BYU Basketball Dominates The Paint In Victory Over Portland

Jan 22, 2022, 9:01 PM | Updated: Jan 23, 2022, 10:48 am
BYU vs Portland 1-22-22...
Courtesy of BYU Photo

PROVO, Utah —Β BYU faced another challenge from a conference foe, defeating the Portland Pilots 78-65. It was a strong second half performance that propelled the Cougars ahead down the stretch. BYU dominated an similarly sized frontcourt by attacking the rim and dominating on the boards.

Te’Jon Lucas had arguably his best game as a Cougar on Saturday night, leading the team with 16 points and seven assists. Freshman big man Fousseyni Traore continues to shine for BYU, adding a double-double of 13 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. As a team, the Cougars scored 32 points in the paint and outrebounded the Pilots 41-28.

BYU improves to 5-1 in West Coast Conference play, their only loss coming to Gonzaga in Spokane. Portland falls to 1-3 in the conference. The first match-up between these two teams was cancelled due to COVID protocols; it has yet to be rescheduled.

BYU Trails Most Of First Half

Portland started the first half shooting lights out against a tough BYU defense. The Pilots jumped ahead with a 15-7 lead in the first five minutes, putting the pressure on the Cougars to respond. They shot 45% from the field in the first half and 6-13 from three.

Caleb Lohner had the hot hand to start the night for BYU. The sophomore, who has struggled so far this season, scored the first seven points for the Cougars. An improved Lohner would be a welcome sight for BYU. Their chances to win an NCAA tournament game, or challenging Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, rest heavily on his talents on the offensive end.

BYU trailed for almost all of the first half. They struggled shooting early in the half, but turned it around down the stretch. The Cougars stayed alive thanks to senior guard Te’Jon Lucas. The Milwaukee transfer had 15 points in the first half to lead the team. It was an efficient half for Lucas, who was 6-8 shooting and 3-4 from three.

The Cougars couldn’t seem to keep momentum in the half. They turned the ball over six times, resulting in 10 points for the Pilots. Meanwhile, Portland had 0 turnovers in the first half. BYU took back the lead on a Seneca Knight three-pointer with 50 seconds left in the half. He hit one more three at the buzzer to send the Cougars into the locker room leading Portland 39-34.

Efficient Second Half Puts Portland Away

BYU’s freshmen duo led the Cougars out of the half. Birthday boy Fousseyni Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki scored 11 of the team’s first 18 points in the second half to extend the lead to double-digits. The roommates/TikTok stars attacked Portland’s lack of size at the rim like seasoned veterans.

After a relatively clean first half, the Pilots found foul trouble early in the second half. BYU attempted 0 free throws in the first 20 minutes, they were 7-11 in the final half. Portland was unable to keep up the efficient three-point shooting down the stretch. They shot 41% in the second half as the BYU defense tightened up along the perimeter.

Danny Ainge, who was honored alongside the 1981 Elite Eight team at halftime, had high praise for BYU guard Alex Barcello. It wasn’t easy tonight for the super senior, but Barcello made shots when it mattered for the Cougars. He scored seven points in the second half to help BYU secure the win. Fousseyni Traore added nine points and eight rebounds.

Portland was overmatched in the paint as the Cougars consistently attacked the rim for easy buckets. The BYU lead climbed to 20 points in the final minutes of the contest. BYU defeated Portland 78-65.

BYU’s Next Opponent

BYU (17-4) hits the road to face Santa Clara (11-7) on Thursday night. They’ll tip-off at 9:00 p.m. (MDT) at the Leavey Center in Santa Clara, CA. You can listen to the game on KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM.

Dallen Graff is a KSL Sports Contributor. He is the Producer of Cougar Sports Saturday (SUBSCRIBE) on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him onΒ Twitter.

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