Portland, Ore. •Brigham Young still can't shoot with any kind of accuracy from 3-point range, but fortunately for the Cougars, few teams in the West Coast Conference have shown the ability to capitalize on that glaring deficiency.
What the Cougars can do is score inside and make free throws, and they did that well enough on Saturday to earn a tougher-than-it-looks 79-60 win over Portland on Saturday night in front of a pro-BYU crowd of 4,159 at Chiles Center.
" "I think it was a real physical game. We expected that," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "This was a game where we had to dig deep and find a way to win the game.
So physical that the Cougars (20-6, 8-3 WCC) set a school record for single-game free-throw attempts with 53, making 38. The Pilots went to the line only 23 times; worse, they made only 10 of those attempts, and misfirings from the line kept the home team from making things interesting when the game was still in doubt with four minutes left in the second half.
Of course, the free-throw disparity wasn't lost on the folks dressed in purple, who were outnumbered but still vocal as the Cougars paraded to the line, taking 37 of those free throws after halftime.
"I am proud of our guys for going to the free-throw line, and making those things, especially at those crucial times," Rose said after BYU reached the 20-win plateau for the seventh-straight season, another school record.
On the other end of the floor, the Cougars played another strong game defensively, grabbing a school-record 18 steals and forcing Portland (6-18, 3-8 WCC) into 24 turnovers.
"I thought we got to their shooters really well, and we rebounded the ball really well," Rose said.
On a night when the Cougars went 3-for-16 from 3-point range and saw leading scorer Noah Hartsock go scoreless in the first half and without a field goal the entire game, Portland couldn't capitalize. BYU won the rebounding battle, 41-30.
Hartsock was 12-for-12 from the free-throw line in reaching double figures for the 25th time in 26 games, while Brandon Davies led all scorers with 18 points, and Matt Carlino (13), Craig Cusick (12) and Brock Zylstra (12) also reached double figures. Zylstra sprained his ankle in the first half, then scored all his points in the second half, like Hartsock.
BYU scored the game's last 11 points to make the game appear more lopsided than it was.
"They just battle ... they had us on our heels," Davies said. "This [win] wasn't easy."
With BYU leading just 64-57 with 3:30 remaining, Davies was assessed a technical foul that could have proven costly, but UP's Ryan Nicholas missed both free throws. Davies said he was trying to be a peacemaker, stepping between two arguing players.
"I wasn't trying to start anything," he said. I was just trying to get between it and make sure nothing went down. But I guess he thought I was too aggressive."
The Cougars played without Stephen Rogers (sore knee), and Rose said Rogers will likely miss two or three more weeks. Up next for BYU is a home game on Saturday against Pepperdine.
Live boxscore at http://bit.ly/y04LUc
R In Short • BYU forces Portland into 24 turnovers, getting a school-record 18 steals, and wins despite more cold shooting from 3-point range.
Key Moment • Trailing 39-35 early in the second half, the Cougars put together a 12-2 run to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Key Stat • The Cougars attempt a school-record 53 free throws and made 38 while the Pilots made just 10 on 23 attempts.