BYU basketball: Cougars back on winning track, but next three foes are formidable
Provo • On the surface, Saturday's 86-72 win over Portland at the Marriott Center was filled with positives for the BYU Cougars.
In snapping their two-game skid, the Cougars (19-8, 9-4 WCC) shot and took care of the ball extremely well the entire game, finishing 34 of 57 from the field (59.6 percent) and committing just eight turnovers, one off their season low.
Coach Dave Rose was also happy with how the Cougars had assists on 26 of their 34 field goals. And senior forward Brandon Davies played his best conference game, shooting 8 for 12 from the field and 7 for 8 from the free-throw line for 23 points. He also grabbed four rebounds, blocked three shots and registered five assists while committing just one foul in 29 minutes.
"We have talked about his so many times with Brandon that when he is good, he is really good. And I thought there were times tonight where he was as good as he's been for a while," Rose said.
It was the most points Davies has scored in a game since he put 27 on Northern Arizona in late December.
But there were some flaws, which didn't hurt BYU against 10-18 Portland but could prove disastrous against a better-than-average opponent such as Utah State, Saint Mary's or Gonzaga the next three foes on the Cougars' schedule.
For instance, the Cougars outrebounded the Pilots 23-10 in the first half, only to get outrebounded 18-8 in the second half. They held the Pilots to 10-for-30 shooting in the first half, then watched as Portland shot 18 for 30 in the second half, including 6 for 11 from 3-point range. Inconsistent defense and shoddy rebounding cost them dearly in losses to San Diego and San Francisco.
"I would have liked us to have been able to finish that second half like we did the first half, because I thought the first half we were really good," Rose said when asked if he was disappointed in his team's intensity in the second half. "It is hard to really get a feel until you can really break down the film. But there were some mistakes made in just execution issues. And then they were playing with pretty reckless abandon, trying to come back."
Tyler Haws, who scored 15 points in the first half and 13 in the second to surpass the 20-point barrier for the 18th time this season, acknowledged that the defensive focus waned after the Cougars surged ahead by 24 points.
"I thought our defense was really good in the first half. We had some lapses in the second half," Haws said.
BYU hosts to the 18-6 Aggies on Tuesday (7 p.m., BYUtv) at the Marriott Center. The game was scheduled to be played Dec. 5, but was postponed after USU guard Danny Berger collapsed and stopped breathing during practice the night before and had to be hospitalized.
Rose said when he spoke to USU coach Stew Morrill that night, both agreed that the game would be played if at all possible.
"We put that second. What we put first was to see how Danny [was], how the situation was going to turn out. But I think we both felt all along that we had to play the game," Rose said.
The Cougars played a nonconference game in the middle of their WCC schedule last season, meeting Virginia Tech in late January in Blacksburg, Va.
"This will be a little different because a lot of that scout [report] has been done, and now we have to go re-do it all, because [the injury depleted Aggies] are different. They have a lot of changes to their lineup. So we will have a chance to watch them [defeat New Mexico State 73-69], then go back and put a plan together and see how we do."
Utah State at BYU
P Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv