Cougars get first ever Big 12 conference win in Orlando

Breath it in Cougar fans. This is what a win in the Big 12 conference feels like.

After an 0-2 start in conference play BYU finally snatched their first ever Big 12 conference win against UCF in a nail-biting 63-58 affair Saturday afternoon.

The Cougars were bolstered on offense by Aly Khalifa, who had 17 points and four rebounds, and Trevin Knell who continued his impressive shooting with 14 points and six boards.

This game also marked Mark Pope’s 100th win at BYU in his four years at the school.

UCF was coming off of a thrilling upset over Kansas on Wednesday and had a near sell-out crowd in attendance. Picked to finish last in the conference, the Knights were looking like a team ready to prove everyone wrong once again.

BYU matched the Knight’s energy early, keeping the game pace slow and the points slim in the first half. After a defensive 20 minutes, the Cougars led just 26-24 at the half.

Immediately out of the half, it looked like the Monstars had sucked all of the talent out of both teams, and the basketball was about as ugly as it could be. Both teams finally began to get into groove offensively a few minutes into the second half.

Knell especially started to heat up from three, giving BYU about a six-point cushion for the majority of the second half. Knell finished 4-9 from three, with three of them coming in the second half.

Khalifa also had a stellar second half, notching two threes and eight points in the period. On top of that, he was a calming presence to the Cougar offense, often handling the ball early in the set at the top of the key. Not to mention, a monster jam that absolutely no one saw coming.

With four minutes to go it looked all BYU. The Cougars had a nine-point lead and had seemed to figure the Knights out. However, BYU started to fall apart late to UCF’s pressure and were giving up free throws left and right. Thankfully for BYU, UCF shot an abysmal 67% from the free throw line, and just 17% from three.

With about a minute left the Knights trimmed it down to just a one-point BYU lead. The Cougars were missing multiple free throws and leaving the door wide open for a comeback. UCF had multiple chances to tie or even take the lead but simply couldn’t hit a shot. BYU finally made some free throws to ice the game and win by five.

A lot of UCF’s shooting woes had to do with BYU’s stellar defense. The Cougars currently rank 13th in three-point percentage defense and it ended up being the difference tonight.

With the first Big 12 win in the books, the Cougars will look to build on momentum to improve their 1-2 conference record. Their next game is Tuesday night against Iowa State at the Marriott Center.

Chase is the sports editor for The Daily Universe. Follow him on X: @Chase_Rogers0

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