If there’s one thing that should be on BYU’s list of New Year’s resolutions, it’s probably lower turnover.
It’s something that’s haunted the Cougars all season long, and they were in the mood to give it back on Saturday night on New Year’s Eve at the Marriott Center against Portland at the West Coast Conference home opener.
In the first half, the Pilots outscored BYU 17-0 in points from turnovers and the two teams were tied at halftime.
But thanks to a strong second half, the Cougars overcame those mistakes and pulled away from Portland to record a 71-58 win.
In the second half, BYU turned things around by outscoring the Pilots 12-3 in points from turnovers.
With the win, the Cougars extended their winning streak to seven games. They improved to 12-5 overall and went 2-0 in WCC play.
“It was on our cards that this team was able to get[seven straight wins]right after a really difficult start. They were able to pull this off,” coach Mark Pope said at BYU. “I couldn’t be more proud or happier for them. A true tribute to these kids.”
Gideon George led the way to BYU with a team-high 20 points. This includes his 15 points in his final 20 minutes. From the floor he shot 8 of 17. He also recorded his nine rebounds, a game-high.
Atiki Ally Atiki scored all eight goals in the second half. Husseini he Traoré finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Spencer he Johnson added his nine points.
In games, BYU beats Portland by 49% to 38%. In the second half, the Cougars hit 16 of 25 shots from the floor — 64%.
BYU held Portland to 6 of 21 shooting from 3-point range.
“Two weeks ago, we took a good look at ourselves because it became abundantly clear that we were a massive disaster that would protect us from three,” Pope said. We were stuck in rotation…we made a lot of adjustments.
“This team is so new, so young, they’re literally figuring things out in front of us and getting live reps right in front of us. Look at them tonight. I thought it was unbelievable.It was a lot of fun for me.” — Mark Pope, BYU Coach
And those adjustments are paying off.
Meanwhile, the Cougars outscored the Pilots, 37-26. Meanwhile, they finished with 19 turnovers.
But Pope was happy with how his players were doing and had a strong second half.
“This team is so new, so young, they’re literally figuring things out in front of us and getting live reps right in front of us,” he said. “I saw them tonight and thought it was unbelievable. It was a lot of fun for me.”
Portland (8-9, 0-2) played short-handed on Saturday without top two scorers Tyler Robertson and Moses Wood on Saturday.
But 6-foot-8 Norwegian forward Christian Sjölund paid more. I put in my best 32 points.
Sjolund put on a show, scoring more than half of his team’s points.
BYU led 17-9 midway through the first half and appeared to be running away with the game as Portland missed their first 10 shots from the field.
However, the Cougars spent nearly five minutes scoreless during the stretch spinning the ball more than seven times. Portland capitalized with a back to back 12-0 run, including nine straight points by Shawland.
The Pilots had an initial lead of 21-17, at which point the Pilots had taken 14 from BYU turnovers.
George’s bucket and Darrin Hall’s 3-pointer tied the score at 26-26 at halftime.
To start the second half, George hit some big 3-pointers and Noah Waterman added another 3 to help the Cougars take a breather at 38-29.
BYU maintained their lead, but it was still too close for comfort.
The Cougars led 52-45 before a layup from Johnson followed by six straight points from Attiki and a huge 3-pointer from Jackson Robinson. This lifted BYU to his biggest lead of 14 points (63-49) with 4:56 remaining.
From there, the Cougars were victorious.
With this win, BYU is now on New Year’s Eve with an all-time record of 9-5. The Cougars are 15-0 at home against Portland.
BYU will visit Loyola Marymount on Thursday.