School-record 40 free throw makes lift No. 19 BYU past UCF 90-88

No. 19 BYU men’s basketball was sent to the free throw line early and often and converted on a school-record-tying 40 free throws as it weathered a last-minute comeback from UCF on Tuesday night at the Marriott Center.


PROVO, Utah — No. 19 BYU men’s basketball was sent to the free throw line early and often and converted on a school-record-tying 40 free throws as it weathered a last-minute comeback from UCF on Tuesday night at the Marriott Center. 

Dallin Hall found Jaxson Robinson for an apparent game-sealing 3-pointer that put the Cougars up 80-69 with two minutes to play. The long night, however, was not over yet. UCF used four 3-pointers in the game’s waning moments to close within two points as the clock approached zeroes.

BYU was sent to the free throw line to put away the game and did so behind Robinson’s nine makes in the final minute alone.

Robinson’s team-high 21 points came on a 12-of-13 performance from the charity stripe. Noah Waterman and Trevin Knell scored 17 points a-piece with Waterman 9-of-10 from the free throw line and Knell 10-of-13. Waterman added nine rebounds and a block in physical play on both sides of the floor. 

After a scoreless first half, Hall reacquainted himself with the scoreboard as he scored 10 crucial second-half points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field. Hall also recorded five rebounds and five assists.

The Knights shot 51 percent from the floor to BYU’s 45, largely as a result of converting 17 forced turnovers into 27 points with 19 in the fastbreak. The Cougars’ 40-of-46 performance from the free throw line proved the difference as UCF went 14-of-26.

The dogfight on the glass went in BYU’s favor 37-32 though the Knights turned 12 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points. Despite UCF’s advantage in several statistical categories, the Cougars came up big against the Knights’ 7-foot post presence Ibrahima Diallo. After recording 11 points and 18 rebounds against BYU on Jan. 13, Diallo scored just two points and posted three rebounds on Tuesday night. 

First Half
After both teams went scoreless for the game’s opening two minutes, Knell arrived on the scene and proceeded to score the Cougars’ first eight. Knell knocked down two free throws then turned a Johnson steal into a fastbreak lay-in the other way. The veteran sharpshooter drew a flagrant offensive foul on BYU’s next defensive possession then hit a free throw and 3-pointer to put the Cougars up 8-0 four minutes in.

The hot BYU start was fueled by air-tight defense and physical rebounding that saw the Cougars hold UCF 0-of-5 from the field, force three turnovers and grab eight boards to the Knights’ two.

BYU extended its lead to 15-4 with opportunistic offense. Johnson found Waterman cutting to the basket and dished it to the forward for a dunk, giving the Cougars a 10-0 lead. Two Traore free throws and a Waterman triple put BYU at 15 moments later.

UCF climbed back within six at 15-9 after benefitting from a quick succession of four BYU turnovers.

The Cougars were quick to respond to the setback and went back up 26-12 with a driving lay-in from Johnson, Saunders step-back triple and free throw makes from Robinson and Knell.

UCF found an offensive groove and took the Cougars off their own with stingy defense that fed a 12-2 run. With the Knights closing at 28-24 four minutes before half, Waterman and Robinson led BYU’s counterstrike.

Waterman ended a UCF possession with a block then knocked down two free throws to put BYU back on the board. Robinson then finished the half with seven quick points, the first four of which came as he drained a triple through contact and hit the ensuing free throw.

The Cougars called on Robinson’s distance game again on the final possession of the half. Robinson knocked down his second-straight triple as time expired and gave BYU the 39-26 halftime lead.

Free throw shooting was the name of the game for BYU in the first half. The Cougars used 14 free throw makes to overcome being outshot 41-37 percent from the field by UCF. The Knights overcame their early deficit with seven first-half points off of six BYU turnovers. The Cougars controlled the glass 21-14 overall and 7-4 on the offensive end.

Knell led BYU at the break with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe. Robinson and Waterman followed with nine and seven points, respectively. 

Second Half
The second half picked up where the first one left off with BYU building a lead from the free throw and 3-point lines. Waterman scored seven of the Cougars’ first nine points of the half with four free throw makes and a corner triple courtesy Aly Khalifa. 

BYU led by 48-29 early in the half when UCF turned on the press and forced a flurry of BYU turnovers leading to a 12-0 visitor run.

The Knights’ run cut the Cougar lead to 48-41 at the 14-minute mark of the half. Hall responded with his first points of the game coming on back-to-back BYU possessions. The sophomore floor general beat the press and knocked down a 3-pointer then scored three the old-fashioned way with a floater and the foul.

Hall’s scores boosted BYU’s lead to 54-43 and ensuing scores from Richie Saunders, Knell and Johnson gave the Cougars the 60-46 lead with 11:27 to go. UCF wasn’t finished and used a 6-0 run to draw within eight by the 10-minute mark.

Hall continued to conduct the Cougar response with both assists and scores. The point guard threaded a pass down the key to Khalifa for a score then sent a pass skyward for an Atiki Ally Atiki alley-oop. Hall then drove through contact to score on consecutive possessions and put BYU ahead 75-65 with three minutes remaining. 

The Cougars seemingly had the game in hand with under two minutes to play as Hall drove and dished to Robinson for what appeared to be a dagger-three from the left corner. BYU’s 80-69 lead wasn’t safe though as the Knights refused to go away with 19 points fueled by four triples in the closing minutes.

Up against the wall with their lead in doubt, the Cougars were tasked with setting up shop from the free throw line yet again. BYU answered the bell and knocked down 10 free throws to secure its 90-88 win as the night inched to its end.

BYU hits the road for the weekend with a Saturday matinee set at Oklahoma State on Feb. 17 at 1 p.m. CST. Watch the Cougars and Cowboys face off from Gallagher-Iba Arena on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ or listen to live play-by-play on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143, app or KSL 102.7FM/1160 AM.