Mark Pope lit the fuse in BYU’s victory over No. 7 Kansas, his players did the rest

BYU head coach Mark Pope watches during the first half during game against Kansas Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Lawrence, Kan. The BYU coach picked up a technical in the second half, which may have helped spark the Cougars' comeback.
BYU head coach Mark Pope watches during the first half during game against Kansas Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Lawrence, Kan. The BYU coach picked up a technical in the second half, which may have helped spark the Cougars' comeback. | Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

Sometimes you just have to let them have it.

BYU upset Kansas 76-68 on Tuesday night in a building where visitors regularly play, but few win.

It was a bona fide victory on BYU’s part. Nothing cheap, nothing easy. In fact, the Cougars had to battle a ton of adversity with a burgeoning foul disparity during the first 30 minutes that put stars on the bench.

There was a moment in this legendary BYU win that will rank among the best in school history — a moment that told the story of the game.

Mark Pope protested mightily when an official called an offensive foul on Fouss Traore after he’d buried one of his patented shots that would have tied the game at 52 with 7:50.

The defender, Kansas forward Parker Braun, was inside the circle getting moved around by the wide-bodied Traore. There was contact when Traore decided to make his move, turn and shoot. Braun flopped as wickedly as a smallmouth bass out of water. He got the call.

Pope had to make a point right there and then.

Pope had watched his team receive a steady stream of whistles to begin the second half, putting starting guards Dallin Hall and Trevin Knell on the bench with four fouls each when the differential reached 22 fouls on BYU to nine on Kansas.

He’d watched Hall, Knell, Spencer Johnson, Jaxson Robinson and Noah Waterman get held on their cuts all night when the same moves by Jayhawk cutters drew fouls.

It was time.

Pope had to be restrained on the baseline as he protested hard.

Pope was restrained by assistant Nick Robinson, who escorted his coach to the bench, where he sat to calm down.

“I had a conversation with the officials and coach Robinson stepped in and saved me,” Pope told a KSL radio audience after the win.

“I got up and went to the team to say something to them and I saw they were 100% composed and laser focused. They were excited to go out and do what the moment required of them.”

The result fired up his crew.

Within seven minutes, his Cougars had Kansas players hanging their heads, fans exiting the arena in shock, and a loud band of BYU fans cheering.

He’d lit a fuse. His team would not be denied.

Kansas used the technical foul made by DaJuan Harris, Jr. and a bucket by Braun to go up 56-50.

But that’s when BYU began raining down 3s on the Jayhawks. BYU made 7 of 15 in the second half. After Pope’s protest, Knell made one, Hall hit two, both over 7-foot-2 Hunter Dickinson, and Waterman buried one with 2:30 left in the game to put the Cougars up 66-63.

In crunch time, BYU tried a hack-a-Dickinson strategy. It worked. Dickinson bricked a bevy of free throws, finishing 6 of 15 from the line.

The game really should have been over at that point. BYU had outplayed Kansas. Led by Hall, Traore and Johnson’s free-throw conversions, Kansas was in serious trouble. But after making just a solo 3-pointer all game long, Dickinson and Nicolas Timberlake buried back-to-back bombs to give Kansas coach Bill Self a lifeline.

It was not to be.

BYU simply beat Kansas. It was a clear-cut decision in Allen Fieldhouse, where KU had won 19 straight games and had won 71 consecutive games when leading at halftime, which Kansas did Tuesday night at 35-29.

BYU defended, made plays, limited Kansas to 0-for-5 shooting from the field in their last attempts to catch the Cougars.

This time, on this road trip, BYU did not wilt.

Instead, BYU outscored Kansas by 14 points during the final 20 minutes, a clearcut 47-33 advantage.

“When the moment comes, you just proceed with faith,” Hall told the media afterward.

Both Hall and Robinson scored 18 points, more than anybody on the Kansas roster, a team known as one of the best two-point shooting teams in the nation with a monster center in Dickinson and a future NBA player in KJ Adams.

This win was built on BYU’s season-long theme — making 3s.

BYU made 13 of 34 from distance, something Kansas is not built for; the Jayhawks went just 3 of 15 from beyond that arc.

The hero of the game certainly had to be Hall, who came off the bench cold in the second half and played with four fouls. Hall was 1 for 10 in a loss at Kansas State last Saturday, but was 5 for 6 from the field, 3 of 6 from 3-point land, and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line for his 18.

BYU had only seven turnovers.

It was an earned game in one of college basketball’s famous hoop cathedrals.

Chalk it up. No fluke. Legit.

This was an all-time win for Pope and this team. Bigger than beating Gonzaga in The Kennel back in the day.

Aly Khalifa BYU-KU
BYU center Aly Khalifa looks to shoot under pressure from Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (3) during game Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Lawrence, Kan. BYU won 76-68. | Charlie Riedel, Associated Press