DATE & TIME: Saturday February 25th, 6:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Marriott Center (22,700) -- Provo, Utah. Television: BYUtv. Home Record: UP 3-9, BYU 12-3. Away Record: UP 1-13, BYU 8-3. Neutral Record: UP 2-0, BYU 3-1. Conference Record: UP 3-12, BYU 11-4. Series Record: B-Y-U leads, 6-0.
GAME NOTES: The BYU Cougars will conclude their regular season by hosting the Portland Pilots to the Marriott Center for a West Coast Conference contest which will decide the postseason fates for both teams.
The Cougars are 6-0 all-time against Portland. BYU made it six in a row earlier this month with a 79-60 victory over the Pilots in Oregon. BYU attempted a program record 53 free throws to push past Portland in the first matchup.
BYU will claim the number three seed in the upcoming WCC Tournament with a victory today. The Cougars could also clinch third place if Loyola Marymount loses today. The Pilots can secure the number seven seed and avoid the 8/9 Wednesday night first-round game with a victory tonight. The Pilots will play Santa Clara in the first-round game Wednesday if they are unsuccessful in this contest.
Portland lost its fifth game in a row on Thursday as they fell 70-43 against the WCC leading Saint Mary's Gaels. The 43-point scoring output set a new season-low for the Pilots, who are now 6-22 overall and 3-12 in league action. Head coach Eric Reveno had led the program to back-to-back 20-win seasons before this year's rebuilding process. Portland's troubles extend to both ends of the floor, as it is second to last in the conference in scoring offense (64.7 ppg) while allowing opponents to score a league-worst 75.9 ppg.
The Pilots do not have any superstars on their squad this season. Ryan Nicholas has been doing his best to lead the charge with averages of 10.9 points and 7.3 boards per game. Kevin Bailey, Tim Douglas, and Nemanja Mitrovic are all getting into the mix offensively. Mitrovic made the best of his senior night on Thursday. Despite the 27-point loss to SMC, Mitrovic scored a team-high 14 points as he appeared to have found his shooting touch which helped him net 13.5 ppg last season.
Dave Rose has led his Cougars to a 23-7 overall record this season and an 11-4 league record in the program's first tour through the WCC. The Cougars had a shot at a second or first place finish, but came up short and dropped a 74-63 decision to Gonzaga their last time out. BYU fell behind by 13 in the first half and was not able to recover as the Zags lit up the scoreboard. BYU is projected to have a spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, but is flirting with the bubble.
The first year of the post-Jimmer Fredette era features a much more balanced attack. Noah Hartsock is averaging a team-high 17.5 ppg after scoring in double figures in 27-of-29 games this season. Brandon Davies is providing toughness from the opposite forward slot, as he is posting 14.6 ppg while grabbing a team-best 7.8 rebounds per game. Senior Charles Abouo and freshman Matt Carlino are a difficult guard tandem to deal with. Carlino is one of the best freshman in this year's very talented WCC rookie class as he has averaged 13.2 points and 4.5 assists per game. Abouo adds 11.3 points and 6.3 boards to the deep BYU attack.
The Cougars will be hungry for a win after dropping a tough one to Gonzaga last time out. BYU is in a must-win situation to keep itself in the NCAA Tournament talks. Portland has not shown it has the capability of pulling off an upset at any point this season.