BYU basketball: Can BYU extend win streak vs. Portland Pilots?

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BYU guard Jaxson Robinson lays up a shot against Utah at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. Robinson poured in a career-high 17 points in the Cougars’ WCC-opening night victory over Pacific.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Fresh off a victory in its final West Coast Conference opener Thursday night at Pacific, BYU is ready for a New Year’s Eve battle against Portland.

The Cougars and Pilots meet Saturday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv) at the Marriott Center. 

BYU has won six straight games after its 69-49 victory over the Tigers. 

Guard Spencer Johnson made his return to the lineup after being sidelined for five weeks due to injury. He scored 15 points and knocked down three 3-pointers.

“Having him back right now,” coach Mark Pope told BYU Radio, “we’re better.”

Meanwhile, Jaxson Robinson poured in a career-high 17 points and hit four 3-pointers. 

Portland, under second-year coach Shantay Legans, is mired in a three-game losing streak after falling 92-72 in its WCC opener at home against Loyola Marymount on Thursday. 

Pilots guard Tyler Robertson averages a team-high 14.8 points and 5.7 assists per game. Robertson ranks No. 5 nationally in total assists and No. 19 in assists per game. He is one of just 16 players to record a triple-double this season. 

Pope said the WCC, top to bottom, is a very strong league, evidenced by what Portland, as well as other schools, accomplished in the preseason. 

“You think about Portland. They had Michigan State beat, but lost in the last second. They had (defending national champion) North Carolina beat, but lost in the last second and they ran Villanova out of the gym,” he said. “That’s Portland, who just lost by 20 at home to LMU. Think about that for a second. Think about the stature of this league and how good the coaches are and the players are super talented and super skilled and physical and tough. That’s why it’s a great league.”

BYU is 8-5 all-time on New Year’s Eve. The Cougars are 14-0 all-time at home against Portland.

BYU head coach Mark Pope talks to Jaxson Robinson after beating the Weber State in Provo on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. The Cougars return to the Marriott Center hardwood Saturday night when Portland comes calling.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

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