Portland, Ore. • One by one, BYU basketball players shuffled out of the locker room at Gonzaga's McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday night, heads hung low, not making eye contact with anyone.
Coach Dave Rose was also more despondent than usual after a loss, in this case an 83-63 beatdown at the hands of one of the best teams in the country, the No. 10-ranked Bulldogs. His answers to questions about why the Cougars (15-6, 5-2 WCC) were barely competitive in arguably their biggest test of the season were practically whispered, and shorter than normal.
Sure, last week's 70-69 loss to Saint Mary's on a buzzer-beater stung, but that was more like a flesh wound because the Cougars played well enough to win. They left the "Kennel" with their spirits crushed, their confidence shaken, despite saying all the right things about Gonzaga (18-2, 5-0) deserving credit for playing a fantastic game.
"They are a good team, and when they are shooting the ball well, they are hard to stop," said BYU's Brandon Davies, who was dominated inside for one of the few times this season. Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk was especially daunting, going 9 for 9 from the field, 8 for 8 from the free-throw line, and grabbing nine rebounds. Remarkably, the 7-footer did not pick up a foul in 31 minutes; It was as close to a perfect game as has been played by any collegian this season.
So the Cougars find themselves in the same position heading into this weekend, trying to shake off the emotional wreckage against an opponent which has never defeated them. The Portland Pilots, who lost 75-72 on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to San Francisco on Thursday, host the Cougars at 8:30 p.m. MST on Saturday at 4,852-seat Chiles Center.
"We have to bounce back," said BYU's Josh Sharp, who scored a career-high 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting against the Zags. "We have a game in less than 48 hours now, and we just got to get better."
Portland is 8-13 overall, 1-5 in WCC play, but has some talented scorers, including junior forward Ryan Nicholas and sophomore guard Kevin Bailey, and gave BYU some trouble last year here before losing 76-66 in late February.
One of the Cougars' priorities will be to get Tyler Haws back on track. He's still the leading scorer in the conference with a 20.6 average, but was 0 for 9 against Gonzaga and finished with just 1 point. Haws entered the game having scored 13 points or more in 19 of BYU's previous 20 games and 20 points or more in 14 games.
"Give a lot of credit to Gonzaga, they really shut down Ty," Rose said. "We knew this was going to be a tough test playing a top-10 team on their home floor they've got it all."
BYU at Portland
O At Chiles Arena (Portland)
Tipoff • 8:30 p.m. MST
TV • ESPNU. Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 15-6, 5-2 WCC; Portland 8-13, 1-5 WCC)
Series history • BYU leads, 5-0
Last meeting • BYU 76, Portland 66 (Feb. 25, 2012)
About the Pilots • They lost 75-72 at the buzzer on Thursday night against San Francisco as USF's Cole Dickerson made a three-pointer with 0.1 seconds left. … Junior forward Ryan Nicholas scored a game-high 23 points in the loss, and sophomore guard Kevin Bailey added 15. … They shot 51 percent from the field and outrebounded the Dons 28-17.
About the Cougars • Josh Sharp scored a career-high 14 points in Thursday's 83-63 loss at Gonzaga. Matt Carlino added 11 points and has scored in double figures in seven straight games. … They scored just 21 points in the first half against the Zags, a season low in any half, and their seventh halftime deficit of the season. … BYU's bench outscored GU's bench 17-10.