BYU Is Not Taking Road Test Against Last Place Portland Lightly

Feb 6, 2020, 2:18 PM | Updated: 3:03 pm
BYU Cougars guard Jake Toolson (5) drives by Portland Pilots center Theo Akwuba (12) in Provo on Sa...
BYU Cougars guard Jake Toolson (5) drives by Portland Pilots center Theo Akwuba (12) in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. BYU won 96-70. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PORTLAND, Oregon – The West Coast Conference is now ranked the eighth-best league in the country according to the Ken Pomeroy rankings. BYU (17-7, 6-3 WCC) and its No. 18 ranking in KenPom’s ratings play a big role in that. The Portland Pilots (9-15, 1-8) checking in at No. 272 bog down the WCC’s stature.

Those two square off tonight in a game that looks lopsided on paper, but no one around the BYU basketball program is taking the last place Pilots lightly on their home floor.

“I expect the best game that Portland has ever played,” BYU assistant Cody Fueger told KSL Sports. “That’s what I expect out of every team that plays us here at BYU because everyone wants to beat us. So we’re going in there saying, we have to play the best game we’ve ever played.”

BYU will need to play their best because a potential loss to Terry Porter’s Pilots would be a harsh blow to the Cougars NCAA Tournament at-large bid hopes. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has BYU currently listed as a 7-seed in his latest Bracketology.

In the first meeting between these two teams last month, BYU was led by a 21-point effort off the bench by Zac Seljaas to roll through the Pilots by a score of 96-70. That was the first of a current seven-game losing streak the Pilots are going through at the moment.

Since joining the West Coast Conference in 2011, BYU is 16-2 against the Pilots with the two losses coming at the Chilles Center in 2013 and 2016.

Jake Toolson’s ankle

Everyone in attendance at the Marriott Center and watching on television last Saturday in BYU’s game against Saint Mary’s saw Jake Toolson suffer what looked to be a severe ankle injury. Somehow Toolson returned to the game minutes later and helped BYU get an important win over a league rival.

Since Saturday night, Toolson has been battling an ankle sprain that has kept him “day-to-day.” On Tuesday, Toolson did not participate in practice and instead was on an exercise bike with strength and conditioning coach Eric Schork monitoring.

BYU assistant Cody Fueger said that the injury is something that Toolson can play through and many of the guys on this team are currently playing through.

Elite Company

BYU enters Thursday’s game near the top of many major statistical categories. The Cougars are second nationally in three-point field goal percentage at 42.4 percent per game, third in three-point field goals, third in assist to turnover ratio, and fourth in field goal percentage at 50.5 percent.

BYU at Portland

Tip: 8 p.m. (MST)

TV: Stadium


Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM, 1160 AM

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Is Not Taking Road Test Against Last Place Portland Lightly