Led by Jimmer Fredette, BYU upsets, sweeps San Diego State
SAN DIEGO -- Whether it's at altitude or sea level, the San Diego State Aztecs just can't stop Jimmer Fredette.
The star guard had 25 points and nine assists as No. 7 BYU spoiled the biggest game the history of San Diego State (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP), running away with an 80-67 victory Saturday.
As the final buzzer sounded, a fired-up Fredette threw the ball into the air and celebrated with his teammates just a few feet from SDSU's student section. It was the first home loss in 14 games this season for the Aztecs, who also lost by 13 to BYU at Provo a month ago.
"We were just really, really excited to win this game," Fredette said. "It's a huge game. Everyone was picking San Diego State to win and I thought our team did a great job of just making shots and getting rebounds, getting loose balls, doing things that we needed to do, and that's why it was an emotional win."
The Cougars (27-2, 13-1 Mountain West) swept the regular-season series against the Aztecs (27-2, 12-2) for the third straight year and took a one-game lead in the conference. SDSU's second loss came in one of the most eagerly anticipated games in this city's history. The Aztecs' only win against BYU in the last three seasons was in the MWC tournament semifinals two seasons ago.
The teams very well could meet again in the conference tournament championship game, which determines the league's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Both teams are expecting high seeds in the NCAAs.
"I told our team, 'BYU is Final Four good,' " SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. "And I don't know that our guys liked to hear that. And then I said, 'We are, too.' Today, they were the better team. No excuses. They made plays. They made shots."
Just like last month in Provo, it was too much Fredette. The Aztecs rotated three players on him defensively, and often double-teamed him. That left other BYU players open and Fredette got them the ball.
The Cougars took control of this game earlier than they did at Provo.
Charles Abouo added 18 points as the Cougars dominated inside and outside. Noah Hartsock had 15 points and Jackson Emery added 13.
BYU made 14 of 24 3-point shots, including four each by Fredette and Abouo. SDSU only made six of 17 from behind the arc.
"A lot of times, they are double-teaming me and I was getting them the ball and they were wide open, so they are going to make shots if they are wide open," Fredette said.
"Whether they shoot 14 for 24 or not, they are going to be a very, very difficult out for anyone in the NCAA tournament," Fisher said. "I don't care who it is. They are that good."
SDSU's only lead was 2-0 on Kawhi Leonard's fallaway jumper after the Aztecs controlled the opening tipoff.
Fredette, who scored 43 points in BYU's 71-58 win over the Aztecs last month, helped the Cougars take control after SDSU pulled to 47-44 on James Rahon's 3-pointer with just over 13 minutes to play. Fredette made a 3-pointer and converted two three-point plays, and Emery made two 3-pointers as BYU took its biggest lead, 67-54, with 8:15 left.
Leonard had 17 points and 13 rebounds for his 20th double-double this season and 37th of his career. Chase Tapley had 11 points and Billy White and Rahon had 10 apiece. Guard D.J. Gay was held to six points and forward Malcolm Thomas to nine. Thomas missed seven of 10 shots.
Every time SDSU pulled within three points, either the Cougars answered or the Aztecs couldn't get closer.
"Against a team that good, you have to be able to make important plays," Fisher said. "And we had several of them, too many to mention, where it looked like, well, we are going to get that interception, and all of a sudden it goes off our hands and they get it and they shoot in a 3. We have got the ball, we are going to get a basket, and all of a sudden they come in, deflect it away and we miss it, and they go down and get a basket.
"That's what winning is all about. That's what they did today, very, very effectively," Fisher said.
"The way the guys responded in the locker room after the game, yeah, this was a big win," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "A big win for those players and I'm really proud of them. I think everyone appreciated the fact that this game meant something."
SDSU pulled to 38-35 late in the first half, then missed two field goal attempts and two free throws in the opening minutes of the second half.
After Rahon's 3 cut the BYU lead to 47-44, Fredette answered with a 3, and that's when he and the Cougars began to put it away. Fredette fed Emery for a layup and then converted a three-point play, and just like that, the Cougars were up by nine. Gay responded with a 3 for SDSU, only to have Emery hit a 3-pointer.
Stephen Rogers made a 3-pointer for BYU, Fredette had a three-point play and Emery made a 3-pointer for the 67-54 lead.
BYU also had a double-digit lead in the first half, 32-20 after two 3-pointers from Fredette and two from Hartsock.
SDSU pulled back into the game behind White, then played for the last shot before Gay missed a 3-pointer a few seconds before the buzzer, leaving the score 38-35 at halftime.
- Scott Thornley
- Mike Reed
- Tony Padilla
2022-23 West Coast Conference Standings
2022-23 Mountain West Conference Standings
|San Diego State||15-3||-||30-6|
|San José State||10-8||5||21-14|