No. 19 BYU shooting for season sweep of UCF
League: NCAA Basketball
Posted on: 12 Feb, 2024 at 06:40 PM
Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
A crucial rematch lies ahead for No. 19 BYU when the Cougars host UCF on Tuesday in Provo, Utah.
BYU (17-6, 5-5 Big 12) earned its first road win in league play in January when it outlasted the Knights 63-58 in a tight finish. The Cougars survived another close call when they edged Kansas State 72-66 on Saturday night.
BYU was buoyed by the return of center Aly Khalifa to the lineup following a two-game absence while battling the flu. Khalifa had eight points and six assists in 19-plus minutes. But his return was nearly spoiled by the Cougars' late-game collapse.
After BYU led by 17 points during the second half, Kansas State cut the deficit to two points on a 3-pointer from Arthur Kaluma with 1:11 left. Jaxson Robinson and Spencer Johnson each scored a basket in the final minute to help the Cougars hold on for their fifth Big 12 win.
BYU opened a door for Kansas State to make a comeback after missing open 3-pointers, easy layups and several free throws late in the second half.
"I actually loved the finish of the game," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "I think it will help our guys' confidence grow in the sense of like, just keep pushing forward."
The biggest sore spot for Pope and the Cougars was free-throw shooting. BYU went just 10-for-21 overall and shot 33 percent from the line in the second half.
At one point, the Cougars missed five straight free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one, while Kansas State was rallying. Those missed free throws made the game closer than it needed to be.
"It's not my favorite thing in the world, to be clearly honest," Pope said. "I would like to make some more of those."
UCF has earned just one road victory in Big 12 play so far. The Knights are looking to snap a three-game skid away from home when they head to Utah.
UCF (13-9, 4-6) never led in a 66-59 loss at then-No. 23 Texas Tech on Saturday. Leading rebounder Ibrahima Diallo did not play against the Red Raiders because of a knee injury. Even in Diallo's absence, UCF hung tough with the Red Raiders and stayed within a basket or two down to the final minute.
The Knights cut it to one at 58-57 with 2:07 left when C.J. Walker made 1 of 2 free throws but were never able to draw closer. Walker finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
"I thought our guys fought uphill pretty much all night," UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. "They disrupted us some and we had to continue to fight through it and continue to overcome."
UCF has never beaten three AP Top 25 opponents in the same season. The Knights already have two such wins this season after notching home victories over Kansas on Jan. 10 and Oklahoma on Feb. 3.
--Field Level Media