Cougars top UCF in first ever Big 12 tournament game

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The BYU Cougars just won a Big 12 Conference tournament game. Their first-ever Big 12 Conference tournament game.

These statements might have been beyond any Cougar fan’s wildest dreams seven months ago, but BYU didn’t walk into the T-Mobile Center as an underdog Wednesday. This team came into this tournament with some expectations, and maybe even some aspirations of doing something special. Now that wouldn’t have been something in even the craziest Cougar fan’s wildest dream.

BYU got the start to the tournament they wanted, besting UCF 87-73 Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinal round.

The Cougars were lead in points by Fouss Traore with 14. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots in an impressive performance inside.

One of BYU’s greatest strengths is depth and it showed Wednesday. Jaxson Robinson and Aly Khalifa had eight points apiece, Spencer Johnson and Noah Waterman each scored nine, Trevin Knell had 12, and Dallin Hall and Richie Saunders put up 13 themselves. It was one of BYU’s most balanced performance of the season.

The Cougars were on fire to begin the game, hitting four of their first five threes and going up double-digits almost immediately. They also held UCF scoreless nearly five minutes into the game. It looked like BYU might be sleep-walking to the quarterfinals.

The Knights weren’t quite ready to go home yet though. After being up by as much as 18, the Cougars took a nine point led into the locker room.

The second half was back and forth in the first few minutes. The Cougars continued to hit threes but the Knights answered. Darius Johnson decided he wasn’t going to miss from beyond the arc the rest of the game, and suddenly BYU’s lead was just three. Johnson finished with 32 points on 6 of 8 from the 3-point line.

BYU coach Mark Pope called a timeout and all of the sudden it was gut check time for the Cougars. How did they respond? With a 14-3 run to push the lead to 15.

BYU’s defense cranked up the final ten minutes, and UCF found itself in foul trouble. After fending off a short comeback attempt, the Cougars dribbled the clock out to seal the 87-73 win.

The win marks the Cougars third over the Knights this season— an impressive feat against any team.

“I’m so glad we don’t have to play them (UCF) again,” said Pope, “I have nightmares about them.”

BYU finished the game with 18 assists and 14 made three-pointers. Classic BYU hoops. The Cougars 46.7% from three is a new season-high and should absolutely strike fear into any opponents heart. At 32.2%, the Cougars are second in the country in 3-point attempts per game. If they continue to shoot anywhere near their percentage today, they could beat anyone in the country.

It’s a short turnaround for BYU. Texas Tech awaits tomorrow in the quarterfinals at 10:30 a.m. MDT. Read a preview to the game here.

Chase is the sports editor for the Daily Universe. Follow him on X: @Chase_rogers0

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