Louisville • It was billed as a showdown between two of the best senior forwards in the country, BYU’s Noah Hartsock and Marquette’s Jae Crowder.
But it wasn’t a fair fight — thanks to Hartsock’s monthlong struggle with various left leg injuries and how he uncharacteristically picked up three early fouls and spent half the first half and a good chunk of the second half on the bench in foul trouble.
Using Crowder’s phenomenal game and a strong performance from fellow senior Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette dumped BYU 88-68 in an NCAA Tournament game Thursday afternoon.
“No excuses,” Hartsock said. “Yeah, [the ankle] hurt a lot, especially after not playing in a while, then playing and trying to come back two days later. It is not 100 percent, but I mean, it is just one of those things you have to play through, especially toward the end of the year.”
Crowder, the Big East Player of the Year, finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds in 35 minutes. Hartsock scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, when he actually got a chance to play a little bit, but did not corral a rebound in 23 minutes.
“I am going to bet that his ankle is pretty sore, and the reason I say that is because he played 23 minutes, I think without a rebound,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “Noah is a competitor, and his line is [normally] offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, points, blocks. And tonight, that was difficult for him.”
Brandon Davies carried the Cougars offensively with 19 points and 12 rebounds, but was just 5-of-11 from the free-throw line. The Cougars were outscored 36-22 in the paint, as Johnson-Odom continually got inside for easy baskets and finished with 20 points. Crowder did some of his damage with six offensive boards.
“They did a great job of attacking the offensive glass,” Hartsock said. “Anytime a shot went up, it just seemed like their whole team was out there jumping and going after it. That’s what they did all year, getting a lot of second-chance points.”
The most frustrating part of Hartsock’s foul woes for the Cougars was that two were called while BYU had the ball, perhaps the star’s only two non-charging offensive fouls of the season.
“Just made some foolish errors on my part,” Hartsock said. “It is tough being on the bench watching your team play. … Second half, we made some runs, but not enough to get the victory.”
Hartsock said he will take the next few weeks off from basketball to heal up and “get my new nose” after it was broken countless times in his four-year college career.
“Then I will hopefully find a career playing some professional ball for a little bit longer,” he said.
Battle of the senior stars
BYU’s Noah Hartsock • 6-for-14 shooting, 15 points, 0 rebounds in 23 minutes
Marquette’s Jae Crowder • 10-for-20 shooting, 25 points, 16 rebounds in 35 minutes