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PROVO — One intriguing matchup inside tonight's showdown between No. 4 San Diego State and No. 9 BYU is the battle between two of the best point guards in the country — the Aztecs' D.J. Gay and the Cougars' Jimmer Fredette. Both Gay and Fredette are seniors, and team leaders. They're also two finalists for the 2011 Bob Cousy Award, emblematic of the nation's top point guard. Fredette leads the nation in scoring (26.7 points per game), while Gay can light it up, too, having scored 30 at New Mexico on Jan. 15.

BYU coach Dave Rose and San Diego State coach Steve Fisher know a key to victory involves containing the opposing point guard.

"You're talking about two very good, experienced point guards," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "D.J. has been a tough cover for us all four years we've tried to game plan for him."

While Rose said it will take a strong team effort to defend Gay, Fisher, who calls Fredette the player of the year, said the same thing when it comes to limiting Fredette. "It won't be a one-man operation," Fisher said. "We're all going to have to take a stand to put a handle on him and hope that he misses some of those shots that he takes. He gets a lot of shots that he creates for himself that's almost impossible to prevent him from shooting. We have to hope he's not shooting it particularly well."

"He's a kid that can shoot the ball. That's a big key, to try to limit his outside shots," Fredette said of Gay. "They have such good big guys, that if he's making shots, too, it makes it really tough to guard."

"D.J.'s making big plays for them," Rose said. "He's turned into a real leader from the perimeter. It's something every coach wants, a guy who can make plays for himself and his teammates."

UNDERDOG ROLE: San Diego State (20-0) has the better record and higher ranking, but BYU (19-1) is playing at home, where it rarely loses, in front of a sellout crowd. So who's the favorite?

"I think it's a huge game for both teams. It's a home game for BYU, so I guarantee you BYU will be favored to win the game," Fisher said. "That doesn't mean that we won't come in thinking we can and should win the game. They're dynamite. They have one loss and very easily could be 20-0, like we are."

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When told about Fisher's comments, Cougar guard Jackson Emery said, "When you are at home you expect to win every time. Coach Fisher understands what kind of team we have here. At the same time, he is trying to motivate his guys and say, 'Hey, we are the underdogs,' trying to create a fire under them so that they are not thinking that they are going to come in here and win."

CHALLENGING WEEK: As if it weren't enough to be hosting the No. 4 team in the country, BYU must travel to New Mexico Saturday for a game at The Pit.

"This week is full of challenges," Rose said. "Thursday morning will be an interesting day. You're going to come back with a group of guys that either have just had a big win or just came off a disappointing loss. The challenge will be the same. You've got to prepare and get ready for another really good team in a very tough environment."

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com