No. 18 BYU Faces Surging UCF Team In Orlando

Jan 12, 2024, 1:06 PM

BYU/UCF, Game Preview, Fousseyni Traore...

BYU basketball forward Fousseyni Traore and the Cougars take on UCF in Orlando. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – BYU basketball continues to look for its first Big 12 win. The next opportunity for that coveted league victory is against UCF.

Like BYU, expectations were low for Big 12 newcomer UCF coming into the season.

The Knights, who have never been known for their basketball program, were tabbed by Big 12 coaches to finish No. 14 in the league.

That was understandable, considering UCF hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2019.

Remember, that was the year when Tacko Fall and the Knights gave No. 1 Duke with Zion Williamson everything they could handle in the round of 32.

But unlike BYU, UCF already has a win in Big 12 play. It wasn’t just any win. They knocked off Big 12 powerhouse Kansas on their home floor, 65-60.

What makes the win even more impressive for UCF is that they trailed Kansas by 16 points and roared back, forcing the Jayhawks to 18 turnovers en route to the victory that brings validity to the UCF program in the Big 12.

So, any preconceived thoughts that BYU’s (12-2, 0-2 Big 12) trip to UCF (10-4, 1-1) would be a guaranteed win is premature.

BYU/UCF Series History & BYU’s recent struggles on the road

It’s the first ever meeting these two programs on the hardwood. UCF will return to Provo on February 13, later this season.

BYU is making its first appearance in the state of Florida since 1999.

The Cougars also want to end a seven-game losing streak in true road games. BYU’s last win in a true road game was on January 7, 2023, at San Diego.

BYU vs. UCF: How To Watch, Listen

Location: Addition Financial Arena

City: Orlando, Florida

Tip-Off: 2 p.m. (MT)/4 p.m. (ET)

TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Cougar Sports Saturday coverage begins at Noon.)

What you need to know about No. 18 BYU Basketball

BYU has dropped its first two Big 12 games. It’s the first time in 10 years that BYU has started conference play at 0-2.

The last time it happened was in the West Coast Conference. BYU still went on to play in the NCAA Tournament that year.

No one is hitting the panic button on BYU’s season–especially after a promising performance at Baylor, where BYU was up by nine in the second half.

They now have to find a way to finish the job and secure the victory.

Taking care of the ball would be a good start.

BYU has combined for 32 turnovers in its first two Big 12 games.

The Cougars remain the nation’s No. 1 assist/turnover team at 2.04. But the gap is dwindling.

Fousseyni Traore is trending up for BYU basketball

One positive storyline for BYU is the health of forward Fousseyni Traore’s hamstring is trending up.

Traore played eight minutes in the loss at Baylor but made an impact, scoring six points.

Defensively, he assisted the efforts of shutting down 7-footer Yves Missi to zero points.

“I was really pleased with Fouss,” said BYU coach Mark Pope on Traore against Baylor. “I thought he was terrific in the minutes he played and I thought he was really physical down low. … I thought he had a couple of defensive possessions where he was really solid on mismatched possessions on the perimeter. Clearly, he’s a massively important part of everything we do and he also gives us a very different approach when he’s on the floor than when Aly [Khalifa] is on the floor or Atiki [Ally Atiki] is on the floor.”

BYU’s starters in the frontcourt, Aly Khalifa and Noah Waterman, combined for three points in the loss at Baylor. They will have another tough challenge against the size of UCF.

Personnel notes for BYU against UCF

A positive development for BYU heading into the UCF matchup is the sharpshooting of guard Trevin Knell.

Through two games in league play, Knell has buried 12 three-pointers, averaging 21 points per game.

BYU took a dip in the national rankings in three-point attempts (33.9) and three-pointers made (12.6). The Cougars now rank second nationally after a 9-for-24 performance at Baylor.

BYU has yet to have a shooting performance in Big 12 that resembles the efficient play they showed in nonconference.

From a personnel standpoint, BYU has given Jaxson Robinson the backup point guard role. Robinson scored 10 points and had two assists from the point guard spot but only shot 16% from three.

BYU is expected to be without UC Irvine transfer guard Dawson Baker for the remainder of the season as he is nearing surgery on his foot.

Then freshman Marcus Adams continues to deal with a knee injury that has kept him sidelined. Adams has only appeared in one game this season for BYU.

Getting to know the UCF Knights

UCF comes into the BYU game on a high after pulling off the biggest win in their program’s history by taking down No. 3 Kansas.

BYU coach Mark Pope is impressed with the personnel UCF coach Johnny Dawkins has assembled on their first Big 12 roster.

“When you look at their online roster, everybody seems some negotiable size. Then when you look at them on film, man, they look massive,” said Pope. “I’m talking about massive and they have incredible length. They play really hard.”

Some of the notables on UCF’s roster include 7-foot San Jose State transfer Ibrahima Diallo. Diallo earned his first start as a UCF Knight, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds, to go along with three assists in the upset over Kansas.

The Knights are also one of the top teams in the nation, forcing turnovers. They come into the BYU game at 13th nationally, forcing 16.79 turnovers against opponents.

“They kind of embrace the chaos of the game and try and create as much as they can on the defensive end,” Pope said.

Ball State transfer forward Jaylin Sellers is the Knights leading scorer at 17.8 points per game. He’s seventh in the Big 12 in total points scored this season.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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No. 18 BYU Faces Surging UCF Team In Orlando