LAS VEGAS – The BYU men’s basketball team looks to get healthy as it prepares to take on the winner of the Thursday play-in game between San Diego and Pepperdine in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament.
The BYU game will be played on Friday at approximately 9 p.m. MDT in Orleans Arena.
BYU will look to use a stronger and healthier team that easily handled both regular-season matchups earlier in the season. The Cougars hope to have senior forward Noah Hartsock back at full strength for the contest and the other players that are struggling with more minor injuries.
Hartsock went down with a knee sprain in the second half of the game against Santa Clara on Feb. 18 and has seen limited time on the court since then, including no minutes in the final regular season game against Portland. He has been working to get back on the court at full strength since that time. However, he has not practiced this week, and will be a game-time decision on Friday.
Other key players are recovering from minor injuries. Freshman guard Matt Carlino has been nursing a foot injury that occurred earlier in the season and junior guard Brock Zylstra is coming off an ankle injury a few weeks ago. The one week’s rest should help the players recover from their injuries and be able to compete for the coveted championship.
The Cougars (24-7, 12-4 West Coast Conference) feature four players that average in double figures, including all-conference players Hartsock and junior forward Brandon Davies. Hartsock is averaging 15.7 points per game and shooting 54 percent from the floor, giving the team a consistent threat whenever he touches the ball. Davies leads the WCC in points per game with 18 points, and also averages 8.1 rebounds.
Carlino is averaging 12.3 points and 4.6 assists, and is showing the Cougar fans some hope for the future in this first season without Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery in the backcourt. He is the only player on the roster to have a 30-point game this season. Senior guard Charles Abouo rounds out the double-figure scoring, as he averages 11.3 points per game as well as grabbing 5.6 rebounds per contest.
If the Cougars win on Friday, they will have won 25 games for the sixth consecutive season, all under head coach Dave Rose. This would be an accomplishment few other teams have reached in NCAA history. Whoever wins the game will advance to play second seed Gonzaga in the semi-finals.
BYU defeated San Diego by an average of 27.5 points in the two contests earlier this season, and beat Pepperdine by an almost equal average of 25.5 points. San Diego (12-17, 7-9) is led by freshman guard Johnny Dee, who averages 13.3 points per game, while Pepperdine (10-18, 4-12) is led by senior forward Taylor Darby, who scores 11.8 per game.
The Cougars’ quarterfinal game will tip off on Friday at approximately 9 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised on ESPNU. The play-in game that will determine the Cougars’ opponent will be on Thursday night, also on ESPNU.