Provo • Brock Zylstra streaked up the court in a two-on-one situation and dumped the ball off to Craig Cusick for an apparent layup. But Cusick, making just his seventh start of the season and first in nearly two months, flipped the ball over to a hard-charging Brandon Davies for a resounding dunk that gave BYU a 21-point lead with just more than six minutes remaining.
There would be no comeback by the visiting team on this night at the Marriott Center.
Emphasizing team basketball, perhaps as a tribute to former Cougar teammates Roland Minson and Mel Hutchins, who insisted their jerseys be retired together, BYU bulled its way past overmatched Portland 86-72 on Saturday night in front of 17,009 to snap its two-game losing skid.
The Cougars (19-8, 9-4 WCC) recorded assists on 26 of their 34 field goals and saw five players score nine or more points, led by Tyler Haws with 28 and Davies with 23.
“I was really pleased with how we shared the ball on offense,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “A huge emphasis over the last week was trying to get our guys to compete together as a group on both ends of the floor.”
It was a long week, too, after San Francisco overcame a 15-point deficit by making 9 of 10 3-pointers in a 99-87 win last Saturday. The Cougars apparently used it well, though, shoring up their perimeter defense, regaining their rebounding prowess and getting Haws, Davies and Matt Carlino back in a better shooting groove.
“I have never been a college football coach, but it is probably what a college football coach goes through,” Rose said. “You get beat on Saturday and you don’t get to play again until Saturday.”
So you work on your weaknesses that losses to San Diego and San Francisco exposed.
“I thought our defense was really good in the first half,” Haws said. “We had some lapses in the second half. We were really focusing on being a better team defensively and not giving up easy baskets.”
Portland shot 33 percent in the first half and 60 percent in the second half and outrebounded BYU 18-8 in the second half as the Cougars’ intensity waned a bit after their lead got as large as 24 points with 9:17 remaining.
But there were no lapses on offense.
After combining to go 12 for 40 against USF, the Big Three of Haws (13-19), Davies (8-13) and Carlino (4-6) went 25 of 37 by seeking out better shots and moving the ball as well as they have all season. Carlino added seven assists, and Haws had eight rebounds.
Davies became the 12th-leading scorer in BYU history with 1,529 points, passing Kresimir Cosic (1,513) and Jonathan Tavernari (1,519).
Cusick added 10 points and seven assists and Zylstra had nine points and six rebounds while playing power forward and holding UP’s leading scorer, Ryan Nicholas, to 0-for-2 shooting in the first half.
“That’s good for us. That’s how we play,” Rose said of the 26 assists. “We move the ball, we share the ball and get a lot of guys involved offensively in scoring.”
The Cougars return to the Marriott Center on Tuesday night for the rescheduled game against Utah State, which played host to New Mexico State on Saturday night.
Storylines Losing streak over
R IN SHORT • BYU recovers nicely from its two-game losing skid and crushes the second-to-last place team in the league, Portland.
KEY MOMENT • Portland’s leading scorer, Ryan Nicholas, goes 0 for 2 in the first half.
KEY STAT • The Cougars shoot 60.7 percent in the first half to build a 21-point lead.