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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Santa Clara's Head Coach Kerry Keating questions a call to a referee as BYU and Santa Clara Play Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at the Marriott Center in Provo. BYU won 95-78.

PROVO — BYU basketball is working on its defense.

It's a work in progress. Santa Clara scored 78 and shot 47 percent in a losing effort on the Cougar home floor Saturday night.

Defense? No, the show was something else.

Didn't really see a great defense Saturday. But after seeing Santa Clara for the first time, I'll give them credit. They've been up and down and regained some missing players. They proved better than their 0-4 WCC record Saturday and the Cougars struggled for 30 minutes to carve out some separation before etching a 95-78 victory.

BYU keyed its defense around trying to slow down Kevin Foster, but the sharpshooter from Houston with the Adrian Dantley body got his points (22).

Now Santa Clara doesn't have alums Kurt Rambis or Steve Nash, but Foster is a player.

What you did get in Dave Rose's squad is the continued progress of Cougar freshman Matt Carlino, a fired up Brandon Davies, with his four slam dunks, and a ho-hum routine delivery by Noah Hartsock.

Most impressive might be the steady and remarkably consistent performances Rose is getting from Hartsock. The Oklahoman is solid granite nearly every time out.

Davies scored 23 points and brought down the house with a double-team wrap-around fake shot in the closing minutes. After a week off, he looked hungry.

But Hartsock?

There has to be a theme to what you get with Hartsock. Something from the movies like "Ghost Protocol," "War Horse," or simply "The Artist."

I asked him if there was a tag you could put to his game.

"Maybe crafty; I don't know, maybe surprising," said Hartsock.

"You look at me, a balding white guy, think he's not going to make anything. Somehow I'm able to make moves and work through that."

The guy makes it look easy. His patented fade-away shot, his square up drives on level shoulders. His launch technique from fundamentally sound placement of fingers and wrists is something BYU fans are going to miss.

Hartsock made 8 of 11 shots including a 3-pointer and five rebounds. Davies also snagged five boards. The inside duo combined for 16 of 25 or 64 percent shooting.

Hartsock has yet to be held under double-figure scoring this season.

Rose told reporters after the game he knew BYU would struggle to stop Santa Clara. "We had to score to keep up. Going in, I didn't think we'd have to score 95, but I know we'd have to keep up."

Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating came to Provo knowing he'd have his hands full with BYU's inside game of Davies and Hartsock. He also had to worry about outside shooters.

When Carlino went off for 21 points and eight assists, things broke down. When BYU shuffled in a lot of players, he knew his club would eventually wear down.

"Obviously a team like that can shoot it really well from a lot of different spots and has an inside presence. The focus was on not giving them a lot of open shots. I thought we did that the first half." said Keating.

Carlino continues to impress. He's got a gun and he's confident as a buzzard soaring over roadkill.

Carlino is nine games into his Division I career, not even one month of playing time with the Cougars, yet this was his second game over 20 and he's had an 18 and 19 on a team that's trying to play inside out.

He's a little rusty on defense. His decision making needs polish, but when he pulls up, you think it's a make.

"We have a lot of confidence in our guys to score the ball," said Rose.

That's a good thing.

If his team is slow to get this defensive stuff down, he'll need all the firepower he can muster.

EMAIL: dharmon@desnews.com

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