Hartsock becoming an outside threat

BYU's most accurate three-point shooter isn't the nation's leading scorer in Jimmer Fredette, nor is it the team's other sharpshooting senior guard in Jackson Emery. No, the most accurate marksman from beyond the arc is none other than junior forward Noah Hartsock, who had made a grand total of one three-pointer in his first two years at BYU.

Noah Hartsock never attempted a three-pointer as a freshman, and as a sophomore he made 1-of-4 shots from outside. This year, however, he has shot 15-of-25 (60 percent) from outside so far. His perimeter shooting is one reason he is averaging 9.8 points per game this season, up from 6.5 points per game last season.

"We're really pleased," Coach Rose said when asked if he was caught off guard by the percentage of shots Hartsock has been hitting from outside. "We knew he had the ability to shoot, and this year we really rely on that. We need it, and he's kind of stepped up, given us a real lift there. So, not surprised [by his outside shooting], but really happy."

According to Hartsock, he has made more of a conscious effort this year to make outside shooting a bigger part of his game.

"I just try and help spread the court more, especially with Jimmer getting double-teamed and Jackson getting a lot of attention."

He has indeed made outside shooting a much bigger part of his game, something that has been helpful in helping to replace the outside shooting of Jonathan Tavernari, Tyler Haws and Michael Loyd – at least the Loyd that went on a tear late last season.

Though he certainly doesn't attempt nearly as many outside shots as Tavernari did as a forward, Hartsock is nevertheless shooting from outside a lot more than he has in the past. In fact, he attempted as many threes in the game against Utah (four) as he did in his first two seasons combined.

Hartsock has made a three-pointer in 11 of BYU's 20 games so far this season, including at least one three in the last eight games. He has three games in which he's made multiple threes, including an impressive 3-of-3 performance against Buffalo.

"The thing was I think Noah could always shoot like that, but this year he started taking them, and we wanted him to take threes because we know he can shoot the ball," said Fredette. "And it really helps out because it stretches the defense out so much more with bringing their four guy out … and sometimes that gives us opportunities to get offensive rebounds [and] opens up the lane for myself and other guys that drive the basketball.

"So it's great that he started hitting those shots and hitting them so effectively, and he doesn't take bad ones. If he's open he's going to shoot it, but if not, he's not gonna just jack ‘em up, so he's very, very smart about it and he shoots a great percentage and that's exactly what we need."

For players to be ranked in ESPN.com's three-point shooting database, which ranks players by their outside shooting, they must be on pace to play in 75 percent of their team's games and must also average more than two three-point attempts per game. Hartsock meets the first criteria but doesn't shoot enough to make the second. However, of all the players that do qualify, only Wake Forest's Gary Clark shoots a higher percentage (64.8 percent) from beyond the arc than Hartsock (60 percent).

This of course begs the obvious question: if there were a three-point contest between Hartsock, Fredette and Emery, who would win? Hartsock has the edge in percentage (Fredette is shooting 41 percent from outside, while Emery is shooting 40.6 percent), but with only 25 attempts, shoots far less from outside. Fredette has attempted 156 threes (42.2 percent of his total shots), while Emery has attempted 138 (74.2 percent of his total shots). Only 16.9 percent of Hartsock's shots are from outside.

"I'll probably come in third in that. Jimmer and Jax are both great shooters. I might give the edge to Jackson actually," Hartsock said with a smile.

Picking Emery over Fredette could be considered a minor upset, but perhaps Hartsock is also selling himself short, considering he is shooting nearly 20 percent better from outside.

Forward depth

One reason Hartsock is so important – not just for three-point shooting, but in all areas – is because of the loss of sophomore forward Chris Collinsworth for the season. After playing in only nine of BYU's first 15 games while dealing with an ankle injury, he recently underwent knee surgery and must keep from putting weight on his knee for one month before then going through two or three months of rehab.

"It was pretty devastating," Hartsock said about losing Chris. "I mean, he brings a lot to our team: great rebounder, great defensive player, and he's just one of those hustler guys everybody wants on their team. It's just tough, you know. It's unfortunate for him. We're hoping for the best, and hopefully he gets better because we're gonna need him next year."

While that has hurt BYU's depth, Hartsock noted that players such as Logan Magnusson, James Anderson and Stephen Rogers have stepped up and found ways to contribute, and said that the Cougars should be okay as long as they avoid more injuries.

If there's any good news to come out of this, it's the fact that Chris "absolutely" meets the criteria for a medical hardship year according to Coach Rose. He is eligible for a redshirt because he didn't play in more than 30 percent of BYU's games during the first half of the year.

"We feel bad about Chris, but we're optimistic about his ability to heal and return, and we'll apply for that medical hardship and hopefully get a fifth year for him," Rose said.

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