BYU Basketball Will Face Portland In Second Round Of WCC Tournament

Mar 2, 2023, 9:11 PM | Updated: 9:34 pm
BYU Basketball, Portland, WCC Tournament, Rudi Williams...
Rudi Williams will lead BYU basketball into the WCC Tournament against the Portland Pilots in second round action. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)
(Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – The WCC Tournament path for BYU basketball will begin against the Portland Pilots.

BYU learned its opponent after eight-seed Portland took down nine-seed San Diego in the opening round on Thursday night. Portland defeated San Diego, 92-74.

The Pilots set a WCC Tournament record for most three-pointers made in a game with 19 makes.

Mark Pope gives a scouting report on Portland

BYU is 1-0 against Portland this season. The lone meeting occurred in Provo on December 31, 2022, where BYU won by a score of 71-58.

“This Portland team is super interesting. I mean, they’re ridiculously skilled. We saw what [Kristian] Sjolund did here [on December 31], and he’s like their third or fourth leading scorer. He single-handedly put on a show,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “But [Moses] Wood is playing unbelievable level right now, and Robertson is just a matchup nightmare because he’s the point forward, like the truest sense of a point forward.”

BYU basketball is feeling confident after last week’s win

BYU comes into the matchup riding high after a senior night win last Saturday over San Francisco. Mark Pope’s squad finished the year with an underwhelming 17-14 record and a five-seed in the field.

Senior guard Rudi Williams has been coming on strong for the Cougars. After a slow start to his grad transfer season from Coastal Carolina, Williams has limited turnovers and has emerged as a leader for BYU. Last week against USF, Williams scored 21 points in the win.

Portland coach Shantay Legans believes rebounding will be the key

Along with Williams, BYU follows the lead of second-team All-WCC selection Fousseyni Traore. Traore stands out for Portland coach Shantay Legans and guard Tyler Robertson.

“They’ve got a great big guy inside (Fousseyni Traore). He’s an all-league guy,” said Legans. “They’ve got a veteran guard and have a freshman guard who’s coming into his own right now (Dallin Hall) and they have number five (Gideon George), he’s played good every game against us. I don’t want to kill his name, but number five, he’s pretty good, and they’ve got the long shooter, number three. So they’ve got a good team.

“…Our Achilles heel is rebounding. So tomorrow, we’re going to have to get out and rebound, and they rebound the ball very well. That’s going to be a big part of tomorrow’s game. I’m hoping we can get some bodies on guys. I do think we can match up with them but they do have some size and they give us some issues on that end of the floor.”

Mark Pope knows Portland will cause some headaches if BYU isn’t ready.

“They switch a ton on everything; they’ll switch everything. They’ll be really methodical, then they’ll push hard and transition, but then they’ll be really methodical in transition and just try in their half court offense to take advantage of matchups. They’ll really think about trying to find a matchup they like and keep going at it and keep going at it.”

BYU faces a Portland team that has a game in Vegas under their belt

One of the challenges for BYU coming into this game is that Portland comes in with a win already under their belt. First games have sometimes been a struggle for BYU in the WCC Tournament. However, last year was an exception as BYU rolled to a 25-point victory over LMU in the second round.

“The one thing you know about whoever you play is they’re on a winning streak,” Pope said. “They’re gonna come in, winning a game and so there’s gonna be a little bit of feel good and a little bit of getting used to the court and everything else. We’re gonna have to step up and play great basketball to compete.”

The winner of BYU versus Portland will face 4-seed Loyola Marymount on Saturday night in the Quarterfinals.

BYU vs. Portland

2023 WCC Tournament, Second Round

Date: March 3, 2023

Tip-Off: 7 p.m. (MT)


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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’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Basketball Will Face Portland In Second Round Of WCC Tournament