Provo • Still without its leading scorer, and days after falling in overtime at Saint Mary’s, BYU came out hot on Saturday night. So hot, the Cougars were hitting all of their early shots while preventing Portland to score even one basket.
But as quickly as BYU heated up, it also cooled down. The Cougars struggled to play consistently throughout the game — until the latter stages.
However, the Cougars’ fast start — and complete team effort — proved to be enough to hold back Portland as BYU beat the Pilots 96-70 at the Marriott Center.
“We all battle frustration during the game,” senior Zac Seljaas said. “Sometimes the other team goes on a run and that’s when you have to get together as a team and to be able to come together and just keep fighting. Everyone has ups and downs and you’ve just got to be able to fight through it and be able to stay up. It’s hard to be 100% the whole time through all 40 minutes, so you just have to play as hard as you can for all 40 minutes. That’s what we did. We fought through that frustration and we just came together and we battled.”
Six players scored in double digits to help propel the Cougars.
Off the bench, Seljaas dropped a team-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting (5 of 5 from 3-point range), followed by Dalton Nixon (14), TJ Haws (13), Kolby Lee (13), Jake Toolson (12) and Alex Barcello (11).
Haws also added a career-high 14 assists and Nixon posted his first double-double with 11 rebounds.
BYU opened the game on a 15-0 run, led by 6-of-6 shooting, to stun the Pilots. Portland eventually scored, but BYU continued building its lead, 24-2, until the Pilots finally found their footing.
“It was a great start, and it started with the defensive end,” Nixon said. “We knew, coming into this game, Portland is a really good team – they got up on the Zags early on. So, we really wanted to set the tone early. Defensively we were great and got out, made shots. That team fought back, but we responded really well throughout the whole night.”
Portland quickly responded with a small 6-0 run, and later made six consecutive shots to mount a larger 13-2 run.
BYU was held scoreless for more than two minutes until Barcello drilled back-to-back baskets.
By halftime, the Cougars led 51-30. The 51 points at the half tied for most points scored in a first half this season, set previously against Montana Tech and Weber State.
During the second half, the Cougars started getting plagued with fatigue, which allowed the Pilots to cut their deficit to 7.
Pope could tell his team was running out of gas, so he called a timeout.
“We needed a moment to collect ourselves and let those guys get pointed in the right direction where they remember how much they love this game, remember how much they’ve invested in this game and remember how important every single second they’re on the floor is,” Pope said. “And sometimes with fatigue and frustration and just the constant need for energy, that can go away. That’s what that timeout was about.”
Shortly after that, the Cougars responded with a 17-2 run to help close out the game.
Pope was proud of the way the team responded to its overtime loss at Saint Mary’s two days prior, and the way they were able to recognize their mistakes from the last game and try to correct them.
As far as when Yoeli Childs will return to action, it is still unclear, Pope said. Childs suffered an open dislocation of the right index finger during Tuesday’s practice. While Childs has regained a little bit of mobility (Pope said he can bend his finger a little), the main concern is to get the open wound to close.
“With these joints, infection is a huge concern,” he said. “The closing of that wound is really important. And hopefully it’s sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, these guys are going to come battle like they have.”