BYU men’s basketball gets third straight conference win with victory over Portland

Four Cougars score in double figures in 78-65 victory.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars forward Seneca Knight (24) celebrates a dunk in the final minutes in WCC basketball action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Portland Pilots, at the Marriott Center, on Saturday, January 22, 2022.

Provo • Seneca Knight launched a corner 3-pointer with just seconds remaining in the first half. The first-year BYU guard had just made one on the previous possession, giving the Cougars their first lead of the game to that point.

When Knight swished another long ball as the clock expired, the crowd erupted with glee, and Knight bounced up and down while slapping five with fans courtside. While the Cougars led by only five at that point, Knight’s shot provided the spark they needed to pick up yet another win in the West Coast Conference.

The Cougars got their third straight WCC win with a 78-65 victory over the Portland Pilots on Saturday at the Marriott Center. The Cougars used a late 10-0 push to build a 17-point lead and secure the win after the game had been close for the most part.

“Our goal tonight was to try and touch the paint,” coach Mark Pope said. “We had to find a way to touch the paint. They pack it in, they switch a lot of ball screens, they’re bringing a lot of people, so it’s hard to get downhill.”

The Cougars were definitely able to find the paint. They outscored Portland 32-16 in that category and also won the battle of the bench points, 27-15. Knight led the bench squad in scoring, but Spencer Johnson’s defense allowed him to have the biggest plus-minus among the reserves.

BYU was plus-21 with Johnson on the court.

“I wonder why I ever take him out of the game,” Pope said of Johnson. “He’s so impactful on the court. ... His work defensively is such a gift to our team because he just goes out there and disrupts everything.”

The win improves BYU’s record to 17-4 (5-1 WCC) and could get the Cougars closer to cracking the Associated Press Top 25 after being just two spots out to start the week.

Four players scored in double figures for the Cougars. Te’Jon Lucas led the way with 16 points and seven assists. Knight tied his career high of 14 points for the second straight game, while Fousseyni Traore and Caleb Lohner added 13 points apiece. Traore, who celebrated a birthday Saturday, added 10 rebounds and four assists, and did not miss from the field.

Alex Barcello finished the game with nine points, five rebounds and four assists on 3-of-10 shooting from the field.