LAWRENCE, Kansas — There have been a few unlikely wins in the Mark Pope era of BYU basketball, but none have loomed as large and rewarding as the one the Cougars got Tuesday night in front of 16,300 shocked and disbelieving fans at the venerable Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

Score it BYU 76-68 over No. 7 Kansas in a result sure to send shockwaves throughout the Big 12, a league the mighty Jayhawks have dominated nearly as much as Gonzaga — another victim of some huge BYU upsets in the Pope era — did the West Coast Conference.

Amazingly, BYU, now 8-7 in Big 12 play, 20-8 overall, and almost assuredly punching its Big Dance ticket, trailed by as many as 12 points early in the second, but some how, some way, found a way to rally past the team that started the 2023-24 season ranked No. 1 in both major preseason polls.

It was a win for the ages, even if Pope wasn’t ready to label it as such.

“I don’t know where it ranks,” said Pope, whose technical foul could be credited for giving the Cougars all the fuel they would need down the stretch. “That’s not a great answer for you. It is really special. I would put it in the really, really, really special category.”

Trailing 60-59 after KU’s KJ Adams tipped in a miss with 4:37 remaining, the Cougars — fresh off Saturday’s discouraging 84-74 loss down the highway at Kansas State — rose up and made all the big plays down the stretch. That really was the team that had lost its last four road games by a combined 43 points.

“We played pitifully tonight,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who was without his best player, Kevin McCullar, and was asked several times about that potential excuse in the postgame media session. “BYU was better than us tonight. … Give them credit, they caused us to look bad, and they were successful at it.”

Social media reacts to BYU’s upset road win over Kansas

Battling foul trouble all night, point guard Dallin Hall had his best four-minute stretch as a Cougar, draining a pair of 3-pointers and a free throw when Big 12 player of the year candidate Hunter Dickinson tried to carry the Hawks, but couldn’t.

Dickinson was 6 of 15 from the free-throw line, part of KU’s 19-of-31 effort from the charity stripe.

Hall’s stepback triple in Dickinson’s face with 1:33 remaining was the dagger — a shot that will forever live in BYU basketball lore.

“Obviously (Dickinson) is a really good defender, especially inside. So I saw he gave me a little bit of space. Everyone was really sticking close to the shooters and so that’s kind of a shot I practice a lot, off the bounce,” Hall said. “That’s one of the moves I work on. You shoot with confidence and live with the results.”

It was similar to a 3-pointer that Hall hit — from a different spot on the floor — in BYU’s November upset of San Diego State in Provo.

Hall and Jaxson Robinson — who also hit two huge free throws to give BYU a 68-66 lead with 2:04 left — finished with 18 points apiece, while Noah Waterman added nine points and six rebounds and hit a triple with 2:47 left that was immediately answered by Dickinson.

The Phog Allen crowd — which included about 500 BYU fans, a group that made its presence felt with the B-Y-U chant echoing to the rafters — was at full throat after 3-pointers by Nicolas Timberlake and Dickinson tied the score at 63-63 and 66-66.

“I thought we stayed true to who we are offensively. And that is we are a team that gets out and runs in transition and is always on the attack. You know, they are really great defensively. But we trust in our offensive system and what we do,” Hall said. “We knew we would break through. So we kept trying to get out and run in transition, and I thought that really broke it open and then we kept attacking them in ball screens.”

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

Although Kansas (9-6, 21-7) jumped out to a 14-8 lead and seemed on the verge of blowing the game open in the first half before taking a 35-29 halftime lead, Self said he could tell early the Jayhawks were in for a struggle.

“You could feel this coming today at shootaround,” said Self, who is now 313-18 at Allen Fieldhouse in his 21 seasons at KU.

For BYU, there was a lot more to like, particularly in the second half. The Cougars committed just three of their seven turnovers in the second half, and even overcame that technical foul on Pope to snap KU’s 19-game home winning streak.

“We hoped to score and they played and executed to score,” Self said of the second half.

Pope picked up the tech after a heated discussion with an official during a timeout, when Kansas was leading 52-50 and right after Fouss Traore was charged with an offensive foul.

Dajuan Harris sank two free throws and Parker Braun added a dunk to give KU a six-point lead. Trevin Knell hit a key 3-pointer to keep BYU afloat, and Hall’s free throws with 4:50 left gave the Cougars their first lead, 59-58.

Prior to that, BYU had not played with the lead on the road in more than two and a half games.


“I was frustrated in the moment and so I wish that I was such a genius coach that I (thought), ‘I am going to get a ‘T’ right now and rally the troops.’” Pope said. “That would be a little bit disengenuous. I was surprised the tech was called with the conversation we were having.”

So it wasn’t planned. But boy, was it effective.

“I give credit to our bench. All the guys on the bench, from the (graduate assistants) to the coaches to the players, they were all in the huddle with us, just telling us to stay calm, stay composed,” Robinson said. “And we all stayed together, and I think it really paid off.”

With probably the biggest regular-season victory in BYU basketball history.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.