PORTLAND, Ore. — BYU is hoping the back end of its road trip to the Pacific Northwest goes much better than the front end went Thursday at Gonzaga.
The Cougars, who were soundly beaten by the No. 10 Zags in Spokane, 83-63, visit Portland Saturday (8:30 p.m. MST, ESPNU).
Immediately after Thursday's loss, coach Dave Rose talked to his team in the visitors' locker room at the McCarthey Athletic Center about improving.
"We have to bounce back," said sophomore Josh Sharp, who scored a career-high 14 points against Gonzaga. "We have a game in less than 48 hours. We just need to get better."
While disappointed with the outcome, Rose liked how his team, which trailed by 19 points at halftime, kept playing hard.
"What was encouraging was that our guys didn't quit. They fought and they battled," Rose said. "There's a lot more basketball to be played, and our guys were emotionally down because we were struggling and (the Zags) were kind of dominating us. The fact that they hung in there and fought, they played the second half a lot better than we played the first half. Hopefully we can build on that and move forward."
Against Gonzaga, BYU was outshot, 57 percent to 36 percent, and outrebounded, 37-29. The Bulldogs pulled down 14 offensive rebounds and outscored the Cougars in the paint, 42-28. (See the box score.)
"Offensively, we struggled with their size and how physical the game was early," Rose said. "We probably would have responded a little bit better if the way the game was called in the second half was called in the first half. We had 17 free throws in the second half and we shot four or five in the first half. But that's not the way it works."
"It was a real physical game from start to finish," said forward Brandon Davies, who scored 14 points. "The refs were kind of letting us play. There are things you have to learn to play through."
Sophomore guard Tyler Haws, who entered Thursday's game No. 7 in the nation in scoring, averaging 21.6 points per game, was hounded by the Bulldogs' defense. He was held to just one point on a free throw with 7:35 remaining, and went 0-for-9 from the field.
Forward Nate Austin turned in another impressive effort off the bench, going 4-for-5 from the floor. He scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds.
But the Cougars had no answer for Gonzaga's big men, Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris.
Olynyk hit all nine of his shots from the field and finished with a game-high 26 points, while Harris chipped in 25 points. Harris had a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds, and Olynyk had nine boards.
Meanwhile, guard Kevin Pangos had 12 points on four 3-pointers.
"We know what they were capable of," Sharp said of the Zags. "We needed to play our game, and we didn't."
Sharp was whistled for a technical foul late in the first half after being charged with a foul while tussling with Olynyk.
"That's a dumb play on me. It cost our team," Sharp said of the technical. "Me and Olynyk got tangled up and they called the foul on me. I gave a look to the ref and got a technical."
Olynyk hit four straight free throws at that point that staked the Zags to a 40-19 lead.
The Cougars could be tested again inside against Portland. Pilot forward Ryan Nicholas scored 23 points in a 75-72 setback at home against San Francisco Thursday night.
Portland led 37-33 at halftime before losing that lead in the second half. The Pilots outscored USF 32-24 in the paint and had an 11-7 advantage in second-chance points.
Cougars on the air:
BYU (15-6, 5-2) at Portland (8-13, 1-5)
Chiles Center, Portland, Ore.
8:30 p.m. MST
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Email: jeff@desnews; Twitter: @AJeffreyCall