With 6:47 gone in Saturday's matchup between then-No. 7 BYU and No. 4 San Diego State, Cougars junior forward Noah Hartsock launched a three-point shot from deep in the corner. Amazingly, the ball caromed off the backboard and dropped through the net.
More amazing? Over the next 33:13, BYU would hit 11-of-21 three-point attempts and finish 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) beyond the arc en route to a 70-57 win and a possible No. 1 seed in both the Mountain West Conference and NCAA tournaments.
This against a team that came into the contest with a scoring defense that ranked No. 1 in the MWC and No. 7 nationally.
"We've been on the giving end of that, where we've shot that way," said SDSU coach Steve Fisher, whose team fell to 27-2 overall and 12-2 in league play. "It doesn't happen often, but it happened on a huge stage in a monumental game and (BYU) delivered. They were better than a good team; they were a sensational team."
Falcons Stop Skid
Prior to Saturday's 74-57 win over Colorado State, Air Force (14-13, 5-9) had been mired in a season-long four-game losing streak and had dropped six of its previous eight.
Against the Rams, four Falcon players (led by Michael Lyons' 21 points) scored in double figures and Air Force limited CSU to 32.2 percent shooting, the lowest by an MWC opponent this season.
"I thought we played with a great sense of urgency," said Falcons coach Jeff Reynolds, whose team also snapped a three-game losing streak against CSU. "I think the dynamics of the schedule, with our league being so good, sometimes you can play pretty good basketball and not get a win. It's hard on your team physically and mentally. It was good for us to get a win against a good team and let them see that hard work does pay off."
Air Force senior guard Evan Washington set a school record by making his 107th career start on Saturday.
A Senior's Steady Hand
It's not been the easiest of seasons for New Mexico senior point guard Dairese Gary. Directing traffic on a team comprised of four underclassmen, including two freshmen, the all-conference performer has largely served as a coach on the floor.
In Saturday's 80-70 win at TCU, however, the teacher turned into a terror, scoring a career-high 32 points.
With his team trailing 50-46 in the second half, Gary fueled a 27-8 run in which he scored 14 points. His final point total was the most by Lobos player since J.R. Giddens scored 36 against Wyoming on Feb. 9, 2008. Gary's performance came on the heels of a 26-point outing against UNLV on Wednesday and marked the first time a New Mexico player had posted consecutive 25-point games since Tony Dandridge had 29 in games against Utah and Wyoming in 2009. Gary scored 23 points in the second half against TCU and 20 of the team's final 29 over the last 9:33.
The conference's all-time assists leader, Gary also became the league's all-time leader in career starts when he made his 127th on Saturday.
"Because of Darington (Hobson) leaving early for the NBA last year, he (Gary) has been left by himself with a very young, inexperienced team and he's just been tremendous," said coach Steve Alford. "He's been patient with this team and he's been a very good leader. He's had to score more than what he's probably honestly capable of, because that's really not his role and he probably doesn't relish it, but he's just done everything he can possibly do to help us win games."
Willis Hits His Stride
After battling a lingering knee problem for much of the season, UNLV senior guard Tre'Von Willis appears to have found his groove, stringing together two of his strongest performances of the year in an overtime win at New Mexico and a home victory against Wyoming. Willis torched the nets with 14-of-21 shooting from the field, including an 8-of-11 effort from 3-point range, while averaging 20.0 points over the two contests. He has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games with two 20-point outings during that stretch, including his season-high 25 at UNM.
"I think it's really been about him being healthier," said coach Lon Kruger, whose team sits at 22-7 overall and 10-5 in league play. "The last two weeks have probably been a stretch in which he's felt as good as he has all year. He tweaked his knee a little bit at Colorado State (on Feb. 19) and that set him back a little, but he had a really gritty effort against New Mexico, and he probably felt as healthy for the Wyoming game as he has during conference play. I think that combined with knowing there are just a few games left in his senior year has him very focused right now."
Fighting the Good Fight
With TCU (10-20, 1-14) having lost 12 straight and facing the possibility of entering next week's conference tournament with one league win, it might be easy for the team's players to cash it in and start anew in 2010-11.
According to coach Jim Christian, however, such is not the case.
"When you've gone through the stretch we have, it's easy for players to become disconcerted or not try hard," Christian said. "But we've got good kids and I think we have the right kind of foundation to build a successful program with our younger players and the guys we have returning.
"You win with character, and if we're going to turn this around, it's going to take strong-character people to do it. I think we have the people in place to do that. We have players who just keep fighting through it and I think they're starting to see how they fit into the foundation and they're starting to see the big picture. Nobody likes losing, but these guys aren't about to quit."
Slow the Pace, Increase the Wins
Utah coach Jim Boylen, citing concerns about his team's high turnover count, has opted to slow the pace of his offense. The move would appear to be paying dividends, as the Utes (6-8, 13-15) have won three straight after dropping five in a row.
"I just didn't like how we were playing during that first 10 or 12 seconds of the shot clock," Boylen said. "We were turning the ball over way too much and I didn't like our shots-on-goal. So I said if we're not going to get anything during those first 10-14 seconds, let's find a layup or something wide open. If we don't have numbers, we're going to walk it up to halfcourt. It just really came down to poor shot selection, turnovers and poor decisions. I just felt we were putting too much pressure on our guys to score early in the shot clock."
With his team having dropped three straight to in falling to 18-10 overall and 8-6 in league play, Colorado State coach Tim Miles knows his team's chances of garnering an NCAA Tournament bid could be slipping away.
But with this year's tournament field expanded to 68 teams and the MWC Tournament looming at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas next week, the Rams, who averaged a conference-best 80.5 points in games against league leader BYU, can't be counted out just yet. At last year's MWC Tournament, the Rams came within a point of knocking off eventual champion San Diego State.
"I like the idea of having 68 teams," Miles said. "The last four teams to get into the tournament probably do have a little hitch in their giddyup, but that's what makes it great. Kids get a chance to fight their way into the tournament and get a chance to prove themselves. I know coaches who get fired for not making the tournament would like to see more teams in, but at the same time you want a competitive tournament."
The Pleasure's Mine
Five games into his tenure as interim head coach at Wyoming, Fred Langley, who has guided the team to two of its three conference wins, is having a difficult time disguising his passion for the job.
"I'm having a blast," said Langley. "It's always been a goal of mine to be a Division I head coach and to help jump-start a program. But I'm just having a blast, and I think the guys are having a good time. Obviously, we'd like to win some more games, but I'm pleased with the effort and with just how well the guys are staying together."