PROVO — Charles Abouo's double-double in BYU's 72-59 win over Utah spoke volumes about the Cougars' need to successfully dial up a minuteman.
It also underscored how important it is for Jimmer Fredette's teammates to deliver when they are left standing all alone waiting for a pass.
Abouo scored 15 of BYU's initial 22 points of the game and hit 6-of-7 shots in that stretch. He finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds against a Utah defense designed to deploy multiple bodies on Fredette.
"You pick your poison," said Utah coach Jim Boylen, who told reporters he didn't make an adjustment at halftime to address a hot Abouo because his game plan required a Fredette emphasis — a goal of 12 points per half for the BYU star who had 47 in the previous BYU-Utah contest. Fredette got 23 in Saturday's rematch.
Abouo hit his first long bomb just after tipoff. Boylen said that started the Cougar junior going. Abouo found himself uncovered and the recipient of Fredette passes and many of Jackson Emery's six steals at the finishing end of transition fast-break buckets.
As BYU's offense came out sluggish, Abouo's contribution loomed huge.
"His 10 rebounds were more of a winning stat than his scoring," said Boylen. "It made a big difference in the game."
The most pleasing aspect of Abouo's performance for BYU coach Dave Rose was his defensive work on Utah's speedy ball-handler Jiggy Watkins (2-of-11 for four points).
"Our coaching staff tried to decide on who to put on Jiggy. He controls the game. He can get anywhere he wants to on the floor," Rose said. "It was a consensus; we thought Charles should start because Kyle (Collinsworth) had been out for a few days. I thought he got a great amount of energy from his defensive assignment.
"He was so confident in attacking the basket and players fouling him, and he was always in the right spot as far as penetration rules when the ball got penetrated," Rose added. "He was in the corner, he filled behind, he cut to the rim. He had a tremendous mental approach to attacking. Our guys found him and he finished."
Saturday was Abouo's 11th start in 24 games, and his second in a row. He made two of his three treys but got plenty of lay-ins — five to be exact. His previous scoring high came in BYU's opening two games of the season, 13 points apiece against Fresno State and Utah State.
"You try to come in, play hard, and make a difference in the game," said Abouo.
"Guys must be ready to step up when they're called upon," said Emery. "That's what Charles did and that's why we have so much confidence in our other players when Jimmer is receiving so much attention."