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What you need to Know: BYU vs Portland (Basketball Edition)

In the 10th meeting between the Cougars and the Pilots, BYU will try to increase their win streak to six while pushing Gonzaga for the league lead. BYU has never lost to Portland, but the Cougars may be facing the best Pilots team in recent history.

Portland will face BYU at home on Thursday
Portland will face BYU at home on Thursday
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The Thursday match-up between BYU and Portland will be the 10th between the two schools. The first meeting took place in 1957 with the last taking place in February of last year. The Cougars have never lost to the Pilots as they are 9-0, but the Pilots are fielding a much better team than in the past and are looking to announce to the league that they are for real.

Portland, OR 2013 (8-0)

Led by Matt Carlino's 24 points, six assists, and four steals, the Cougars dispatched the Pilots without too much trouble. After Brandon Davies put the Cougars on the board first, Portland tied up the game at two before the Cougars took the lead on a Tyler Haws three-point shot. With the 5-2 lead, the Cougars never looked back and gradually pulled away to give themselves a double-digit lead with just under four minutes in the first half. In the second half the Cougars started off shooting almost 80 percent to extend the lead to 21 before an altercation between Tanner Riley and Brock Zylstra led to a Riley ejection. The Cougars allowed the Pilots to creep within 13 with just under six minutes left, but Carlino hit a three to put the game away. With the 85-67 score, the Cougars won their eighth in a row against Portland.

Provo, UT 2013 (9-0)

Back in the friendly confines of the Marriott Center, the Cougars looked to duplicate the blow out in Portland. BYU again started off strong and led by eight early before the Cougars defense stifled the Pilots and went into the half with a 46-25 lead. After increasing their lead to 22 in the second half, Portland went on a run that brought them back to 62-45 but again the Cougars would answer and increase the lead to 24 before the Cougars finished off the game at 86-72. Four Cougars scored in double-digits as Haws led all scorers with 28 while Davies added 23. Craig Cusick and Carlino both added 10.

The Outlook

After another road win the Cougars are sitting all alone in second place in the WCC standings. The two road wins increased the win streak to five and the Cougars are looking more comfortable together. Carlino seems to have found his stroke again and has made better decisions while becoming a formidable on-floor general. With two important games coming up this week, the Cougars could solidify their place in the WCC.

The Positives

One of the unsung stats of the game against Santa Clara is the fact that the Cougars had six players in double-digits. Kyle Collinsworth led the way with 18, while Haws added 16, Anson Winder added 16, Carlino added 15, Skyler Halford added 10, and Eric Mika added 10. Not only did the Cougars spread the ball around with 22 assists, the shooting percentage from behind the arc ended up over 63 percent. If the Cougars can continue to take good shots, the points will come and defenses will have to pick their poison.

With Haws in early foul trouble, Dave Rose looked for Winder to help fill the minutes. Not only did he fill the minutes until half time, he also filled the box score. Included in his 16 points was his 2-3 from the three-point line, his 5-7 overall shooting, three rebounds and an assist. The Cougars bench played well with Carlino adding his points along with nine assists that helped him continue his remarkable turn-around.

The Negatives

As has been a struggle all year for the Cougars, after building a double-digit lead, they hit a slump and allowed the opponent back in the game. At one point in the game the Cougars had a 24 point lead. With a still comfortable 22 point lead the Cougars allowed the Broncos to go on a 12-0 run to pull within 10 with less than nine minutes to go in the game. Unlike other games this year, the Cougars were able to hit their stride again and increase the lead back to 19. For the second time, in the second half, the Cougars gave up their big lead to allow the Broncos to pull within 10. Even though the Cougarscdidn't allow Santa Clara to get any closer, these type of runs can't be allowed against the better teams in the league or the results could be disastrous.

The Keys to Watch

When Portland has the ball: Watch for Portland to get the ball to their junior leader, Kevin Bailey. Bailey leads the team in scoring with just over 17 points per game while averaging two assists and three rebounds. When he has the ball, watch for the Cougars to pressure him, as he also leads the team in turnovers with just over two a game. Watch for the Pilots senior forward, Ryan Nicholas, to crash the boards and make his presence known in the inside. Along with his nine rebounds a game, he is averaging almost 13 points per game. The Cougars will need to make sure they are physical, without fouling, as they try to push Nicholas away from the ball and force the other players to get the rebounds. Adding to the pilots inside presence is junior center Thomas van der Mars. He is a big body that will go after the ball and averages almost seven rebounds a game. He also adds just over 12 points per game so the Cougars can't leave him alone. Watch for the Cougars to get in the lanes and not allow the Pilots to move the ball around. Portland averages over 15 assists per game and so the best time to cause turnovers is before they get into their sets.

When BYU has the ball: Watch for BYU to force the Pilots defense into a fast paced game that will require the bench to play extended minutes. With a large drop off in production from the Pilots bench, the Cougars will try and wear out the starters. Watch for the Cougars bench to outplay the Pilots bench as Carlino is starter material and has excelled as a sixth man in the last five games. Watch for the Pilots to match the physical play by the Cougars and attempt to force the BYU big men into foul trouble. If they can force Mika and Nate Austin out of the game, the rebounding battle could take a turn in the Pilots favor and lead to fast break points for Portland, and one and done shots for the Cougars.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 8 pm MST

Where: Chiles Center-Portland, OR

TV: Root Sports


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

Listen Live via Internet (KSL): Click Here