PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – After a tough week in which the Cougars lost leading scorer Yoeli Childs to a finger injury and lost an important game to St. Mary’s, BYU needed to feel good again.
Enter Zac Seljaas, and the Cougars blew past Portland in a West Coast Conference game Saturday night at the Marriott Center, 96-70.
Seljaas scored a season-high 21 points for BYU, while Dalton Nixon and TJ Haws both recorded their first double-doubles in a blowout victory over the Pilots.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said. “It is crucial to who we are to have many contributors and there are so many guys to talk about tonight.”
Seljaas made 8 of 11 shots, including all five of his 3-point attempts. BYU shot 52.1 percent in field goals and 50.0 percent from beyond the arc as a team.
“Well, they were going in I guess,” Seljaas said. “It was because of TJ Haws and Jake Toolson. They were passing the ball and getting everyone open shots. We were moving the ball, getting open shots and playing really well defensively. We hit them in transition where we could get a lot of open shots.”
Nixon scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Haws recorded 13 points while dishing out a career-best 14 assists – two off the BYU single-game record. Jake Toolson also scored in double figures, scoring 12 points while tying his season high with eight assists.
Childs missed his second straight game with a finger injury, but the supporting players stepped up big time Saturday night.
“It’s crucial to who we are,” Pope said. “On Thursday, we had our lowest assist opportunities number, which is really the marker we track more than assists. Today we had 53 assist opportunities, which is a season high. It’s something we’ve addressed the past couple of days.”
The Cougars quickly pulled away at the start of the first half with a 15-0 run going a perfect 6 for 6 from the field with seven points coming from Nixon. Portland scored its first basket five minutes in, bringing the score to 15-2. Seljaas hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, extending the BYU lead to 24-2 six minutes into the half.
The Pilots came within 10 points at 33-23 after a 13-2 run, but the BYU offense continued to pull away. Back-to-back baskets from Alex Barcello and a trey from Connor Harding increased the lead to 40-23 with 5:34 left in the half. A shot from beyond the arc by Trevin Knell ended the Cougars’ two-minute scoring drought and a jumper from Nixon closed out the first half with BYU up 51-30.
Coming out of the break, the Cougars held onto the lead at 53-39 despite a 9-2 run from the Pilots. Seljaas drained a 3, bringing BYU to 60 points, while Portland sat at 45 points five minutes into the second half. The Pilots came within seven points at 62-55 after a 9-2 run.
With 10 minutes left in the game, the Cougars took off on a 17-2 run, with baskets from Seljaas and Haws, and led Portland 82-59. With three minutes remaining, Barcello hit a trey, pushing BYU beyond 90 points and extending the Cougar lead to 91-65. BYU closed out the game leading the Pilots by 26 points at 96-70.
“These second games are hard,” Pope said about his team’s second game in three days. “You saw what happened at Saint Mary’s tonight. This is a hard league. There is all kinds of craziness. The league is insane these first two weeks. We certainly had some fatigue on the floor from 16 to 8 minutes in the second half of this game. The guys responded really well to that. I was incredibly proud of this start. Our biggest job was to help our guys rehabilitate their hearts and souls to be ready to compete. That start is inductive that we are still making great progress.”
Up next, the Cougars remain at home to host WCC foe San Diego on Thursday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m.