By Eddie Pells
DENVER (AP) Look out Big Easy. Here comes The Jimmer.
Jimmer Fredette scored 34 points Saturday to lift third-seeded Brigham Young to an 89-67 victory over 11th-seeded Gonzaga and send the Cougars to New Orleans for the regional semifinals.
It will be BYU’s deepest trip in the NCAA tournament since 1981, the year Danny Ainge went coast to coast against Notre Dame for a last-second game-winner – a play that still holds a special place in BYU’s rich sports history.
Fredette has a few dozen of his own clips on that highlight reel with a chance to add some more next Thursday against Florida, a 73-65 winner over UCLA on the other side of the Southeast regional.
In this game, the hoop must have seemed as wide as the Mississippi for the nation’s leading scorer.
He shot 7 for 12 from 3-point range, and after having trouble getting shots over Gonzaga’s tough defense in the first half, he found his rhythm in the second.
He opened the half by pulling up from 5 feet beyond the upper-right part of the 3-point arc and swishing the shot. That triggered an 11-2 run that put BYU up 56-40.
Gonzaga pulled within eight, but with 8:58 left, Fredette made a shot from the exact same spot as part of a 12-0 run that expanded the lead to 20.
Game over, and the rest was simply a matter of seeing where No. 32’s scoring line would settle. He came up far short of the 52 points he scored earlier this month in the Mountain West Conference tournament against New Mexico, but scored enough to bump that average up a couple notches, to 28.8.
As the game wound down, the winner long decided, BYU fans chanted “Sweet 16.” But then they came up with a more familiar refrain: “You got Jimmered!”
Or, to sum it up more succinctly – “We came, we saw, we Jimmered,” as one of the ubiquitous clever signs in the stands proclaimed.
But it wasn’t all Fredette. He didn’t get his first shot off until almost four minutes into the game and didn’t score until the 11:33 mark, which had to seem like dog years for a team that grew even more dependent on its star earlier this month when leading rebounder Brandon Davies was suspended for violating the school’s honor code.
For the first time since then, BYU genuinely looked like it had some legitimate second options.
Jackson Emery had two 3-pointers, a layup and a steal during Fredette’s early scoring drought. He finished with 16 points. Noah Hartsock (13 points) sunk three more 3-pointers to go with the pair he made in BYU’s opening 74-66 win against Wofford.
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