In pursuit of an at large NCAA tournament bid, BYU (20-10, 12-5 WCC), coming fresh off of an upset of then no. 25 Gonzaga on Thursday, looked to make up more ground in the West Coast Conference standings as they hosted the Portland Pilots (15-13, 7-9 WCC) on Saturday night. In front of a standing room only crowd in the Marriott Center, the Cougars made good on that goal, dominating Portland from wire to wire in a thoroughly dominating performance to win 89-73.
BYU started off hot, opening up with a 10-6 run, fueled by great ball movement and transition offense that allowed Tyler Haws to jump out to five points within the first few minutes. BYU's athletic and fundamental advantage was apparent early, as BYU's three guard lineup ran all around the Portland defense. Pacing the Cougars offense with 15 points, Haws had open shooting lanes all night, and BYU had an answer for every move that the Pilots attempted, killing attempted rallies with surgical shots from long range and smothering defense on the back end. BYU's guards dominated in transition, and their bigs clogged up passing lanes in the paint.
When Portland threatened to make a run and cut BYU's lead to single digits, Matt Carlino added back to back threes late in the first half to extend BYU's lead to 14. Carlino almost immediately nailed another three pointer to double up the Pilots, 33-16, before they managed to respond with a few baskets of their own. Carlino would finish with 30 points, including eight total three pointers. Anson Winder also contributed off of the bench with 19. Kyle Collinsworth played bigger than his stature on defense with 11 rebounds in addition to his 7 points. Portland looked to regain a bit of momentum going into the half, as Bobby Sharp heated up and the Pilots cut BYU's lead to 10, before a dynamic steal by Frank Bartley, who knifed through the Portland defense in transition before kicking out to Carlino, who buried his fourth three of the night to extend the lead to 13 to end the half and slam the door on Portland's rally.
The second half was more of the same, as BYU shot 55% and at one point led by more than 25. Portland had four players in double figures, but it didn't matter, as the Cougars dominated. Ryan Nicholas and Sharp led the Pilots with 17 and 16 points respectively.
BYU strengthened their case for an at large NCAA berth and positioned themselves well to make a run in the conference tournament as long as they are able to take care of business against struggling San Diego on Saturday March 1st.