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Provo • Barring a bid in the NIT or some other lower-level college basketball tournament, Saturday night's game against Portland at the Marriott Center will be the final one for BYU this season.
But it won't be Senior Night, oddly enough. That's because Dave Rose's team includes no seniors this year for the first time since he's been the coach.
But there's still plenty on the line in the 7 p.m. game that will be televised by BYUtv. After all, the Cougars (11-5, 19-10) are still trying to hang on to second place in the conference standings and keep their shaky NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
And they have a little score to settle with the Pilots (7-8, 15-12) after losing 114-110 in triple overtime at Portland back on Jan. 23.
"We were fortunate that we made a few more plays tonight," Rose said after the Cougars toppled league-leading Gonzaga 73-65 on Thursday night, ending GU's five-game winning streak over BYU. "Big win for us, coming on the heels of a really big win [at Saint Mary's]. That's a good spot to be in right now. Saturday is a tough game for us, obviously. It was a triple-overtime game last time we played them, and we will get ready [Friday], and hopefully play well on Saturday."
Portland lost 61-59 at San Diego on Thursday despite not having the services of leading scorer Kevin Bailey (16.5 ppg) who has missed the last three games with a calf injury. Bobby Sharp, the guard who came off the bench to light up BYU with eight 3-pointers last month, led the Pilots with 16 points, easily his best game since putting 27 on the Cougars.
Rose said he believes BYU's perimeter defense has improved after the Cougars held Gonzaga to 4-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc.
"These guys, they are bonded together through the rigors of this season, and I think the last two games, that has really paid off for them," Rose said.
The Cougars may or may not have played their way back into consideration for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, depending on what bracket expert one chooses to believe. Certainly, they can't afford another loss to Portland, with an RPI of 164.
"Hopefully [the Gonzaga win] helps us. We need as much help as we can get going into the tournament and we know this is a big win for us," Anson Winder said. "They were a ranked team, so hopefully this helps us."
BYU vs. Portland
O Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 19-10 (11-5 WCC); Portland 15-12 (7-8)
Series history • BYU leads 9-1
Last meeting • Portland 114, BYU 110, 3OT (Jan. 23)
About the Pilots • Coming off a 61-59 loss Thursday at San Diego. … Junior guard Kevin Bailey leads them with a 16.5 scoring average, but has missed the last three games due to a calf injury.
About the Cougars • Coming off a 73-65 win Thursday night over Gonzaga, their first win over the Zags in six tries. … Scored 18 points off 16 turnovers against GU. … Nursing a deep bone bruise, Kyle Collinsworth still scored eight points and had five assists and two steals against Gonzaga.