Snakebit BYU must deal once again with major personnel loss in March
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — It was Shakespeare who wrote, “Beware the Ides of March.”
Maybe he was directing that warning to the BYU basketball program.
In each of the last five seasons, the Cougars have suffered varying degrees of personnel losses heading into March Madness.
The latest in a string of bad luck for BYU is losing Kyle Collinsworth for the season. The versatile, athletic sophomore guard, who is the Cougars' second-leading scorer, top rebounder and a team captain, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in the West Coast Conference championship game.
While the Cougars have been snakebit by late-season injuries, and a suspension, every year since 2010 they have done an impressive job of showing resilience in the face of adversity.
BYU displayed a flash of that resilience after Collinsworth left the game against Gonzaga last Tuesday. The Cougars scored 10 consecutive points after the injury to cut a 20-point deficit down to 10 as they rallied around their fallen star.
Moving forward, coach Dave Rose will be forced, once again, to juggle his starting lineup and compensate for a major void on his roster.
Here’s a look back at the previous four seasons of unfortunate personnel losses for the Cougars.
Then-freshman Tyler Haws absorbed a hard hit in the eye from TCU’s Zvonko Buljan in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Haws, who had started 31 straight games that season, fractured the orbital wall on the inside of his eye near his nose and sinus cavity. As a result, Haws’ eye swelled shut. Haws’ contact lens was shoved against the rear of his eyeball and eyelid muscle, and he was sidelined for the MWC tournament semifinals against UNLV.
Without Haws, the Cougars fell to the Runnin’ Rebels.
He ended up returning for BYU’s memorable, double-overtime victory over Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament. It was the Cougars’ first NCAA tournament victory since 1993.
In early March, just a couple of days after BYU upset No. 6 San Diego State on the road, BYU announced that forward Brandon Davies was being suspended for the rest of the season due to an Honor Code violation.
The news shocked the sports world and made national and international headlines. The Cougars were ranked No. 3 in the country at the time, and projected to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Davies had started 26 of 29 games for BYU that season, averaging 11.1 points, 6.2 rebounds per game.
During the MWC tournament and the NCAA tournament, Davies sat on the bench in street clothes. He watched the Cougars advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time in 30 years.
In eight games without Davies, BYU posted a 5-3 record. And Cougar fans will always wonder how far their team could have gone in the tournament with Davies on the floor.
During a regular-season game at Santa Clara in late February, BYU forward Noah Hartsock injured his knee while battling for a rebound. In that moment, Hartsock, a senior, wondered if his season, and his career, might be over.
Eventually, Hartsock, BYU’s leading scorer and team captain, walked off the floor on his own power, and later returned to the game, which the Cougars won. He scored five of BYU’s final 13 points and finished with a game-high 21 points.
In BYU’s next game, against Gonzaga, it was clear that Hartsock’s knee was still bothering him. He limped up and down the court in the first half, but was ineffective. The Cougars came up short against the Bulldogs.
Then, for Senior Day, Hartsock did not dress or play due to his knee injury. He was relegated to the bench and cheered his teammates on in a win over Portland in the regular-season finale.
In the WCC tournament quarterfinals, Hartsock began the game against San Diego on the bench. But the Toreros pushed BYU to the limit, and the Cougars needed Hartsock, who ended up scoring 19 points, including 15 in the second half, on a gimpy knee as the Cougars won, 73-68.
Fittingly, Hartsock grabbed the final rebound of the game, with 6.5 seconds left, then was fouled. Hartsock calmly drilled both free throws to seal the win.
BYU lost in the WCC semifinals to Gonzaga, then played in the First Four of the NCAA tournament against Iona. The Cougars, a No. 14 seed, rallied from a 25-point, first-half deficit, recording the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history. BYU was eliminated by Marquette in the next round in Louisville.
Prior to last year’s WCC tournament quarterfinals against San Diego, Haws had suffered a concussion and missed several practices leading up to the tournament.
While Haws scored 20 points against the Toreros, he clearly wasn't 100 percent healthy. He played just 12 minutes in the first half and didn’t score his first basket until nearly 17 minutes into the game.
The Cougars ended up losing to USD, and BYU saw its streak of six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances come to an end.
The Cougars accepted a berth to the National Invitation Tournament, and a healthy Haws scored 37 points in leading BYU to a victory at the Marriott Center over Washington in the first round. The Cougars eventually reached the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where they lost to Baylor in the semifinals.
Despite BYU’s run of bad luck, in terms of personnel issues, in March, the Cougars have shown resilience in the face of adversity. That’s a quality they hope will serve them well again this postseason as they move on without Collinsworth in the lineup.
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