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Dick Harmon: Cougars get 'Nasty, in an appropriate way'

Published: Thursday, Feb. 2 2012 11:56 p.m. MST

BYU fans cheer as the Cougars play Gonzaga during NCAA basketball action in Provo  Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) BYU fans cheer as the Cougars play Gonzaga during NCAA basketball action in Provo Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO — There's one sure way to rebound from an emotional, bile-in-the-throat kind of loss.

Just win.

BYU found a way to do just that Thursday in knocking off No. 24 Gonzaga in the Marriott Center 83-73 after last Saturday's loss to St. Mary's.

A poster in the student section nailed it.

"Get Nasty, in an appropriate way."

The Cougars may have scored 83 points to get to their 19th win, the second in a row over the Zags, but it was a total scratch-and-claw exercise because their slump from distance continued to haunt them in this game. Even with Noah Hartsock dumping in 24 points,3-point buckets were scarce, and BYU's 14 steals proved key.

You'd swear there was a lid on the rim for this team from 3-point land. Shots would swirl, spin and the rim would just spit the ball back out.

BYU fans cheer as the Cougars play Gonzaga during NCAA basketball action in Provo  Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) BYU fans cheer as the Cougars play Gonzaga during NCAA basketball action in Provo Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

BYU entered Thursday's game just 11-for-73 in the previous four games from beyond the arc, and the drought continued with Craig Cusick, Austin Winder, Nate Austin taking aim, taking time, gathering themselves, launching with good follow-through yet still missing during the first 17 minutes.

Then, with just over two minutes left in the first half, freshman Demarcus Harrison threaded one from 22 feet.

Harrison, from outside.

It had taken almost 18 minutes in the game for BYU to get that 3-pointer, and that was only the fifth in four-and-a-half games and 77 tries. Noah Hartsock backed that up with an arching dead-on 18-footer with 1:57 before to put the Cougars up 36-22.

BYU's shot confidence from outside may have climbed off that Harrison make.

Brigham Young Cougars forward Brandon Davies (0) passes by Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Marquise Carter (2) during NCAA basketball action in Provo  Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars forward Brandon Davies (0) passes by Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Marquise Carter (2) during NCAA basketball action in Provo Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

But it didn't.

Amazingly, it was the only 3-point shot the Cougars would make for the next 17 minutes. Instead, the Cougars got confidence from how tough a defensive effort the players invested. Gonzaga made only 3 of 20 field goals in the final 15:40 of that first half.

It's tough to explain what brings slumps and what ends them. To that point, BYU was 1 of 4 from beyond the arc. They finished 3 of 12. Still kind of slumpy.

But you could feel Dave Rose's squad change in this game. A team that had lost to Saint Mary's and Loyola Marymount in a span of days in the Marriott Center, found ways to make plays and whittle out a lead on a quality, respected foe.

Perhaps it was the start.

In the losses to SMC and LMU, the Cougars fell behind quickly and pressed. It proved fatal as things mounted and they couldn't jump-start their offense.

Brigham Young Cougars forward Brandon Davies (0) drives on Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Elias Harris (20) during NCAA basketball action in Provo  Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars forward Brandon Davies (0) drives on Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Elias Harris (20) during NCAA basketball action in Provo Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

In this game, Winder got a pair of quick steals that led to baskets and Carlino added a third steal that led to a score. Ignition.

Winder got his seventh start of the season in place of Brock Zylstra. Winder's athleticism propelled BYU on both ends of the court. BYU needed it because the best Cougar defender, Charles Abouo, spent most the game on the bench in foul trouble.

The Cougars must have felt something click. They finished the second half on a 19-6 run. The final play of the first half was a Gonzaga attempt to kill the clock and take the last shot only to have Cusick steal the ball and set up Winder for a cripple. BYU led 38-24.

BYU built up a 50-36 lead with 14:42 to play after Hartsock, who had a 3 for 10 in the first half, made consecutive fadeaway jumpers. He finished 10 of 19 with 14 boards.

Brigham Young Cougars forward Noah Hartsock (34) tries to block the shot by Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Marquise Carter (2) during NCAA basketball action in Provo  Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars forward Noah Hartsock (34) tries to block the shot by Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Marquise Carter (2) during NCAA basketball action in Provo Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Hartsock and Davies found their rhythm in the second half and it doomed the Zags.

One could say the Zags had an off shooting night (41 percent), but you could argue BYU's defense had a lot to do with it.

Nasty, in an appropriate way.

Email: dharmon@desnews.com

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