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What you need to know: BYU vs Portland (Round II)

Looking to avenge a loss in Portland, BYU will be ready to play in Provo.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The Thursday match-up between the BYU Cougars and the Portland Pilots will be the 16th between the two schools.  The first meeting took place in 1957. The Cougars swept the series last year, which included two regular season games and a meeting in the WCC Tournament, but lost the first game this year in Portland. The Cougars now hold a 13-2 record over Portland.

Las Vegas, NV 2015 (84-70)

Playing in the Semi-Finals of the West Coast Conference Tournament the Cougars had no intention of playing the same type of game they did in Portland, and Kyle Collinsworth would lead the way. With 13 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists Collinsworth earned his sixth career triple double and tied Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Anderson for the NCAA record. The Cougars used an early 9-2 run to take control at 23-14 and never looked back. With five minutes left in the half the Cougars took a 20 point lead and maintained it through most of the second half. The Pilots tried to make it a game late but still fell to the Cougars by 14, 84-70.

Portland, OR 2016 (84-81)

While four Cougars scored in double digits, the team couldn't execute down the stretch and ended up giving away a game that they shouldn't have. Once again things started off rough for BYU as they quickly found themselves down by 13 in the first half. The Cougars did claw their way back into the game as they went into the locker room only down by two points. The second half was close throughout as both teams took leads, only to give them right up again. In the end it was free throws that allowed the Pilots to squeak out the win as BYU played catch-up down the stretch. Chase Fischer led the Cougars with 22 points in the 84-81 loss.

The Outlook

The Cougars swept the San Diego Toreros last week and are looking to finish the regular season strong. The first game was a close battle but the Saturday match up was never in doubt. The Cougars ran away from the Toreros early as they didn't allow San Diego to even score before the first media timeout. Anytime a team can get a 50 point win during the regular season it provides confidence to the team. With two more games before the West Coast Conference Tournament the Cougars are looking good as they battle for positioning.

The Positives

For once it was the Cougars defense that really stood out in a game. In the first half the Cougars only allowed 11 points to the Toreros on 5-31 shooting. San Diego doubled that in the second half but failed to hit a three point shot in 20 attempts. The Cougars dominated on both sides of the ball but turned up the heat on defense in a display rarely seen out of this squad.

The Negatives

The Cougars once again fell into their old free throw ways as they just barely shot over 50% from the charity strip. Although they only took 13 free throws, making seven of them is unacceptable. Regardless of who is shooting the shots, the Cougars need to improve their free throw shooting as they face off against Portland and Gonzaga this week or the games could be decided from the line.

The Keys to Watch

When the Pilots have the ball:

Watch for the Pilots to rely on their two stars again in Alec Wintering and Bryce Pressley. Wintering put up 22 in the last meeting and Pressley put up 21. Watch for the Pilots to also rely on one other role player to step up in the game and cause problems for the Cougars defense. Last game it was D'Marques Tyson who put up 21 points from the bench. The game plan should be similar to the last game since it ended up with a win, but watch for the offense to make the Cougars run around the court and chase the Pilots as they look for high percentage shots to take.

Watch for the Cougars to focus on taking Wintering out of the game instead of allowing him 60% shooting, and nine free throws. Watch for BYU to play physical and force the Pilots to work for their shots and rebounds but to avoid putting them to the line as much. The Cougars were called for 26 fouls in the last game and would like to avoid giving up 22 free throws this time around. Watch for the Cougars to emphasis the rebounds this game as they found themselves on the losing end of this battle in Portland.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the Cougars to continue to share the ball as they try to dictate the tempo of the game. The Cougars feel more comfortable at home and so will be more willing to rush down the court and make quick plays. The Cougars only recorded 10 assists against the Pilots last game and would like to double that number in order to feel comfortable in the offense. Watch for the three point shot to drop a bit better than the 27% in Portland.

Watch for the Pilots to play physical inside as they push the Cougars just out of the paint where the shots seem to drop with less frequency. In order for the Pilots to compete on the boards, watch for them to play the position battle before the ball is ever shot. The Pilots secured the boards last game, winning the battle by eight, including 19 offensive rebounds. Watch for them to use the same energy to go after the ball as in Portland, knowing that the Cougars are tougher at home.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 9 pm MST

Where: Marriott Center-Provo, UT

TV: ESPNU

Radio (BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here