Fast start propels No. 20 BYU past UCF in Big 12 Championship opener

No. 20 BYU connected on 14 3-pointers en route to an 87-73 victory over UCF in the second round of the 2024 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. - No. 20 BYU scored the opening 14 points of the game and never looked back in its 87-73 win over UCF on Wednesday afternoon in the second round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo. 

The Cougars scored over 80 points for the second consecutive game, shooting 47.2 percent from the floor and knocking down 14 3-pointers, marking the 21st time they had connected on double digit triples. They assisted on 8 of their 15 made field goals. 

Fousseyni Traore recorded his first double-double of the season as the junior scored a team-high 14 points to go along with 11 rebounds. He also became the 53rd player in program history to reach 1,000 points late in the second half. 

Dallin Hall and Richie Saunders scored 19 of their combined 26 points in the second half. Spencer Johnson filled the statsheet as the senior finished with nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists. 

First Half
The Cougars opened the game on a 14-0 run including making 3-pointers on their first two possessions of the game. Aly Khalifa connected a straightaway 3-pointer followed by a pullup triple from Dallin Hall on the next trip down the floor. The sophomore would add to the run with a pair of free throws following a flagrant foul on the Knights. Trevin Knell knocked down a corner three forcing a UCF timeout. Khalifa hit his second 3-pointer of the opening four minutes before Jaylin Sellers opened the scoring for the Knights with an old-fashioned 3-point play. 

Jaxson Robinson extended his 3-point streak to 19 games on his first touch of  the game with a stepback make to give BYU a 19-3 lead. Traore got an offensive put back on a missed Robinson triple to force another UCF timeout with 14:05 remaining in the first half. 

A near four-minute scoring drought was ended on a dunk from Noah Waterman on an assist from Khalifa. The Cougars continued to connect from deep with Robinson connecting on his second of the half followed by a corner 3-pointer from Waterman making it 32-16 at the under eight minute media timeout. 

Traore scored six straight points for BYU including a pair from the free throw a few minutes later to push the lead to 40-25. The lead would remain in double figures until the final seconds of the first half when UCF went on a 6-0 run to make it 47-38. 

Second Half
The teams combined to make six of their first seven shots of the second half including 3-pointers from Hall, Khalifa and Knell to push the Cougars lead back to double digits, 55-45.

The Knights would go on an 11-4 run over the next four minutes to cut BYU’s lead to three, 59-56, on one of Johnson’s six 3-pointers. The Cougars got a defensive stop and then went on a 12-0 run to push the lead to 69-59. The opening three points of the run came from the free throw line before Waterman scored on an acrobatic layup. Waterman turned provider on the next trip down the floor hitting Saunders in transition for a 3-pointer. 

The teams traded 3-pointers with Saunders knocking down a pair to make it 80-65 with 5:26 remaining in regulation. The Cougars held the Knights to eight points over the final five minutes to seal their first-ever postseason win as a member of the Big 12. 

UCF’s Darius Johnson continued to keep the Knights alive with a 3-pointer but Hall had a rebuttal with his third 3-pointer of the game to make 74-59, and the Cougars would hold on from there.

BYU will face No. 25 Texas Tech in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 14, at 11:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2. Live play-by-play of the Cougars in Kansas City will be available on Radio appor KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.