Thursday, March 4, 2021

BYU Men’s Basketball defeats Portland in 95-67 rout at home

The BYU men’s basketball team beat the Portland Pilots 95-67 in the Cougars’ first game at the Marriott Center since Dec. 21, moving to 12-3 on the season and 3-1 in West Coast Conference play.

Senior forward Matt Haarms led the team with a BYU career-high 23 points, going a perfect 9-for-9 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. Haarms’ performance is tied for second in most field goals made in a game without a miss in BYU history. Only BYU legend Kresimir Cosic had a longer streak, going 12-of-12 in a game in 1971.

“The guys put me in great positions,” Haarms said. “After they found out that I was doing a great job down low I think they started looking for me every single time. They really helped me have a good game today.”

Haarms’ dominant game earned him the first-ever Daily Universe Player of the Game award with a game score of 46.67, according to an algorithm from BYU’s Data Science in Sports course. The score is the highest of any Cougar in a game this season.

Matt Haarms was named the first-ever Daily Universe Player of the Game, with a game score of 46.67, according to an algorithm from BYU’s Data Science in Sports course. (Graphic by Ashley Pasley)

Looking pleased to be back home for the first time in 31 days, the Cougars started off in dominant fashion, jumping out to a quick 9-3 lead within the first three minutes of the game. 

Unfazed, the Pilots returned the favor with a run of their own, scoring 13-straight points and giving them the lead, 16-9.

BYU slowly clawed themselves back in, eventually tying the game with a clutch 3-pointer from Connor Harding to cap off a 10-3 run. For the next several minutes, it looked as though the Cougars were destined to widen the gap, extending the lead to four with a pair of free throws from Richard Harward to go up 23-19.

Despite BYU’s energetic play, Portland managed to draw up a couple of clean plays to bring them within two, 29-27.

For the next several minutes it was all BYU, however. Caleb Lohner and Harward hit a triad of jumpers to give the Cougars their largest lead of the half, 35-27.

With 40.9 seconds left until halftime, Haarms swatted a layup by Portland’s Ahmed Ali. The Cougars finished their run-laden half with a 37-31 lead going into the break.

Matt Haarms passes to Brandon Averette against Portland. The Cougars had a season-high 28 assists against the Pilots. (Hannah Miner)

The second half started off just like the first, with a Trevin Knell 3-pointer. Both teams looked refreshed to start the second half, as was apparent in their offense, but not their defense. For the first four minutes, both teams scored with ease, but were unable to get stops. After the numerous scores, BYU was still up 46-38.

That’s when BYU put its foot down.

Within two minutes, the Cougars scored a flurry of points, including a pair of threes from Barcello and Spencer Johnson to extend the lead to 14.

The fun didn’t stop there. For the third-straight game, Gideon George came off the bench to provide a spark for the Cougars. Within seconds of entering the game, the junior transfer hit a long 3-pointer to bring BYU to a 65-48 lead.

At this point, the Cougars looked to just be having fun.

With 8:02 left in the game, Haarms hit a big 3-pointer, lifted his arms in celebration, and pointed at the cheering bench. Looking ecstatic, the bench pointed back.

The BYU bench celebrates a made shot against Portland. The bench was lively all game in the BYU rout, especially during a big 3-pointer by Matt Haarms to cap off a perfect game from the field for the graduate transfer. (Hannah Miner)

The 3-pointer left a big impression on head coach Mark Pope as well.

“I think our bench nearly fell over in joy and celebration with the last three from the top of the key,” Pope said after the game, “Matt is a terrific shooter. They just haven’t fallen for him for a little while so it was really great to see that go in. It was just a terrific performance by him.”

BYU was even more unstoppable going forward. By the time the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Cougars had drummed up a 95-67 victory. 

BYU will continue conference play on Saturday, Jan. 23 against the Pepperdine Waves. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2. 

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