Instant Takeaways From BYU’s New Year’s Eve Win Over Portland

Dec 31, 2022, 9:33 PM | Updated: 9:46 pm

BYU Basketball, Gideon George, Mark Pope...

BYU basketball took on the Portland Pilots at the Marriott Center on December 31, 2022. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

(Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball defeated the Portland Pilots 71-58 on New Year’s Eve. It was BYU’s seventh consecutive win and Portland’s fourth straight loss.

The Pilots were without their top two scorers in Tyler Robertson and Moses Wood. BYU improves to 13-0 all-time at home against the Pilots.

BYU improves to 2-0 in West Coast Conference play as they now focus on the 2023 calendar year. It’s only the fourth time in BYU’s time in the WCC that they’ve opened league play 2-0.

Here are some takeaways from Saturday night’s win.

Gideon George is a game-changer for BYU’s offense

Entering Saturday night, senior Gideon George was in a bit of a rut on the offensive end of the floor. He didn’t hit double-digits in BYU’s last three games.

George was pacing for a similar outcome through the first half against Portland. But then he came alive in the second half, as he was a tone-setter for the second period.

George knocked down a pair of corner threes that helped lead to a 20-point night from the senior forward that also included nine rebounds.

When George is having success on the offensive end of the floor, it’s a game-changer for BYU. They will need him to continue performing at a high level on the offensive end in WCC play.

Atiki Ally Atiki continues adding moves to his game

The progress from BYU big man Atiki Ally Atiki continues to show up in stretches of games. During the second half of the win against Portland, Atiki scored eight points off a variety of moves that included alley-oops and facing the basket in the post.

Atiki showed up to BYU with under 30 games of organized basketball experience. So the learning curve is still there for him, but throughout this season, you’ve wanted to see continued growth. He keeps showing that, which is a positive development for the remainder of this year. But more importantly, the Big 12 next year.

The first half was hard to watch

At the under-four media timeout, the first half of the Peach Bowl between Ohio State and Georgia was outscoring the BYU/Portland game. BYU was trailing the Pilots 21-17 in a first half filled with mistakes.

The Cougars ended the first tied at 26 thanks to Dallin Hall’s patented crossover for a three. But the first 20 minutes saw BYU commit 12 turnovers.

Those mistakes from BYU led to 17 of Portland’s 26 points in the first half. That level of turnover will cost BYU games at some point in the remainder of WCC action. Through two league games, BYU is averaging 20 turnovers per game.

The only highlights from the first half were on the Portland side. Particularly from former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Kristian Sjolund. Sjolund buried two deep threes, then had a highlight dunk that was one of the best throwdowns you’ll see in college hoops this year.

BYU took care of the basketball in the second half

During the second half of the game, BYU pulled away thanks to better ball security. BYU only had seven turnovers (still need that number lower), but there was a rhythm to the offense that led to better execution.

It also led to improved shooting from three in the second 20 minutes as BYU knocked down 46% of their attempts from deep. The aforementioned Gideon George led the way with three treys.

Good atmosphere on New Year’s Eve

It’s not often that BYU has a home game on a holiday. Playing a game on New Year’s Eve at 7 p.m. that involved inclement weather on the drive led me to wonder what type of crowd would be on hand to watch BYU take on an average Portland team.

The final announced attendance was 13,793. An impressive showing from BYU fans, which led to a good atmosphere in the gym.

In the second half, the BYU ROC, which was in short supply as school is still out for the holiday, unveiled one of the blue inflatables. It led to a Portland player missing a pair of free throws.

Solid energy in the Marriott Center to close out the 2022 calendar year.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch and his BYU basketball coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s New Year’s Eve Win Over Portland