PROVO — Utah men's basketball coach Jim Boylen didn't comment on Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan's retirement following Thursday's practice. He did, however, have plenty to say about BYU's Jimmer Fredette.
Boylen and the Utes take on the high-scoring senior and the sixth-ranked Cougars this afternoon at the Marriott Center.
"It starts with him," Boylen said. "He's the head of the monster down there."
In BYU's 104-79 win over Utah on Jan. 11, Fredette scored 47 points.
"He's proven he can beat you by himself and that's a tough thing. So you've got to try to keep him down," Boylen said. "But I've said this all along, he's not a guy that's a ball hog. I mean, he shares it and he shares it at the right time. He gets his stuff within the flow and he's very efficient."
The Cougars, Boylen explained, are hardly a one-man show. They have a terrific team.
"Very few teams that have a dominant scorer like that win as much as they do," he said. "But (Fredette) has a great feel for how to keep his teammates involved and keep that thing moving."
The Cougars enter the game with a 23-2 record, including a 9-1 mark in Mountain West Conference play, and they're 10-0 at home this season. The Utes, meanwhile, have lost four straight games and have dropped to 10-14 overall and 3-7 in the MWC.
Despite the disparity, Boylen is optimistic.
"We are not going down there to lose," he said. "We're going down there to win and play winning basketball."
The rivalry and environment, he added, are sure to heat things up.
Utah wilted in the spotlight Tuesday at San Diego State. The Aztecs blasted the Utes 85-53 after jumping out to a commanding early lead.
"We've got to respond back. (When) teams go on their runs, we've got to go on ours," said Utah guard Josh Watkins. "We get punched in the mouth, we've got to punch right back."
Exchanging blows, though, won't be easy in Provo.
"That's the type of environment I like to play in," Watkins said. "I like the crowd. I like to be the underdog, that's what I've been my whole life."
Defending Jimmer contributes significantly to the degree of difficulty.21 comments on this story
"We're just going to stick to our game plan. We've got to try to outplay them and out-tough them at their own place, take the crowd out of it. So I think we can," Watkins explained. "... If we work 40 minutes, we feel we can beat them."
Containing Fredette, he noted, will also require a full team effort.
"He's a good player. He's a real good player. I like his style, the way he plays. He gets good shots and he can shoot the ball," Watkins said. "It's a team thing. Everybody's got a responsibility. It's a team thing. Whoever's on him is on him. If I'm on him, I'm going to play my heart out. I'm going to give it my all — try to hold him down, lock him down."