Fort Collins, Colo. • BYU's Noah Hartsock survived a couple of scary incidents in December one on the basketball floor, the other far from it but the 6-foot-8 junior from Bartlesville, Okla., insists they have nothing to do with the rather abrupt change in his offensive repertoire.
It just looks that way, he says.
However he wants to explain it, there's no doubting that Hartsock is clearly not the same player on the offensive end of the floor as he was a few months ago. He's added the 3-point shot to his game so much so that he's made a trey in seven consecutive games after having made just one in his first two seasons as a Cougar.
"Making longer shots was just something I practiced over the summer," he said. "In high school and my first few years here, I was pretty good from about 18 feet in. So I just decided to move back a few feet and work on that. It has really paid off."
The No. 9 Cougars (18-1) will need another solid outside shooting game from Hartsock on Saturday when they meet red-hot Colorado State (13-5) at Moby Arena (7 p.m. MST, The Mtn.). The Rams' biggest crowd in 10 years, perhaps even a sellout, is expected as they try to beat BYU for the first time in nine games and only the second time in 13.
"It is going to be a great game They have improved a lot, obviously," Hartsock said.
He could say the same thing about himself thanks to his newly discovered shooting range.
Hartsock is 11 of 17 from 3-point range in his past seven games and 14 for 23 from downtown this season, a team-leading 60.9 percent. Only Jimmer Fredette (60) and Jackson Emery (52) have made more 3-pointers than the gangly Hartsock.
Not bad for a guy who thought he was still on the other side of the country on Dec. 11 when he took multiple blows to his face and head against Arizona at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Having suffered some mouth lacerations that required stitches when he took an elbow/shoulder to the face and a concussion when his head hit the floor, Hartsock was in self-described "la-la land" and needed help from trainers just to get to the locker room.
Asked if he knew where he was, Hartsock answered: "New York."
He played just 11 minutes in the next game, against UCLA, and scored just two points.
The month got worse when Hartsock and his wife of seven months, Kendalyn, were traveling to her parents' home in Montana on Christmas Eve. They hit some black ice in Idaho and rolled their car, totaling it. Hartsock wasn't hurt, and Kendalyn a BYU volleyball player suffered just a minor head injury.
In his first game back after that harrowing experience, Hartsock was 3 for 3 from the 3-point line en route to 19 points against Buffalo.
"Noah has always had that capability," said BYU coach Dave Rose.
"But [his] first couple of years here, we didn't really need that. We had another guy [Jonathan Tavernari] playing that position that shot enough for himself and a couple others. ... It is part of our makeup, offensively, to have a four man who can stretch the defense. I think that the last three or four weeks, Noah's confidence in his ability to hit that shot has really grown."
While his long-range shooting has improved, Hartsock's overall game has remained solid. He leads the team in rebounding (5.9 per game) and is the fourth-leading scorer, with a 10.2-point average.
Noah Hartsock from 3-point range
2008-09 season • 0 for 0
2009-10 season • 1 for 4
First 12 games of 2010-11 season • 3 for 6
Past seven games of 2010-11 season • 11 for 17