PORTLAND — BYU concluded its West Coast Conference road schedule on a positive note.
Yoeli Childs scored 15 points and collected 13 rebounds — his 14th double-double of the season — as the Cougars downed the University of Portland, 72-60, Thursday night at the Chiles Center.
With the victory, BYU clinched the No. 3 seed in the upcoming WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
Elijah Bryant, who scored a career-high 39 points here a year ago, added 15 points and six rebounds while Dalton Nixon (14) and TJ Haws (10) also scored in double figures for BYU.
Having lost four of its previous five road games, the Cougars left little doubt in this one. BYU led from start to finish as it took control and enjoyed a double-digit advantage most of the way.
“These are really competitive guys. I felt like that if each guy would challenge himself to compete with confidence in themselves and confidence in their teammates, and then do what we do best, which is compete, that’s what I was really pleased with tonight,” said coach Dave Rose. “In the second half, we had our issues and we didn’t score as well but we continued to play good defense.”
The Cougars (22-8, 11-6) were determined to bounce back from last Saturday’s 13-point setback at San Diego last Saturday.
“We always want to focus on coming out and doing our thing early and be focused defensively,” Nixon said. “That’s what we did tonight. All week we’ve been really excited to play again and to compete. We had a good week of practice. It feels good to have another win. Now we need to focus on Gonzaga.”
“We just wanted to go and win a game,” said forward Luke Worthington, who scored six points. “I’m just excited to get back to winning. We were focused on Portland this week and we’re glad we were able to shut down the emotion they had on Senior Night.
BYU will end the regular-season Saturday at home against No. 6 Gonzaga, which rallied to beat San Diego on the road Thursday night, 77-72.
The Pilots dropped to 10-20 and 4-12 overall.
As a team, BYU shot 22 of 49 inside the arc — and that was crucial, considering that the Cougars entered the night having made 17 of 85 3-pointers in its last 4 road games. Against the Pilots, the Cougars were 7 of 24 from distance.
“When you’ve gone with just two or three 3s in a game and then you hit seven, that’s a real positive sign for the guys,” Rose said. “That’s a good confidence builder.”
BYU shot 29 of 63 overall from the floor.
“Everyone has confidence in each other,” Worthington said. “We know a lot of guys can score.”
Early in the second half, Portland pulled to within nine points after a 9-0 run. But BYU a couple of buckets by Luke Worthington increased the Cougars’ lead to 54-43.
With 5:21 remaining, the Pilots whittled the deficit to seven points, 61-54.
Moments later, Haws drilled a 3-pointer with 2:23 remaining that put BYU up 68-56.
BYU opened the game by bucking its trend of dismal 3-point shooting on the road by hitting its first three 3-point attempts. The Cougars followed that up by missing their next four 3s.
After Portland tied the game at 11 apiece, the Cougars went on a 13-2 run, highlighted by six points from Childs.
“We scored the ball pretty well in the first half,” Rose said. “Defensively, we were really locked in. We gave up only one offensive rebound in the first half. When you can limit a team to only one shot, it makes a big difference.”
BYU led by as 14 points, seizing a 42-28 advantage at halftime. At that point, Childs had 15 points on 7 of 8 shooting and seven rebounds. Bryant chipped in eight points and five rebounds. Nixon contributed a couple of 3-pointers in the first half.
The Cougars shot 50 percent in the first half.
BYU finished the season with a 4-5 mark in WCC road games.