The BYU men’s basketball team got to the free throw line often and pushed through some tough shooting stretches to come away with a 79-60 victory over the University of Portland on Saturday night.
The win gives the Cougars (20-6, 8-3 West Coast Conference) their seventh straight season of at least 20 wins, dating back to Dave Rose’s first season as head coach of the team.
Junior forward Brandon Davies led all scorers with 18 points and 13 rebounds, recording his sixth double-double of the season. Senior forward Noah Hartsock had 12 points, all coming from the free throw line in the second half on perfect shooting from the charity strike, but was 0-for-6 from the floor.
“We had a good result tonight,” Rose said. “Our guys really had to fight for this win. That is what you do and that is how conference basketball is no matter what league you are in.”
The Cougars shot 53 free throws in the game, converting 38 of them for a 71.7 percentage, as opposed to a dismal 43.5 free throw percentage from the Pilots.
BYU built off its season-high 14 steals in the Thursday game against Gonzaga by setting a new high at 18 against Portland. The Pilots turned the ball over 24 times, and the Cougars turned them into 25 points.
“Brandon (Davies) had eight of those steals,” Rose said. “A lot of those steals led to points or fouls where we got to the free throw line. It is one of those things where your guys have to figure out a way and tonight we did.”
However, it was also a sloppy game for BYU, as it committed 12 turnovers in the game, and missed several opportunities to build on their halftime lead, watching Portland take control of the game in the early minutes of the half. The Cougars also continued their streak of poor shooting from beyond the arc. They shot just 3-for16 from 3, and missed all seven attempts in the second half.
“We got ourselves in a tough spot to start the second half and then we recovered from that,” Rose said.
In addition to Davies and Hartsock, three other Cougars also scored in double figures. Junior guard Brock Zylstra scored 13 points, all in the second half as he helped BYU stay control late in the game. Freshman guard Matt Carlino and junior guard Craig Cusick added 12 apiece.
“I am really proud of our guys,” Rose said. “We figured out a way to get the ball at the rim and get to the free throw line and convert and get stops. We are really pleased with this win.”
Freshman Kevin Bailey led the Pilots (6-18, 3-8) with 15 points, 14 of which came in the second half surge that put Portland ahead for a brief time.
The Cougars return to the Marriott Center to play Pepperdine on Feb. 11 at 4 p.m.