on that momentum, following it up with another 3-pointer on BYU's first possession of the second half to put BYU up, 40-29.
"It's actually funny," Zylstra said of his back-to-back 3-pointers that spanned the two halves. "(Assistant coach) Tim LaComb, as I was coming out (for the second half) said, 'Knock down this next one. You'll get one right here.' It came to me and I knocked it down and the next timeout he said, 'I told you. I told you that you'd knock it down.' It's about always being ready."
"It was huge," Abouo said of Zylstra's shooting. "Brock's been hitting big shots for us all year. He's as good a shooter as there is. We always look for him when we're out there. He hits shots consistently in games and in practice. I felt like every time (San Diego) kind of made a run, he made a big shot."
Meanwhile, Hartsock and Davies combined to shoot 5-of-21 from the field. While Davies grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with his 12 points, Hartsock had seven points and just one rebound.
"I told (Hartsock), 'This is the first game where you didn't shoot the ball well,'" Zylstra said. "All season, he's been our most consistent player. We call him 'Old Reliable.' He's out there and he's going to make shots for us. Tonight wasn't his night, but he doesn't care. He could care less because we won, which is a great thing about him."
Rose was happy to see the other players step up and compensate for Hartsock's shooting woes.
"You take a guy who's been your anchor, consistent all the way through, and the other team does a really good job of controlling him, then we find some other guys who make plays and still figure out to win a game," Rose said of Hartsock.
The Cougars whipped USD by 36 points, 88-52, in Provo a little more than two weeks ago. The Toreros put up a better fight on Monday, but it still wasn't nearly enough.
BYU returns home to face Loyola Marymount Thursday (6:30 p.m., MST, BYUtv).
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