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No. 20 BYU Will Face UCF To Open Big 12 Tournament Run

Mar 12, 2024, 3:32 PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – BYU Basketball will have a familiar foe to open its first-ever appearance in the Big 12 Conference Tournament.

The Cougars will face the UCF Knights. A team BYU has already squared off against twice during its inaugural Big 12 season.

BYU defeated UCF in the previous two meetings. The first meeting was in Orlando, BYU’s first-ever Big 12 win and a victory that resulted in Mark Pope’s 100th career win at BYU.

Then BYU held off a comeback effort from UCF to hold off the Knights in Provo, 90-88.

They will meet in Kansas City after UCF defeated Oklahoma State 77-62 in the tournament’s first round on Tuesday.

UCF begins studying BYU for Second Round matchup

UCF knocked down nine three-pointers in the win over the Pokes.

“We have to start studying them again and we have to try to find adjustments that we can make, because we had two close games [against them],” said UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins on another matchup with BYU. “They’re a very good basketball team. Mark [Pope] has done a very good job with this group. We need to study them this evening and find out what we need to do better.”

BYU arrived in Kansas City around 8:30 p.m. CT on Monday night. The Cougars acclimated quickly to Kansas City with some Joe’s Barbeque.

On Tuesday, BYU got up early and practiced at nearby UMKC.

“I think the guys are excited,” said BYU coach Mark Pope on Tuesday. “They woke up this morning a little bit tired because of the time difference or whatever. But they were good in practice today and just like every team, we’ve been working towards this all year long.”

BYU has its frontcourt ready to battle Diallo

BYU will look to slow down UCF center Ibrahima Diallo, the Big 12’s leading shot blocker. Against Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Diallo scored a team-high 17 points in the Knights win.

The good news for BYU is that they will have their entire collection of personnel in the front court to match up with Diallo.

BYU center Aly Khalifa is observing Ramadan and is fasting during the daylight hours. He was a full participant in practice on Tuesday.

“We’re trying to monitor everything really carefully [with Khalifa],” said Pope. “But he was really sharp in practice today.”

Fousseyni Traore earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors for his play this season.

Traore wasn’t the only BYU player who earned Honorable Mention recognition from the league. Jaxson Robinson, Spencer Johnson, and sophomore guard Dallin Hall also earned Honorable Mention.

But none of those four were in the top three All-Big 12 teams. That could serve as some extra motivation for BYU this week in Kansas City.

“Obviously, you hate to see it with the caliber of guys we have on this team. There’s a lot of different dudes who I believe could be on that team,” said Hall on the All-Big 12 snubs.

Hall continued, “But we’ve had a chip on our shoulder all year. People have told us we can’t and counted us out. It’s all stacked up, and we pile it up, and we put it to the side. We’ve just proved everyone wrong all year.”

BYU vs. UCF

Big 12 Tournament – Second Round

Date: March 13, 2024

Location: T-Mobile Center

City: Kansas City, Missouri

Tip-Off: 10:30 a.m. (MT)/11:30 a.m. (CT)

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended pregame begins at 9 a.m.)

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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No. 20 BYU Will Face UCF To Open Big 12 Tournament Run