No. 18 BYU finally closed out a game to earn its first Big 12 victory. Now, the Cougars look to build momentum in their new league when they host Iowa State on Tuesday.
BYU (13-3, 1-2 Big 12) had to survive a late rally Saturday to edge UCF 63-58. The Cougars came close to losing after leading at halftime for a third consecutive game when the Knights cut a 13-point deficit to one with two minutes left.
UCF missed two field-goal attempts that would have tied the score in the final minute, and BYU’s Richie Saunders sank two free throws with 1.1 seconds left to ice the win.
The Cougars limited UCF to 29.3 percent shooting and didn’t allow any points over the game’s final two minutes.
“It was a slugfest, like we kind of anticipated and expected coming in,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “We came out with a win and we are super proud of that.”
Pope earned his 100th victory as BYU head coach as the Cougars snapped a seven-game losing streak in road games dating back to last season.
Getting over the hump wasn’t easy as BYU missed four free throws late to give UCF a chance. The Cougars also fouled frequently, giving the Knights 33 free-throw attempts.
Still, the Cougars persevered and earned some confidence after failing to protect second-half leads in losses to Cincinnati and Baylor to open Big 12 play.
“We feel like we belong in this conference, the best conference in the world, and we can get a lot of wins in this conference as well,” said BYU center Aly Khalifa, who led the Cougars with 17 points against UCF.
Iowa State (13-3, 2-1) is also not lacking in confidence after picking up home wins over the Houston Cougars and Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Cyclones were the first team to beat the second-ranked Cougars this season. Then, on Saturday, they followed that upset victory by dismantling Oklahoma State 66-42.
The Cowboys shot just 31.9 percent from the floor and committed 20 turnovers — leading to 20 points for the Cyclones. Iowa State allowed only 16 points in the second half.
The game’s tipoff was delayed two hours because of a blizzard that swept through Iowa.
The Cyclones endured a sloppy start, trailing Oklahoma State until midway through the first half. Once Iowa State grabbed the lead with 8:33 left in the first half, though, it stayed in the driver’s seat.
Four players scored in double figures for the Cyclones, led by Tamin Lipsey’s 17 points and five steals.
“I was really proud of our guys, how they handled today because there was a lot of uncertainty,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “They didn’t make excuses. They didn’t complain.”
BYU and Iowa State met six times before the Cougars joined the Big 12 and are playing for the first time since 2013.
The Cyclones hold a 6-0 lead in a series dating to 1931.
–Field Level Media
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