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BYU vs Portland Recap: Cougars suffer setback at Portland as defense sputters

Optimism around the BYU basketball program was the highest it had been all season long when the Cougars went into Gonzaga and pulled off the one point upset on Thursday. However, any positive momentum from that was gained from that victory went away as BYU reverted back to some of their old bad habits, picking up a very bad loss to the Portland Pilots.

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The BYU Cougars took a major step back on defense from Thursday's performance, which resulted in an 84-81 defeat at the hands of the Portland Pilots at the Chiles Center.  Chase Fischer led BYU with 21 points on 7/15 shooting while Kyle Davis added 20 points and 6 rebounds.  Kyle Collinsworth and Nick Emery both managed to reach double figures in scoring but did so very inefficiently.  Nate Austin was diving on the floor left and right, and finished with 7 points and a team high 11 rebounds.

Portland has been led by their guards all season long, and today was no different.  Bryce Pressley, Alec Wintering, and D'Marques Tyson all scored at least 20 points, with the trio combining for 64 points on 22/39 shooting (9/20 from beyond the arc).  The Pilots came out hot early, jumping out to a 24-14 lead behind the shooting of Pressley and Tyson.  BYU managed to cut the deficit to two points by halftime, and the game was very tight for most of the second half.

One highlight for BYU was when Kyle Collinsworth stole Portland's inbound pass following a Nick Emery layup and passed it out to Chase Fischer for a 3-pointer.  That remarkable sequence gave BYU a four point lead with 8:41 left, but the Pilots responded with their three guards and Jarrel Marshall, who blew by Nate Austin for an acrobatic slam dunk.  While BYU made the game close in the final minute, Portland made all of their key free throws, and held on for the upset win.

BYU continued suffering from many of their weaknesses that we've seen all season long:

  • Turnovers: BYU's 10 assist to 14 turnovers leaves a lot to be desired in the ball security department.  Collinsworth forced the issue for a lot of this game and led the team with 5 turnovers.  As early on as the Long Beach State game, BYU's losses have been characterized by not taking good care of the ball, and they fell victim to that issue again today.
  • Kyle Collinsworth's scoring inefficiency: After the graduation of Tyler Haws, Kyle Collinsworth has tried to become a more assertive scorer to replace Haws' production.  However, Collinsworth is not a natural scorer and often times drives into the lane with multiple defenders waiting to challenge his shot.  Because he is taking very low percentage shots, BYU is not maximizing their offensive possessions.  In today's game he finished just 4/17 from the field, which is unacceptable if BYU wants to win games in hostile environments on the road.
  • Porous perimeter defense: It's not an accident that so many teams have shot the ball so well against BYU.  The Cougars consistently allow for far too much dribble penetration which leads to layups or kick-outs for threes.  Alec Wintering did whatever he wanted to in this game, finishing with both 5 assists and 8/9 free throws made.  While BYU tries hard to rotate on defense, too often they are coming from very far away from the shooter, making their closeouts rather ineffective.

This is a very unfortunate loss for BYU because it undoes all the good that came from the win at Gonzaga on Thursday night.  The Cougars had moved closer to the NCAA Tournament bubble, but now they are back to being well out of the Big Dance.  They will finish out this four game road trip next weeks heading to Southern California to take on Pepperdine and LMU.  BYU lost both regular season games to Pepperdine last season, so they'll need a much better performance to beat the Waves next Saturday.