Jimmer Fredette’s career night helped BYU avenge its only two conference losses.
San Diego State knows all too well what Fredette can do, and will likely need to slow him down to finally beat the Cougars and avenge their only two defeats to any opponent this season.
The No. 7 Aztecs and No. 8 Cougars meet for the third time this season Saturday night in Las Vegas in the Mountain West Conference tournament title game.
Fredette scored a career-high 52 points Friday, shooting 22 for 37 from the field in BYU’s 87-76 semifinal win against New Mexico. The Cougars (30-3) had lost both regular-season meetings against the Lobos, including March 2 - one day suspending center Brandon Davies for the remainder of the season.
Coach Dave Rose credited the victory to more than Fredette alone.
“Jimmer had one of those real special offensive nights that kind of kept a lot of energy with our team,” Rose said. “But you watch it, it’s amazing how you can have a team win, as big a team win as this is with one player scoring 52 points. The steals by Jackson Emery, the rebounds by Kyle (Collinsworth), the toughness from Noah Hartsock, Charles Abouo, filling up the stat sheet like they did, it’s a great team win.”
It was the 18th consecutive game with at least 20 points for Fredette, who is trying to lead BYU to its first Mountain West tournament championship since 2001.
“That’s the way they called it,” Fredette said. “I was just fortunate enough to be making shots.”
Fredette made plenty of shots against the Aztecs this season, including a 43-point effort in BYU’s 71-58 home win Jan. 26. He scored a relatively pedestrian 25 at San Diego State one month later, but still led all scorers as the Cougars won 80-67.
Those remain the only two losses of the season for the Aztecs (31-2), who are seeking their second straight conference tournament title and their fourth since 2002.
“He’s just amazing. It’s just impossible to stop him,” San Diego State senior forward Billy White said of Fredette. “We’re just going to try to go back to our game plan and see what we did wrong. Obviously we lost to them twice. We just got to see what happened in those two losses. We just got to try to contain him.”
The Aztecs are in the title game for the third straight year, but almost didn’t make it. They needed D.J. Gay’s runner in the lane in the final seconds Friday to beat UNLV 74-72 in the semifinals.
“D.J. is a winner. You want a guy like that on your side,” coach Steve Fisher said.
Gay finished with 15 points, going 3 for 4 from 3-point range. Kawhi Leonard, the 2010 Mountain West tournament MVP, scored a team-high 18 points.
Gay struggled in both meetings with the Cougars this season, totaling eight points.
BYU and San Diego State have met in the conference tournament three times with the Cougars winning two of those matchups. They have never faced each other in the title game.