BYU basketball: Hot Cougars scorch nets, Falcons
Jimmer Fredette, Cougars tie 3-ball record in win over Air Force
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — BYU continued its Mountain West Conference farewell tour Wednesday night, and the Cougars waved goodbye to Air Force, and a sold-out Clune Arena crowd, with red-hot hands.
The No. 7 Cougars shot a blistering 69 percent in the second half, and 58 percent for the game. They also tied a school record with 15 3-pointers to cruise to a 90-52 victory before 6,028 fans at Clune Arena, the largest crowd to watch a game here since BYU visited in 2007.
Falcon fans were hoping for a big upset, but they went home disappointed. Instead, they witnessed Air Force's worst home loss ever.
"We heard it was going to be a sellout crowd," said Cougar guard Jackson Emery. "We knew they were going to be pumped. They had a lot of intention to beat us and send us out of the Mountain West Conference with a loss here. We took it upon ourselves to get ready to play. We knew we had two guys out; we had to come out and play."
"In the second half, we started hitting shots," said Emery, who scored 17 points, 14 of which came in the second half. "That was the biggest factor."
The Cougars improved to 23-2 overall and 9-1 in the Mountain West Conference while Air Force fell to 13-10 and 4-6.
BYU led by just 11 at halftime but finished with a 38-point blowout, as the Cougars outscored the Falcons 54-27 in the second half. BYU hit 20-of-29 shots from the field in the second half.
"In the first half, we played really hard in spurts, then we kind of relaxed a little bit," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "In that second half, it might have been the best half that we've played."
In the Cougars' last few road games, they've squandered big leads. But not against the Falcons.
"That's our strength and weakness at times," Emery said. "Our strength is we play these spurts where we play really good. Then, we go through these times, like in the first half, where we kind of let down. In the second half, we put our foot on the pedal and just kept pushing. We didn't let off."
Guard Jimmer Fredette scored a game-high 25 points, though Air Force made him earn every one of them.
"Their game plan was to be very, very, very, very physical with me, to hold and grab and do everything they possibly could," said Fredette, who had six turnovers and five assists. "That was probably the most aggressive I've been played. They were very aggressive with me."
Late in the first half, Fredette hit his knee against a defender while driving the lane. He came up limping and left the game for a few moments.
"It's a little sore right now," Fredette said of his knee. "I'll ice it. It will probably be pretty sore tomorrow. I banged it knee-to-knee. It's nothing to worry about."
Fredette knocked down five of BYU's 15 3-pointers. Emery hit 5-of-11 3s after going 1-for-6 in the first half.
"I had great looks. I wasn't trying to force it," Emery said. "I knew it would come to me. I was just happy I started hitting shots."
BYU also tallied 24 assists, including a career-high six assists by Brandon Davies. Davies finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Rose was pleased with his team's defense, too. Air Force, which entered the game as the MWC's best shooting team, shot 34.5 percent, a season low.
"In the second half, our zone was as active as it's been in a long time," Rose said. "This is one of the best 40-minute games we've had in league (play). It's nice to have it come on the road, at a difficult place, against a team that's playing well. But the key tonight was defense. We got a lot of energy defensively from hitting a lot of shots offensively."
"In the second half, we just made a lot of shots," Fredette said. "We just made everything. We played good defense. (Air Force) didn't score much in the second half. The zone bothered them a little bit. We were getting rebounds, getting out in transition, finding the open guy and making shots."
At times, Clune Arena sounded like a miniature Marriott Center, thanks to the large contingent of BYU fans in attendance.
The Falcons are now 0-29 all-time against teams ranked in the top 10.
In the first half, BYU went on a 16-0 run that broke open a 15-12 game and gave the Cougars a commanding 31-12 lead with eight minutes remaining. However, Air Force responded by scoring 11 straight points to keep the Falcons in the game. At halftime, BYU led, 36-25.
But the Cougars turned the game into a rout again in a hurry, outscoring Air Force 14-2 to start the second half to build a 23-point lead, 50-27.
BYU added to its lead, going up by as many as 40.
Sophomore Stephen Rogers came off the bench to score nine first-half points on three 3-pointers. He finished with 11 points.
The Cougars host arch-rival Utah on Saturday.
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