Jimmer Fredette may receive most of the attention, but No. 9 BYU proved it’s more than just a one-man team after routing a fellow conference heavyweight.
The surging Cougars look to avoid a letdown and avenge two losses from last season Saturday night when they visit New Mexico in a Mountain West matchup.
Fredette scored 43 points in Wednesday’s 71-58 victory against fourth-ranked and previously unbeaten San Diego State. It marked Fredette’s third 40-point effort in his last four games for BYU (20-1, 6-0) and improved his NCAA-best scoring average to 27.4.
“I made my first couple of shots in the second half and I wanted to keep going and being aggressive,” Fredette said.
It is the second straight season the Cougars have opened 20-1, also doing so in 1987-88. New Mexico denied BYU its 21st win last season, 76-72 on Jan. 27, 2010.
Fredette also received some help as the Cougars outscore the Aztecs 41-27 in the second half, turning a one-point halftime deficit into a one-sided victory.
Forward Brandon Davies scored 14 points - his most since scoring 15 on Jan. 5 in a victory against then-No. 25 UNLV. Noah Hartsock added a team-high seven rebounds and James Anderson blocked a season-high five shots.
Jackson Emery held San Diego State guard D.J. Gay - who had averaged 25.0 points in his previous two games - to only two points on 0-for-7 shooting.
“I think the key to the win was our big guys coming in and rebounding the heck out of the ball in the second half,” Fredette said.
Still, the focus is on Fredette, who played only 16 minutes due to a stomach illness and scored six points in an 83-81 home loss to New Mexico in the teams’ last meeting Feb. 27. He scored 27 points in last January’s loss at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.
New Mexico coach Steve Alford hopes to slow Fredette, who is averaging only 11.8 points in six meetings against the Lobos.
“(Fredette) is a lottery pick. This is a big-time player,” Alford told the team’s official site. “He is not just MVP of our league. He’s up for honors as the national player of the year. He’s the leader. He’s the catalyst and we have our hands full.”
The Lobos (14-7, 2-4) seem far removed from last season’s 30-5 team that beat the Cougars twice en route to a second straight MWC title. New Mexico had lost four of five prior to Wednesday’s 71-46 win against TCU, getting 20 points from Phillip McDonald and 12 and 11 rebounds from Drew Gordon.
The Lobos lost their only other game against a ranked foe this season, 87-77 on Jan. 16 versus then-No. 6 San Diego State. It was their first loss against a ranked opponent after five straight wins against the Associated Press Top 25.
“We have a big top-ten team coming in,” Gordon said. ” “It’s a good chance to test where we are again.”
Leading scorer Dairese Gary averaged 24.0 points and shot 59.1 percent in the two wins over BYU last season.
New Mexico has won three of four in the series after losing six straight to the Cougars.