PORTLAND, Ore. – In a road game that felt much like a home game due to the number of Cougar faithful in attendance, the BYU men’s basketball team defeated the University of Portland, 79-60, on the road at the Chiles Center on Saturday night. The Cougars are now 20-6 overall — their seventh-straight 20-win season — and 8-3 in West Coast Conference play.
"We had a good result tonight. Our guys really had to fight for this win," head coach Dave Rose said. "That is what you do and that is how conference basketball is no matter what league you are in."
Five BYU players scored in double-figures in the victory. Brandon Davies led the way with 18 points and grabbed 13 boards, giving the junior his sixth double-double this season and the 10th of his career. Davies also recorded a career-high eight steals, four assists and one block. Matt Carlino contributed 13 points while Craig Cusick, Brock Zylstra and Noah Hartsock added 12 points each. Interestingly, each of Hartsock's 12 points came from the free throw line.
"Brandon had eight of those steals. A lot of those steals led to points or fouls where we got to the free throw line," Rose said. "It is one of those things where your guys have to figure out a way and tonight we did."
The Cougars came out energized and ready to play taking an early 6-0 lead over the Pilots. Much to the credit of Portland’s aggressive defense the Pilots battled back to take a 10-9 lead with 14:02 remaining in the first half. With his team trailing by one, Cusick came into the game and provided an instant spark for BYU, tying his previous career-high by scoring 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting. A Cusick trey gave BYU a 21-14 lead.
The Cougars would hang onto that lead and another three-pointer, this time by Charles Abouo, extended the BYU lead to 8 with 5:28 left in the half. Still, determined to win in front of their home crowd, the Pilots would not be defeated easily as they continued to chip away at the Cougar lead. Portland would go into the half trailing by just five points.
Fouls plagued BYU in the first half as leading scorer, Hartsock, played just four minutes due to receiving two early fouls. Foul trouble continued into the second half as Abouo received two fouls in the first 1:08 of the second half, which sent the senior forward to the bench with four fouls. With 18:42 remaining, the Pilots reclaimed the lead with the score 35-34.
A young Portland line-up continued to give the Cougars their best but after spending the majority of the first half on the bench, Hartsock began to power his way to the free throw line, converting 10-for-10 free throws to give BYU a 49-43 lead nine minutes into the second half.
The Cougars began to pound it inside to Davies whose back-to-back baskets extended the BYU lead to 10. The Pilots’ continued intensity could not overcome the deficit created in large part from the free throw line as the Cougars attempted a school-record 53 free throws, converting 38.
"I am really proud of our guys," Rose said. "We got ourselves in a tough spot to start the second half and then we recovered from that. We found a way to win. We figured out a way to get the ball at the rim and get to the free throw line and convert and get stops. We are really pleased with this win."
BYU will return home to take on Pepperdine on Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. in the Marriott Center. The game will be broadcast on live BYUtv.