SALT LAKE CITY — It was the kind of Saturday afternoon where BYU fans found themselves cheering when their team missed shots.
At one critical point of the second half, two clanked shots in a row led to a much-appreciated third opportunity. The crowd of about 12,000 cheerfully acknowledged a reset offense, the kind of really good highlight from this 79-65 win.
Charles Abouo soon drained a 3-point shot, the lead pushed back to 10 points, submerging Oregon's last push. The extra-chances surge pushed the 6-2 Cougars to their most impressive and convincing victory of the young season.
"It's just effort," BYU head coach Dave Rose said of outscoring Oregon 19-8 on second-chance points and garnering a 45-43 rebounding edge. "Our effort had to be supreme."
BYU had previously won five other games by blowout, but none against a team that seemed to at least be somewhat sturdy. UO had won its last four (including at Nebraska to snap the Cornhuskers' 26-game winning streak) after suffering its only defeat Nov. 11 at nationally ranked Vanderbilt.
The Ducks even scored the first eight points at EnergySolutions Arena, yet couldn't keep pace with a group that remained in control.
There was bench control. Nate Austin, a returned-missionary freshman still gaining his court legs, was brilliant in short spans for the second consecutive game. He had nine points in 18 minutes, complementing Stephen Rogers' 16 points in 21 minutes off the bench.
There was stat control, BYU having just 10 turnovers.
There was body control, BYU punishing the Ducks with some and-one baskets inside, and also even getting a 4-point play from Rogers about eight minutes into the game as the junior drained a shot from the left corner as he was bodyslammed into the end of the Oregon bench.
That meant game control, as his free throw stretched BYU's lead to 16-11. Though the visitors drained a 3-pointer on their next possession, and followed with a free throw at 12:02 on the one after that, the Ducks would never lead again.
"We were fighting for each other the whole game," said point guard Anson Winder, who played 37 minutes and posted 10 points and six assists.
The crowd was solid despite it being clear this particular team hasn't exactly captured as many imaginations — and vocal chords — as the previous couple of years. This group, at this point, isn't draining ridiculously long 3-pointers yet, or even making many possessions really look that spectacular.
But seventh-year coach Dave Rose has a solid enough top scorer, Noah Hartsock, whose versatility shouldn't be undervalued (only 23 points and 12 rebounds to cook the Ducks). He had nine points and eight rebounds at halftime, at which the Cougars led by seven despite some clumsy late play, and the senior forward is in his own ways every bit as maddening to an opponent as Jimmer Fredette used to be while launching shots from Bountiful. Hartsock even had four blocked shots.
"I don't have the greatest vertical," he said. "I just try to be smart."
BYU was that, and tenacious.
Hartsock capped one particular third-chance effort, cleaning up misses by Charles Abouo and Austin with a layup inside as he secured the ball in the middle of three green jerseys. The putback, plus the foul, drove Oregon guard Johnathan Loyd nuts.
The brother of former BYU basketball player Michael Loyd Jr., also recruited by the Cougars, stormed away from his teammates' huddle underneath the basket just before Hartsock tried unsuccessfully to extend his team's 51-37 lead.
No sweat. This BYU team can still put up points in somewhat quiet bunches, and the margin was again 18 points with about 12 minutes left.
Besides that, the real damage was done right before Hartsock's near 3-point play. After Abouo swished his 3-point shot to make it 43-33, Hartsock had a putback layup off Brock Zylstra's missed 3-pointer. Zylstra added a 3-point play off a sweetly composed baseline drive-and-flick.
Rose noted the Cougars don't shoot the ball particularly well at ESA, but "we still seem to score pretty well." The Cougars made just 39 percent of their shots, but had 17 points off turnovers.
It didn't look like it could be that kind of clear-the-bench day in the early part of the team's annual visit to the NBA arena.
BYU missed its first five shots, just like last Wednesday at Northern Arizona, before Brandon Davies scores a layup at 17-minute mark.
Davies was among the Cougars who didn't have his best game (six points on 2-of-10 shooting) but Rose called him among some others as still vital.
"Everyone found a way to help," Rose said.
Davies picked up his fourth foul with 7:25 left, but BYU still held a 18-point lead after UO missed a couple of free throws.
Which shows that two chances doesn't always guarantee success, though multiple tries helped out BYU.
BYU started the second half the same way the Ducks started the first -- with a 10-2 run. The Cougars, however, never looked back, going on to dominate behind Noah Hartstock's 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Charles Abouo had eight points and 12 rebounds, while Stephen Rogers (16 points) and Nate Austin (nine points, five rebounds) led the bench has BYU overcame a slow start to beat Oregon at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City.
The Cougars overcame an early 10-2 deficit and led the Ducks by as many as 14 before the offense tapered off at the end of the half. Noah Hartstock leads BYU with nine points and eight rebounds.
It was Harstock's backup Nate Austin, however, who may have provided the most unexpected lift to the Cougars' first-half push. The freshman hit his second 3-pointer this season as part of his nine-point, three-rebound first half. He had 11 points in the final seven minutes Wednesday at Northern Arizona.
The Cougars are shooting just 37.8 percent from the field, but have forced 10 Oregon turnovers to remain in control.
After missing its first five shots, just like at NAU, BYU got hot — hitting eight of the next 12 attempts from the field to go on a 24-8 run from which the Ducks have never been able to recover a lead.
Welcome to EnergySolutions Arena, site of perhaps the most intriguing BYU basketball game so far.
Five blowout wins against competition that was clearly inferior beforehand have been met so far by a couple of losses that were disappointing albeit understandable -- starting the season in Logan at nearly impenetrable Utah State (though don't tell Denver University that), and a loss in Chicago against highly ranked Wisconsin.
Now, this matchup with 4-1 Oregon at 3 p.m. is an important game for the 5-2 Cougars because it will go on their NCAA Tournament resume one way or the other.
Oregon is replacing most of its top scorers from last year under second-year coach Dana Altman. Its one loss came at Vanderbilt, while the best win was at Nebraska. That one snapped the Cornhuskers' 26-game homecourt winning streak.
E.J. Singler leads the team in scoring this year at 12 points per game.
If the last name of the Oregon-native forward sounds familiar, you may have heard of his brother: Former Duke star Kyle Singler.
Singler will be in the post guarded by the likes of Noah Hartsock.
There's one other familiar name on UO's roster.
Johnathan Loyd is the younger brother of former BYU player Michael Loyd, Jr.
The Cougars also recruited Johnathan. Mike plays at Division II member Midwestern State as a senior, his second year there. The Cougars defeated the Wichita Falls, Texas, school last month in an exhibition game at the Marriott Center.
Meanwhile, the 5-foot-8 sophomore guard Johnathan is making an impact. He's coming off a game in which he had 24 points and a career-best six 3-point shots against UTEP.
He played with current BYU starting point guard Anson Winder at Bishop Miege in Las Vegas.
Jason Franchuk can be reached at email@example.com. Or follow him on Twitter, @harkthefranchuk
BYU (5-2) vs. Oregon (4-1)
3 pm. EnergySolutions Arena (19,911); Salt Lake City
Radio: KSL 1160 AM (102.7 FM)
Tip-ins: Freshman guard Anson Winder started last three games, averaging 6.2 points, five assists and has assist/turnover ratio of 2.8 to 1. ...BYU leads newly joined West Coast Conference in 3-point FG percentage, FG percentage, blocks and assists. ...Teams last met in 1998 with Oregon winning 93-62. ...UO has won 4 straight since starting season with loss like Cougars on Nov. 11, at Vanderbilt (now ranked 20th nationally).