Portland, Ore. • The Cougars found the perfect remedy for their road swing blues on Saturday night after losing badly at Gonzaga on Thursday night: the always accommodating Portland Pilots.
Leading from the start, the Cougars took a 85-67 win over Portland on Saturday night in a West Coast Conference game in front of 3,078 fans at Chiles Center, improving to 8-0 all-time against the Pilots.
“This was a big win for our mental approach to this thing,” BYU coach Dave Rose said after the Cougars moved to 16-6 overall, 6-2 in WCC play. The Pilots fell to 8-14 and 1-6.
Matt Carlino and Brandon Davies combined for 44 points for BYU, which led by as many as 21 points in a game that was marred by a scuffle in the second half that left a Portland player ejected.
The Cougars made eight of their first nine shots in the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers by Carlino, to take a 49-31 lead and force the Pilots to regroup with a timeout. But Portland never recovered, and BYU cruised to the easy win.
“I thought our focus was really good, and the effort was really good,” Rose said. “There were times in the first half when we were a little slow with our rotations on the weak side of the zone, and we didn’t rebound the ball and lost some rebounds. But other than that, I thought the first half we were good, and I thought the second half we actually got better. I thought our focus was really good in the second half.”
Portland’s Tanner Riley was ejected with 14 minutes left for wrapping an arm around Brock Zylstra’s neck and throwing the BYU senior to the floor after tempers flared on both sides during a scramble for a loose ball and eventual tie-up. Both coaches went out onto the floor to break up the scuffle, which ended peacefully when it could have gotten really ugly.
“It was just unfortunate,” Rose said. “Guys are competing and then it got to that. I thought the referees handled it well. It is just unfortunate when that kind of stuff happens.”
Carlino said the ejection, which came with the Cougars leading 57-40, just made them angry and they closed the game out well.
“We pushed the ball better than we have in a while,” Carlino said. “I think that was one of the biggest things that we did to win.”
Davies scored on a spectacular putback dunk of a Carlino miss with 7:03 remaining to push the lead to 18, but sprained the same right ankle he sprained in the Virginia Tech game on Dec. 29 a few moments later, and was taken to the locker room.
But he re-entered the game and finished with a double-double — 20 points and 11 rebounds — and said afterward that the ankle was only “tweaked” and felt a lot better than it did after the win over the Hokies. It was Davies’ first game with 20 or more points since Dec. 27 against Northern Arizona.
“I thought that ‘B’ did a really good job of distributing the ball early,” Rose said. “He got to the free-throw line and made his free throws [6 of 11]. I thought that when he had space he was really good and made great decisions.”
Carlino was 10 for 17 from the field and scored 24 points, reaching double figures for the eighth straight game.
“I thought Matt really controlled the game,” Rose said. “...I thought that he was confident and played at a good pace. Six assists, with just two turnovers, that’s a great night, especially when you score like he did.”
BYU’s leading scorer, Tyler Haws, continued to struggle with his shooting after going 0 for 9 against Gonzaga. Haws was 5 for 14 against Portland, but managed 19 points thanks to 7-for-10 shooting from the free-throw line.
“I just think Ty has played so well that maybe expectations are a little out of whack,” Rose said when it was suggested the sophomore is in a slump.
About the only negative statistic for the Cougars is that they were outrebounded 36-30. That was a point of emphasis in the halftime locker room, Carlino said, after Portland crashed the glass early and held a 19-14 rebounding advantage at halftime.
BYU will play its third straight game away from the Marriott Center on Thursday night when the team travels to Pepperdine.
R In Short • BYU bounces back from Thursday’s ugly loss at Gonzaga with an easy win over Portland.
Key Moment • BYU makes eight of its first nine shots in the second half to pull away from the Pilots.
Key Stat • Matt Carlino goes 10 for 17 from the field and scores 24 points for BYU.