SAN DIEGO (AP)—This sounds almost too nice to be a rivalry.
Fans shouldn’t expect any trash talking on the court when Jimmer Fredette and the No. 7 BYU Cougars visit D.J. Gay and the No. 6 San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday in a nationally televised showdown.
Viejas Arena is expected to be amped up for one of the most eagerly anticipated games in San Diego sports history. It’s been sold out for nearly two months and tickets are going for hundreds of dollars on various Websites. A long line of students snaked around the 12,414-seat arena on Thursday afternoon. Their allotment originally was scheduled to be distributed on Friday afternoon, but it was moved up to Friday morning due to the threat of rain.
The student section, known as “The Show,” will no doubt push the bounds of decency.
But there’s no animosity between the players, even after Jimmer went off for 43 points in a 71-58 win against SDSU in Provo a month ago.
“I think since we’re both in the Top 10 and have been playing very well and always have great battles against each other that there’s a level of respect,” Jimmer said Wednesday night after scoring 34 points in BYU’s 84-76 win against Colorado State. “Both teams have very talented players and we go out and compete. There’s no trash talking or anything like that. We both just want to win the Mountain West Conference and that’s what this game is all about. I think both teams have great respect for each other.”
The feeling is mutual, SDSU senior forward Billy White said. Jawing at Jimmer won’t be in SDSU’s playbook.
“D.J., Tim (Shelton) and I have been in the league for four years, so we kind of grew up with each other, playing against each other all the time. We just have respect for each other. He is a great player and I respect him a lot for what he’s doing. On Saturday, we’ll just try not to let him go off on us this time to get a win.”
White went so far as to call Fredette “a great guy. He always says, ‘Good job.’ He’s not a trash-talker at all.”
The Aztecs (27-1, 12-1 Mountain West) haven’t been doing a good job against Fredette and BYU (26-2, 12-1) in recent games. The Cougars have won three straight in the series, including 71-69 at San Diego last year. Fredette, recovering from strep throat and mononucleosis, scored 33 points in that game.
A month ago, Fredette highlighted the first Top 10 showdown in Mountain West history by scoring BYU’s final 15 points of the first half and 24 of 27 in one stretch.
“The key thing that we’re going to try to do this time is keep fresh bodies on him,” Gay said on Thursday. “It may not seem like it, but he is a human. He has to get tired sometime. I think if we have the ability to keep fresh bodies and put a little bit more length on him, like we did the first game, you know, have Billy, have him shoot over the top, which is difficult, I think that might play to our benefit. Just keeping fresh bodies and length to help tire him out and kind of slow him down.”
Senior forward Malcolm Thomas took the blame for the loss in the first BYU game. He said there are plenty of mistakes to correct from that game.
“Watching a little bit of film, we didn’t—me in particular—finish well at the rim,” Thomas said. “We didn’t really defend well, we didn’t really help D.J. as much as we should. Our defensive transition wasn’t really there. Really, just defensively we didn’t execute. We’re going to have to do a better job this time.”
Fredette plays well against everybody, so it’s no surprise he’s done well against the Aztecs.
“They usually play me straight up and try to use their length to bother me,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll double up on ball screens. But normally they just play me straight up because they know that we have guys on this team that can really shoot the ball and don’t want guys like Jackson (Emery) to go off on them and keep killing them with threes. So I think that allows me to be able to get my shot off.”
Gay said the Aztecs have to watch out for Emery and Brandon Davies.
“It’s not just Jimmer, it’s not just Emery, it’s not just Davies,” Gay said. “BYU is a well-put together team and they know their role and all play it to a T. A team like that is very dangerous.”
Although both teams are looking at a high seed in the NCAA tournament, the winner will have the inside track at the Mountain West Conference championship.