ALBUQUERQUE — In the wake of No. 9 BYU's monumental 71-58 victory over No. 4 San Diego State on Wednesday night at the Marriott Center, the Cougars, and their superstar guard, Jimmer Fredette, have received overwhelming national attention.
Now, it's back to reality.
BYU knows there's a potential pitfall waiting at The Pit.
The Cougars (20-1, 6-0) are putting their 10-game winning streak and Top-10 ranking on the line when they clash with New Mexico today.
"That's my biggest fear right there, is that we kind of overlook New Mexico and we think, 'This week is a success. We beat San Diego State,'" said guard Jackson Emery. "But I hope we come ready to play. We should have a chip on our shoulder because they beat us twice last year. That should be enough. The way I think about it is, if we lose Saturday, I feel like that overshadows what we just did. We have to come out and win, so it makes it worth it."
The Lobos (14-7, 2-4) are 10-1 this season at home, with their only loss at The Pit coming at the hands of San Diego State a couple of weeks ago.
"It's a tough place to win," said Fredette, who scored 43 points against the Aztecs. "We know we need to go down there and hopefully get a win to make this (win over SDSU) even better."
A year ago, UNM defeated BYU in Albuquerque and Provo en route to a Mountain West Conference regular-season championship. And Lobo star Darington Hobson, who is now in the NBA, beat out Fredette for MWC Player of the Year.
"One of the games, I wasn't able to play in, especially the second half," Fredette recalled of the mononucleosis that forced him to miss much of the game at the Marriott Center. "They had a great team last year. This year, they also have a very talented team. We're going to be ready for their best shot. They're going to be tough to beat. This is the most important game on our schedule right now. So it's a really important game for us and we can't let down. We have to go out, be aggressive and just win."
The Lobos are coming off a 71-46 home win over TCU earlier this week, as Phillip McDonald drained six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points. Dairese Gary averages a team-high 13.3 points and 5.3 assists per game.
BYU coach Dave Rose said it's imperative for his team to play well from the outset, which is something they weren't able to do last year at The Pit in a 76-72 setback to New Mexico.
"Getting off to a slow start is an issue," Rose said. "That's a pretty easy place to get off to a slow start if you're not ready to go."
Rose is expecting the Lobos' best game today.
"They'll be ready. Coach (Steve) Alford is as good a competitor as there is," he said. "He's got really good talent. They have a young team that's kind of been stung. But they got a great win (over TCU)."
Rose added that what BYU needs to do "is make winning the No. 1 priority. When we do that, hopefully we'll find ways to win games. The last few games, Jimmer's scored a lot, but we've won games with him scoring an average amount of points, too. Whatever we need to do, hopefully we'll find a way to win."
Emery could draw the defensive assignment against Gary. Though he shot just 1-of-7 from the floor against SDSU, Emery shut down Aztec point guard D.J. Gay, who shot 0-for-7.
"I didn't shoot the ball very well. I've been shooting the ball well in conference play, but I didn't have a good shooting game," Emery said. "But I understood that some of their guys would get their points, but the guy who's been making them win is D.J. I understood if D.J. hit some big shots, it was going to be tough to play them, especially if we weren't hitting shots. So I took it personally. If I wasn't going to hit shots on the offensive side, I'd stop him."
Meanwhile, Fredette has been on a tear in January. Over the last four games, he is averaging 38.2 points, 4.3 3-pointers and three assists while shooting 51 percent from the field, 55 percent from 3-point range and 93 percent from the free-throw line.
Cougars on the air
No. 9 BYU (20-1, 6-0) at New Mexico (14-7, 2-4)
Today, 2 p.m.,
The Pit, Albuquerque
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM