Nine months after Jimmer Fredette played his final collegiate game for BYU, he still found a way to contribute to a Cougars victory.
With BYU preparing for Wednesday night's game against Weber State in practice Monday, Fredette imitated Damian Lillard on the scout team to make sure the Cougars were ready to defend the nation's leading scorer. The preparation seemed to help because BYU limited Lillard to a season-low 15 points — more than 13 below his average entering the game — in a 94-66 victory over the visiting Wildcats.
"Our guys know what it is like to play with the leading scorer in the country and tonight they were ready," BYU coach Dave Rose told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Lillard is a terrific player. We challenged his shots. The shots he made were difficult shots. We gave him a few too many chances where he had guys he could dish the ball to. I was really impressed with how consistently we were engaged on trying to make the game hard for him."
What BYU did successfully against Lillard was defend him a variety of different ways. Sometimes they double teamed him when he touched the ball. Other times long-armed point guard Anson Winder defended him one-on-one. And some of the bigger Cougars also got a turn.
The rout of Weber State debunked the notion that the Wildcats are the state of Utah's best team and served notice that BYU will be a threat to win the West Coast Conference in its inaugural season in the league. The Cougars improved to 7-2 with only losses to Wisconsin and a full-strength Utah State team sullying their resume.
BYU's frontcourt has met expectations with Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies averaging double figures and key reserves contributing off the bench, but where the success of the Cougars' season will be determined is in the backcourt. The duo of Fredette and Jackson Emery are gone, leaving only Charles Abouo with much experience on the perimeter.
Although Winder and Craig Cusick both got off to a wobbly start at point guard, the hope is that UCLA transfer Matt Carlino can stabilize the position once he's able to make his debut Dec. 17 against Baylor. It's difficult to project how much Carlino can help since he couldn't crack the UCLA rotation last November, but it wouldn't be the first time a change of scenery helped an ex-Bruin thrive.
Fredette has practiced with the team once a week per NCAA rules, but that will stop once he reports to Sacramento Kings training camp this week. BYU won't be happy to see him go, but his imitation of Lillard at least provided one last parting gift.