The BYU Cougars closed out the game in terrific fashion, outscoring the Portland Pilots 13-2 down the stretch for the 82-69 win on Thursday night in the Chiles Center in Portland, Oregon.
Tyler Haws led the way for the Cougars on a night where he became the all-time leading scorer in BYU history, passing Jimmer Fredette. Haws finished with 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the floor to go along with a game-high seven rebounds. Skyler Halford and Kyle Collinsworth also made huge contributions for the Cougars in the victory. Halford came off the bench to score 19 points in 20 minutes of action on 7-for-10 shooting from the field, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc while Collinsworth stuffed the stat sheet again with 15 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and three steals.
Kevin Bailey paced the Pilots in the scoring column with 18 points on the strength of a 9-for-9 shooting effort from the free-throw line, but managed to hit on just 4-of-15 shots from the floor, including 1-for-5 from distance before he fouled out. Bryce Pressley and Alec Wintering also reached double figures in scoring as Portland fell to 16-13 on the season, including 7-10 in West Coast Conference play. Pressley finished with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor, including 4-for-5 from distance, while Wintering came away with 13 points, seven assists and three rebounds. Thomas van der Mars added eight points, a game-high 13 rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
Why the Cougars won
With the Cougars clinging to a 69-67 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the must-win game, BYU got 13 straight points, including six from Haws on his record-setting night. Ryan Andrus chipped in with four points on the crucial run while the other bucket came on a 3-point shot from Halford. Collinsworth also made a huge impact during that stretch with three assists on four BYU field goals.
What it means
BYU did its job by outlasting the Pilots for its fifth straight win to improve to 22-8 on the season. It sets up the biggest game of the season as the Cougars travel to Spokane, Washington, to face the No. 3 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs as they fight for another shot at the NCAA tournament.
The turning point
In a game full of big runs, it was the one the Cougars went on at the start of the second half that turned the game around. Trailing 41-33 entering the second stanza, BYU went on a 19-5 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a six-point lead. Chase Fischer was huge during that stretch with a pair of 3-point shots (his only two of the night). The defense came up big at the same time, allowing only one field goal on six Pilots' attempts while forcing three turnovers. Portland also helped the Cougars out during that run by making just 3-of-9 shots from the free-throw line.
Grading the performance
It wasn't pretty, but the Cougars had enough answers to get the tough road win. They got solid contributions out of Andrus and Corbin Kaufusi at the center spot as they helped to hold van der Mars to just eight points while doing a nice job in the scoring department. Andrus ended up with eight points on 3-for-4 shooting from the floor with three rebounds, two steals and an assist, while Kaufusi added six points, five rebounds and a block.
The other guards didn't shoot the ball well, but still provided key production. Fischer had eight points on 3-for-11 shooting with two rebounds and a steal. Anson Winder totaled five points on 1-for-8 shooting from the floor, five steals, four rebounds and two assists, while Frank Bartley IV chipped in with four steals and three rebounds.
After an impressive first-half showing, the Pilots ran out of gas. They got outscored 49-28 in the second on their home floor. While they shot the ball OK (23-for-51) from the floor, they really struggled from the free-throw line, hitting on just 17-of-28 attempts (60.7 percent).
Another area where Portland was hurt was in the turnover department. They committed 19, including 13 from starting guards Wintering (5), Bailey (4), and Pressley (4).
Three telling stats
While the Cougars didn't win the battle on the glass, it was how they shared the ball that made the difference. BYU had 17 assists on 30 made field goals.
The Cougars managed 17 steals (the first time that they had more than 10 in conference play) as part of forcing 19 turnovers. That is their second highest total of the season and by far the most against a Division I opponent.
Zero. That was the amount of points that Bryce Pressley scored in the second half after he tallied 16 in the first.
The 29-1 Gonzaga Bulldogs are the last opponent on the regular season schedule. The Bulldogs are also 17-0 in conference play after a 59-39 win over San Diego on Thursday night.
Kyle Wiltjer carries the scoring load for Gonzaga with 17 points a night on 54.1 percent shooting from the floor, including 46.5 percent from 3-point range. He has plenty of help as five other players average more than eight points. Kevin Pangos is the one who runs the show. He is second on the team with 11.7 points to go along with five assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals.
Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis create a formidable presence on the inside for the Zags. Karnowski averages 10.6 points on 60.9 percent shooting with six rebounds, while Sabonis puts up 9.7 points on 68.5 percent shooting with a team-high 6.9 rebounds.
The other player who averages in double figures is Byron Wesley with 10.6 points on 50.9 percent shooting while adding five rebounds, 2.4 assists and a steal.