Before a critical Mountain West Conference showdown this weekend, BYU needs to focus on beating San Diego State. Red-hot Jimmer Fredette figures to help keep the Cougars’ minds on the task at hand.
The No. 13 Cougars host the Aztecs on Wednesday night as they go for their second straight sweep of the season series.
The Cougars (25-3, 10-2) are battling New Mexico for first place in the conference, and the teams meet Saturday in Provo in a contest critical to BYU’s hopes of a fourth straight conference title.
First, the Cougars will try to extend their home winning streak over San Diego State. They defeated the Aztecs 71-69 on the road Jan. 23 and have won four consecutive meetings in Provo.
Fredette scored 33 points went 5 of 9 from 3-point range in the most recent matchup, hitting a crucial shot and two free throws in the final seconds. A similar performance Wednesday would hardly be a surprise considering how he has played lately.
The junior guard scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half of an 85-63 victory at Wyoming on Saturday and has averaged 26.3 points over the last eight contests. Named Mountain West Conference player of the week Monday, Fredette scored at least 33 points three times during the eight-game stretch.
“Fredette is very, very good,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “When they see him in here, they say ‘Why can’t you stop him?’ They are saying that everywhere from Laramie to Tucson. He’s hard to stop. He’s good.”
Fredette has led BYU to the best 28-game record in school history. The Cougars have won three in a row.
“There have been great teams, great coaches and great players,” coach Dave Rose said. “Tradition is something we really, really sell, especially when we recruit players. Year in and year out BYU basketball has been as competitive as anybody in college basketball.”
Rose’s Cougars are 14-0 at home and have a victory margin of 27.7 points there. Opponents are shooting 37.8 percent in Provo, although BYU’s last four games at the Marriott Center came against teams with losing records.
San Diego State (20-7, 9-4) should prove to be a tougher opponent. It comes in with four straight wins, one of them a 68-58 victory over then-No. 23 UNLV on Feb. 13.
The Aztecs are coming off a 68-61 win over Utah on Saturday. Malcolm Thomas scored 19 of his career-high 28 points in the first half as San Diego State reached 20 wins for a school-record fifth straight season.
A win Wednesday would boost the Aztecs’ NCAA tournament hopes. They have split four games against ranked opponents this season.
“If you play a team in the top 15 in the country and beat them on their floor it accents who you are,” Fisher said. “So we know the value that can be added to a win at BYU. We are well aware of it.”