Louisville—Buzz Williams summed up Tuesday night's thriller between BYU and Iona in a few words.
"I've never seen anything like it in all my life," said Marquette's 4th year head coach. "I thought it was a great game."
Williams has a good reason to say he's never seen anything like it, as BYU's 25-point comeback win was the largest deficit overcome in NCAA Tournament history.
Many of the Marquette players believe it was the mental toughness of BYU that allowed them to stay composed and believe in themselves.
"BYU had to fight back," said senior forward Jae Crowder. "It shows how tough both teams were early in the game. BYU couldn't get, like they wanted to do, they couldn't get the pace they wanted to, so they had to adjust. I think they adjusted well and came out with the victory."
"BYU forced them into shooting a lot of jumpers..." said Golden Eagle guard Derrick Wilson. "BYU stayed disciplined and their zone was able to slow Iona down."
While BYU was taking to the court on Tuesday night, MU was still in the predicament of not knowing their opponent until the game was over. However, Williams and the Golden Eagles made the most of it and focused on what they need to do on Thursday.
"We've been able to work on us, which I think is healthy," said Williams. "What we did was we watched tape on us prior to the start of the BYU-Iona game last night. And this morning before we had the real practice, we were able to clip out things we would typically show the day before a game."
"So we were able to work on some of those things this morning. And some of that I had kind of infiltrated through practice on Monday and Tuesday. But, obviously, we were able to focus more on BYU today than we have in the past."
Now that the matchup is set in stone, the Golden Eagles know they will have their hands full with BYU's starting frontcourt. Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies combine to form one of the most potent frontlines in college basketball.
Hartsock a six-foot-eight senior was actually recruited by Williams, when Williams was an assistant coach at Colorado State.
"When I was an assistant at CSU, I recruited Noah," said Williams. "I think Noah is four years younger than me, I think. And his high school coach was texting me last night, ‘do you remember Noah?' I'm like, ‘yeah, I remember Noah'. I think he's the most effective one-two player in Division I."
Hartsock can best be described as the heart and soul of this BYU team and he shows it with his versatility on the court. He averages 16.9 points (on 57% FG and 84% FT), 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.6 blocks in over 31 minutes per game.
Crowder singled out Hartsock as the key cog to BYU's offense and is ready for the challenge of trying to stop him.
"I watched the game last night, and I think I will guard him." said Crowder. "I would like to do that. I know it's a challenge because he's a great offensive player. He has a great midrange game. He can shoot the ball pretty well. I think he's the key for them to victory, just like he showed last night. I think, if you take him out, they struggle. I'm willing to take on that challenge, but he's a great player."
Meanwhile, the six-foot-nine Davies is more of a traditional back-to-the-basket type of player, as he averages 15.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He hits a high percentage of his field goals as well (52%).
The sheer size of BYU in the post will pose a challenge for the undersized Golden Eagles.
"I think we'll have our hands full with him (Hartsock) and Davies," said Williams. "I think the combination of those two guys in the frontcourt are maybe as good as there is in the country."
Whatever advantages BYU may have in the frontcourt, MU will likely have equal or greater advantages in the backcourt, as BYU has started two freshmen for most of the season.
"I think the way they play, they have to adjust to us more so than us adjusting to them because they do like to double team and things like that" said Crowder. "I think defensively, we can really distract them and take away a lot of things from them. Hopefully, that's what we plan on."
MU senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom believes the key will be the Golden Eagles aggressiveness in attacking the Cougar defense.
"I think we're going to see a lot of zone," said Johnson-Odom. ‘The main thing is not for us to be so passive with teams on us, trying to stay as aggressive as possible. We want to get the ball below the free throw line, of course, and attack the zone from there."
The Golden Eagles will have the chance to prove themselves against a tournament-tested BYU squad on Thursday afternoon, in what the team hopes will be the beginning of a magical run in March.
BYU Cougars Projected Starters
•#10—Matt Carlino—Guard—(6-2, 175, FR)—12.4 pts, 3.0 reb, 4.6 ast, 1.4 stl
•#20—Anson Winder—Guard—(6-3, 195, FR)—4.5 pts, 1.6 reb, 1.7 ast, 1.1 stl
•#1—Charles Abouo—Guard—(6-2, 175, SR)—11.2 pts, 6.3 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.1 stl
•#34—Noah Hartsock—Forward—(6-8, 230, SR)—16.9 pts, 5.2 reb, 1.5 ast, 1.6 blk
•#0—Brandon Davies—Forward—(6-9, 235, JR)—15.1 pts, 7.6 reb, 2.1 ast, 1.3 blk
Off the Bench:
•#13—Brock Zylstra—Guard—(6-6, 210, JR)—8.3 pts, 4.3 reb
•#21—Stephen Rogers—Forward—(6-8, 195, JR)—6.4 pts, 1.7 reb
•#24—Damarcus Harrison—Guard—(6-5, 190, FR)—3.3 pts, 1.0 reb
•#33—Nate Austin—Forward—(6-10, 215, FR)—4.1 pts, 3.7 reb
•#2—Craig Cusick—Guard—(6-2, 185, JR)—2.9 pts, 1.5 reb
Marquette Golden Eagles Projected Starters
•#5—Junior Cadougan—Guard—(6-1, 205, JR)—6.5 pts, 2.1 reb, 5.5 ast, 1.2 stl
•#1—Darius Johnson-Odom—Guard—(6-2, 215, SR)—18.5 pts, 3.5 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.0 stl
•#2—Vander Blue—Guard—(6-4 200, SO)—8.7 pts, 4.4 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.2 stl
•#32—Jae Crowder—Forward—(6-6, 235, SR)—17.4 pts, 8.1 reb, 2.1 ast, 2.4 stl
•#0—Jamil Wilson—Forward—(6-7, 220, SO)—7.3 pts, 4.0 reb, 1.2 ast, 1.3 blk
Off the Bench:
•#4—Todd Mayo—Guard—(6-3 190, FR)—7.7pts, 2.5 reb
•#54—Davante Gardner—Forward—(6-8, 290, SO)—9.5pts, 5.5 reb
•#22—Jamail Jones—Guard/Forward—(6-6, 210, SO)—1.7pts, 1.3 reb
•#33—Derrick Wilson—Guard—(6-1, 215, FR)—0.7pts, 0.9 reb
•#33—Juan Anderson—Guard—(6-6, 210, FR)—0.7pts, 1.2 reb
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