BLACKSBURG — Noah Hartsock and Brock Zylstra handled their answers differently, though came at the same conclusion.
Hartsock was walking away from an interview Wednesday, heading back to the locker room at Virginia Tech after an important 70-68 win, when he finally turned back to a reporter and said that the Hokies should not have been awarded the last possession — and a game-winning chance — after a clumsy BYU inbounds play.
Zylstra quickly said "it went off his knee," referring to a home-team member.
But the Hokies, trailing by two points, had 9.8 seconds to force overtime or win it outright at Cassell Coliseum. After a drive to the basket was contested strongly inside, a frantic chase for a 3-point shot sailed a touch long, off the back of the rim as BYU held on, 70-68.
"The refs, you know, they make their calls. Uh, I don't know," Hartsock said, his usual diplomatic self. His smile gave it away, though.
Walking back into BYU's Cassell Coliseum locker room, he said it "for sure" went off a Hokie knee.
BYU held a 70-66 lead after Anson Winder hit 1-of-2 free throws with 15.9 seconds left. Virginia Tech heeded coach Seth Greenberg's advice and sprinted for a layup and called timeout to cut the deficit to two points.
After a Va. Tech timeout,Hartsock was able to run the baseline, but didn't really choose that option. From the left side, he flicked the ball into Zylstra to his right side. Two Hokies smothered him.
After a brief consultation — the closest official claimed to have a bad angle, and sought help from a colleague — the Hokies were awarded the ball (if the referee crew opted to go to the possession arrow, the home team also would have had it.)
BYU coach Dave Rose, amid the howling of most of the crowd of 9,231 that was pleased with the call (a few hundred Cougar fans showed up), could still have heard one of his loudest, most agitated foot stomps that's been deployed in his seven years as the program's leader.
Virginia Tech, however, couldn't rattle the Cougars anymore during the short break.
"Our guys were really focused. I think we were disappointed, but we were able to put that play behind us and then go make the next play," Rose said. "I think our guys got a lot of energy from the fact (the Hokies) had to score to win the game."
BYU picked up its first true road win against an ACC team.
∫Close to home: Damarcus Harrison had his spirits revived with some extended playing time.
He had nine minutes, including six early in the first half.
"I haven't been playing my best," the highly touted freshman conceded. "Coaches talked and told me this was a second chance to come on and compete again, practice hard and try and get back in the lineup," he said.
The South Carolina native, playing in front of 10 friends and family that made the drive north, hit an early 3-pointer to give BYU an 11-1 lead. It came shortly after he fouled on a Hokie 3-point look, allowing the home team to score its first point 6:55 into the non-conference tilt.
"I didn't think I fouled him," Harrison said with a smile. "But the referee called it on me. I'm just excited to get a chance to step back on the floor again."
Harrison may see extended time as it looks like sixth-man Stephen Rogers has a pained knee that won't make him available in the near future. The Cougars were hopeful to have him back on this trip, but swelling is continually an issue. Rogers had knee surgery in mid-December and has been touch-and-go every since.
Harrison said he was recruited by four ACC teams, and even took an unofficial visit to Virginia Tech.
"I don't have homesickness," he insisted, despite a somewhat disappointing start to his career. "But it is fun to come back."
∫Tip-ins: Brandon Davies scored 12 points in the first half to extend his streak of double-figure scoring games to 11. He finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists. ...BYU had a season-low seven turnovers and had a 23-6 scoring edge off such mistakes (Va. Tech had 15 giveaways).
Jason Franchuk can be reached at email@example.com. Or follow him on Twitter, @harkthefranchuk