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Jimmer's 52-point night in Vegas sets the record books ablaze

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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LAS VEGAS — It was a performance so noteworthy that BYU star guard Jimmer Fredette essentially got his own page of game notes produced by the Mountain West Conference media relations staff on Friday night.

The front side of the golden sheet of paper dispersed courtside included 11 bullet points involving the rest of what there was to know from eighth-ranked BYU's 87-76 victory over New Mexico in the MWC tournament semifinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.

On the back, Jimmer had nine notes of his own after dropping a memorable, career-best 52-point bomb on the Lobos.

Among them …

• The 52 points were the second most scored in a single game by a Division-I player since 2009 (Kentucky's Jodie Meeks scored 54 in 2009, Providence's Marshon Brooks tallied 52 last month against Notre Dame; The MWC's notes incorrectly read '1989' instead of 2009).

• His 33 first half points set a Mountain West record.

• Fredette passed Danny Ainge for the most points in BYU history. He now has 2,417 after entering the night 48 behind the Cougar legend. After the game he even took time outside of the locker room to autograph a fan's sign commemorating the accomplishment.

• Fredette averages 7.68 free throw attempts per game, but did not shoot his first — and only — charity attempt until there was only 4:24 left in the game.

The truth is, if the MWC staff wanted to keep digging, it probably could have found 50 more. The performance was that unique.

Most college players would be considered me-first ball hogs if they hoisted 37 shots in a game, but Fredette made it look natural in what is now the signature performance of his magical season that could culminate with National Player of the Year honors.

"You know, earlier in his career we would kind of shake our heads — Now, we really kind of expect that, which is probably not the right thing," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "But when he's in that rhythm where he believes everything he's going to shoot is going to go in, he's really hard to guard."

New Mexico tried several different looks against Fredette in the first half, but it became clear pretty early on that he wasn't going to be broken.

Fredette scored BYU's first 10 points, and in the game's first 20 minutes, hit shots from all over the floor. None, it seemed, were that open, and two mid-range jumpers coming back-to-back late in the half were connected upon with New Mexico's Jamal Fenton draped all over him. Fredette hoisted both looks in hopes of drawing a whistle from the officials, but instead just made the shots.

By the half, he'd gone an unconscious 14-of-20 from the floor and 5-of-8 from deep. All along, he did it with the cold, blank facial expression of a robotic killer.

"You can kind of see the score, the points, because it's right next to the scoreboard," he said. "They put it up there for you. I don't know if it's always correct or not. You can kind of tell where you're at. But I wasn't a hundred percent sure at all times, you know what I mean? But I did see some of the times when I looked up there and just saw the score. I knew I was having a good game."

Lost in the mix was that New Mexico, who came in desperate to get back into the NCAA tournament at-large talk, was down just five at halftime and stayed close until the final minute despite losing senior point guard and first team All-MWC performer Dairese Gary to a nasty knee injury early in the second half.

Fredette's second act didn't include nearly as many fireworks as the first, but he delivered a dagger with his and-one layup late in the game that put BYU up by eight and sent him to the line for the first time.

"He did it with one free throw attempt — That's really unusual," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "I think we had five different guys guard him. We tried running some people at him. I think we won the other two (meetings) because we didn't let the role players and a couple of other players hurt us."

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The role players for BYU, as a matter of fact, were pretty much invisible for much of the night.

Backcourt sidekick Jackson Emery scored 14 points, but was just 3-of-11 from the floor and 1-of-7 from long range. Freshman Kyle Collinsworth tallied 11, though most of that came either in transition or by cleaning up messes underneath the hoop.

The Cougars' bench contributed one point, and the reserves only played three minutes total in the second half. With that, BYU has advanced to Saturday's title game against San Diego State with five bench points in two outings in Las Vegas.

It begs the question: Is The Jimmer Show capable of keeping this going basically on his own if need be?

Sophomore forward Brandon Davies, who is the team's third leading scorer and top rebounder this season, was lost for the year last week after violating the school's honor code. Without him, BYU has no true, dependable, low-post scoring options and lost a key dimension.

But does it matter?

Entering Friday night, many thought that New Mexico's brawny, productive frontcourt duo of A.J. Hardeman and UCLA transfer Drew Gordon would chew the Cougars up inside.

Instead, Fredette — still the nation's leading scorer — made their combined 28 points and 20 boards all but irrelevant.

He's continuing to prove that he is capable of carrying the Cougars a long way with just a sprinkle of help on the side.

Friday proved that Fredette can even go to historic measures to do so.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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