Matt Carlino crawled out of a deep, dark pit with his heroic career-high 30 points in BYU's one-point win over San Francisco Thursday night.
Leading up to that performance, Carlino was playing in a spider web. For seven games, many of his long shots were ricocheting off the rim like melon rinds at a park trash bin. It was uncanny how they'd lip out, ring out, clang off the side or sometimes even miss things with physical mass.
For a shooter, that's like being a dentist without a drill or Kim Kardashian without a cameraman.
"I was due," Carlino told reporters after he took the game against the Dons into his own hands with 20 seconds to play and hit the game-winner with a drive and lefty floater.
"They owed me," he said.
"The Basketball Gods."
Shooters live and die with their stroke. When it's on, it feels like magic. When it's not, you have to keep firing with no conscious regret or memory of the misses.
That's what Carlino's been doing the past month when his 3-point accuracy has hovered between 11 and 17 percent with a pair of 1-for-7 nights from that distance.
Before his performance against the Dons, he had gone 4 of 34 from 3-point land. That calculates to 11 percent. He made 4 of 6 (.667) in the first half at SF.
Carlino's 30 points Thursday night is the most points by a Cougar freshman in 14 years. Only three other freshmen have scored over 30 for BYU: Mark Bigelow, Mekeli Wesley and Danny Ainge. As a team, 30 points was the most since Jimmer Fredette dumped 32 on Florida in the NCAA Tournament in New Orleans a year ago.
Carlino has 244 career points as a Cougar freshman heading into Saturday's game. Fredette ended his freshman season at BYU with 244.
The impressive thing to me was how Carlino simply decided to put on the alpha dog collar and bark.
He marked his territory faster than a runaway cable car.
He saw daylight and didn't hesitate.
Carlino is a talented guard, but he does have a gunner's attitude. It's in his nature.
When he stepped on the court with that attitude, despite playing with two of the WCC's best two post players in Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies, Carlino took it on himself to make something happen.
A lot of times, that will get you benched, but Carlino turned to his instincts and they answered.
Because of his slump, you'd see him pull up for a shot and kind of think, "What am I thinking?" Then it went in. He started driving like a jackhammer and made his first six shots and went 4 for 4 from beyond the arc. He outscored San Francisco 20 to 19 by himself in 8 minutes.
Carlino's defender, Cody Doolin, didn't have a chance. Some wondered if he'd joined the witness protection program.
The Cougars needed this kind of break-out game from their starting point guard.
Heading into crunch time for determining the conference pecking order for the postseason tournament in Las Vegas, BYU needs all its weaponry on line, oiled up and in working condition.
This is the time of the season when players are tired and banged up, and many players battle mental and physical issues.
St. Mary's, the league leader, just lost to Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount and two starters are fighting injuries, including league MVP candidate Matt Dellavedova (ankle sprain) and top defender Stephen Holt (bone bruise, strained MCL). Holt may not return until the tournament.
The Cougars are fighting for one of those first- and second-round bye slots in the WCC championship tournament, which would enhance chances at a run for the automatic league bid for the NCAA Tournament.1 comment on this story
With a game at Santa Clara Saturday and a showdown at Gonzaga looming Thursday, Dave Rose has to find firepower, especially on the road. He's taking a cautious approach with the return of injured guard Stephen Rogers, and Brock Zylstra did not look a 100 percent in his minutes against the Dons.
Bottom line? Hartsock and Davies need Carlino to be Carlino.
In Thursday's game, BYU did everything possible to give away a win in the final two minutes. Davies was in foul trouble and Hartsock was cramping up and in need of a shot of pickle juice. Suddenly Charles Abouo decided the shot clock was his worst enemy.
Enter Carlino: Dash, dip and done.
That the Basketball Gods gave the UCLA transfer a mulligan this week is a good thing.
Now, can he put on the dog collar again?