GAME NOTES: The BYU Cougars head to the Chiles Center Saturday coming off a huge win over league foe Gonzaga, as Portland plays host to a West Coast Conference tussle.
BYU continued its fine play of late in notching a signature 83-73 victory over No. 24 Gonzaga Thursday at home. Senior Noah Hartsock shook off a slow start to finish with game-high honors of 24 points and 14 rebounds -- the latter also serving as a career-best. Matt Carlino added 18 points and five assists while Brandon Davies tallied 15 points. BYU shot 49.3 percent from the field to win for the third time in four games. The Cougars gained a 38-24 edge at the break and steamed out to a 19-point lead early in the second half to put things out of reach. The defense did its part in limiting the Zags to 41.0 percent shooting, including a 3-of-19 effort from beyond the arc, while collecting a season-high 14 steals.
Portland earned its first road win of the season Thursday with an 84-78 triumph at Santa Clara, snapping a six-game losing streak in the process. The Pilots rallied from seven down in the second half, shooting a scorching 73.9 percent (17-of-23) from the field in the period and 55.6 percent overall. Ryan Nicholas led the way with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting to pair with eight rebounds. Tim Douglas came off the bench to score 11 of his 16 points in the second half. Thomas van der Mars contributed 11 points and nine boards to the victory.
The Cougars have won each of their five meetings with Portland, including both matchups held at the Chiles Center.
The Cougars own the WCC's top offense, pouring in 79.2 points per game, and rank second in the league in field-goal percentage at 47.5 percent. BYU's success can be found in a number of sources, with four players averaging double-figure scoring. Leading the way and the conference in scoring is Hartsock, who posts 17.8 ppg. The senior also stands second in the WCC in field-goal percentage at 57.8 percent and secures 5.7 rebounds per game. Davies paces the club in rebounding at 7.8 per contest, also good for fourth in the league, and gives the Cougars a solid second scoring option with a 14.3-point average. Carlino adds a healthy 12.7 ppg to the mix while Charles Abouo averages 10.8 ppg and 5.8 boards. Not to be outdone, the BYU defense is among the best in the conference as well with a top-ranked field-goal percentage defense (40.4 percent) while holding clubs to a respectable 66.2 ppg. The resulting scoring margin (+13.0) lands the Cougars second in the WCC behind only Saint Mary's.
The Pilots would have enough trouble stopping the likes of BYU as it is but the task proves even greater with the team's porous defense. Portland ranks dead last in the conference in both scoring defense at 76.1 ppg and field-goal percentage defense (46.5 percent). The Pilots don't do themselves any favors on offense either, managing only 65.5 ppg while shooting 42.7 percent from the field. As a result, the Pilots' scoring margin (minus-10.6) is not only the league's worst it's more than double that of the next closest team. The sophomore Nicholas leads the offense with 11.3 ppg, but is the team's lone double-digit scorer. Nicholas also paces the squad in rebounding with 7.5 per contest while Douglas chips in 9.5 ppg. Both van der Mars and Kevin Bailey average 8.7 ppg, with the former adding a solid 5.3 rpg while pacing the squad in field-goal percentage (56.0 percent). Nemanja Mitrovic slides in at 8.5 ppg and is the Pilots' top three-point shooter with 33, but on just 29.5 percent shooting.
With BYU's superior offense and the Pilots' noted struggles on the defensive side, this one could be over early.