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Provo • The night before their second-to-last regular season game at the Marriott Center, BYU senior guards Chase Fischer and Kyle Collinsworth said the team has the talent and depth to make the next few weeks memorable.
But first, they have to figure out how to beat the only West Coast Conference team they haven't defeated this year, the Portland Pilots.
Having lost 84-81 to Portland on Jan. 16 at Chiles Center, the Cougars get an opportunity for revenge at 9 p.m. Thursday. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
"If we can peak at the right time, we can make some magic," Collinsworth said. "We have had some really good games and some good wins. If we can put it together and just play our best basketball, we can go far. It is all about timing playing good at the right time. So hopefully we can string some wins together and make some magic happen down the stretch."
Gonzaga lurks on Saturday night and some of the younger Cougars may have trouble coming back to earth after last week's 91-33 demolition of San Diego, but coach Dave Rose and the captains said the focus is clearly on Portland (12-17, 6-10) because of how the Pilots made 10 3-pointers in the first meeting this season.
Point guard Alec Wintering, shooting guard Bryce Pressley and sixth-man D'Marques Tyson combined for 64 points and the Pilots made 6 of 12 3-point attempts in the second half.
"We have to be better in transition [this time]," Rose said. "They scored a lot of points on us in transition where we let them just get from one end to the other. We need to rebound a lot better. They were really active on the glass. And then we need to guard the 3-point line. They made some big threes late in that game that we weren't able to overcome."
The Cougars (21-8, 12-4) outrebounded the Pilots 44-36 that afternoon, but shot 38 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range (6 of 22).
Collinsworth echoed Rose's sentiments that Wintering, who averages a team-high 18.9 points, must be defended well for the Cougars to win.
"Wintering is great at going with a full head of steam and getting to the gaps, and so we just gotta stop him and find shooters," Collinsworth said. "And I think the next thing is rebound outrebound them, and be physical on the boards. If we do those two things well, we should be able to come away with the victory."
Rose rarely talks about NCAA Tournament chances until after the conference tournament, but he acknowledged Wednesday that the Cougars are on the outside looking in right now.
"This tournament in Vegas next week will be probably as important to win as any tournament we've ever played in down there, because that's probably the only way in for us this year," Rose said.
Currently in third place and in no danger of falling to fourth, the Cougars can claim a piece of the WCC regular-season title for the first time since joining the league in 2011-12 if they win both games this weekend and league-leading Saint Mary's (13-3) loses to either Santa Clara or San Francisco.
"Looking forward to a big weekend," Rose said. "That's the most important thing for us as a staff, is that we get our guys playing and competing the best that they have at this time of year. The biggest thing for us, I think right now, is if we can stay healthy. I think we have expanded our bench. I think we've got a lot of guys who are ready to help on certain nights, depending on what matchups there are."
Portland at BYU
P At Marriott Center
Tipoff • Thursday, 9 p.m.
TV • ESPNU
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 21-8, 12-4 WCC; Portland 12-17, 6-10 WCC
Series record • BYU leads, 13-2
Last meeting • Portland 84, BYU 81 (Jan. 16, 2016)
About the Cougars • Senior G Chase Fischer has scored 971 points and can become one of only four Cougars who have reached 1,000 career points in two seasons at BYU. … They held San Diego to 33 points last Saturday, tied for the fewest points allowed since the shot clock was introduced in 1985-86. … Nick Emery had a career-best nine rebounds in the 91-33 win over the Toreros.
About the Pilots • They are led in scoring by 5-foot-11 guard Alex Wintering (18.9 ppg.) and in rebounding by 6-4 G Bryce Pressley (4.6 rpg.).
BYU in February in WCC
2016 • 5-1
2015 • 6-1
2014 • 7-1
2013 • 3-4
2012 • 6-1