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Takeaways From BYU’s Gritty Win Over UCF

Feb 13, 2024, 11:17 PM

BYU Basketball, Jaxson Robinson, UCF...

BYU basketball guard Jaxson Robinson (2) gets fouled by UCF Knights guard Darius Johnson (3) at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball has a winning record for the first time in Big 12 play this season.

That occurred Tuesday night after they defeated UCF 90-88 in front of a crowd of 15,590 at the Marriott Center.

BYU’s 90 points were a season-high for a UCF opponent. The previous high scored on the Knights was 88 by Miami, a team that reached the Final Four last season.

Let’s jump into the takeaways from BYU’s win that improves their overall record to 18-6 this season.

Jaxson Robinson is emerging as BYU’s go-to scorer in the clutch

In back-to-back games, Jaxson Robinson has hit clutch shots down the stretch, leading to BYU victories.

It’s a significant development for a BYU team that has prided itself on having many guys who can take the big shot any night.

But as March begins to creep up on the calendar, a go-to player has to emerge with the game on the line.

For BYU, it’s becoming Jaxson Robinson.

What’s impressive is that his best performances continue to happen when he is part of BYU’s second unit off the bench.

On Tuesday night,  Robinson hit a three with 2:12 remaining to put BYU up 11. Then he scored BYU’s final nine points, all coming from the free throw line.

Robinson finished with a game-high 21 points and was 3-of-5 from three-point range.

The jury is still out if there should be a concern about how BYU is performing in the second halves

UCF outscored BYU 62-51 in the second half. The Knights were unconscious from the three-point line in the final minute, knocking down four threes to keep BYU on the edge of their seat for an entire 40 minutes.

Ultimately, any win, however it comes in the toughest conference in America, is a good thing.

The predictive metrics will not look kindly on BYU for only winning by two in a game where they were favored by double figures. KenPom already dropped BYU two spots from No. 12 to 14.

If you’re looking at the performance trying to predict how it translates to March Madness, yes, BYU needs to clean the second half issues. But against UCF, it was a case of a hot shooting team knocking down shots in a slog of a game.

Pope came away pleased with his team’s effort despite how close it got at the end.

What he liked was that his team was aggressive and they continued to play their style of play even when UCF closed within one possession.

“In the last five or six minutes in this game, where our guys were making really courageous plays against pressure and a team that’s probably as athletic or more athletic and longer than any team in this league. I’m so proud of the guys. What a brilliant performance by our team. I’m so happy.”

Dallin Hall had an underrated performance

BYU point guard Dallin Hall didn’t make a field goal against Kansas State.

He looked to be on pace for another night without a make from the field against UCF, as he was scoreless at the half.

Those shooting struggles didn’t faze him as he scored 10 points and dished out three assists, including the pass to a wide-open Jaxson Robinson for a corner three.

“I thought he was brilliant,” said Pope on Hall. “He hit that pull-up three when we were kind of feeling a little stuck, and they cut it from 17 to 10, give or take. Then he had a really unbelievable floater down the lane, the and-one floater and he had the reverse layup that were special.”

Record-setting improvement from the free throw line

In Saturday’s win over Kansas State, BYU shot 47% from the free-throw line.

That poor outing clearly had BYU refocusing their efforts from the charity stripe as they shot 40-46 in the win over UCF. The 40 makes tied a Marriott Center record set against Weber State in 1997.

“I should definitely be the coach of the year that I actually managed to get our guys from a 50% free throw shooting team to an 87%,” said BYU coach Mark Pope.

Pope continued, “That’s just who these guys are. The game is going to have some anomalous moments. So we had a little bit of an anomaly last game, but we still won the game. And that’s the beauty of this team right now. We had very different anomalies tonight.

The ability to knock down the free throws doesn’t come as a surprise. What’s more surprising is the volume of free throws BYU attempted. Entering the game, BYU was 359th nationally in free throw attempt percentage.

BYU’s 40 points from the free throw line left 50 points from the field. In the win at UCF in Orlando on January 13, BYU scored 51 points from the field and only 12 points from the free throw line.

Mark Pope’s team is finding a variety of ways to win ball games.

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

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Takeaways From BYU’s Gritty Win Over UCF