SALT LAKE CITY — In the ever-expanding universe of Jimmer Fredette, where space, time and distance seem to have no limits, it's strange that one of his most telling days was fairly earthbound.
He didn't reach the stars (23 points), but that really didn't matter much. What he did do was condense time, just when the BYU Cougars needed it. Hence, you can mark down his statistically so-so game against Utah on Saturday as a fine one, for one simple reason: He did it at warp speed, as the Cougars won, 72-59.
BYU's rocket trip to the moon remains on course. Meanwhile, Fredette added one more component to his growing stature: He does good things even on bad days.
Struggling to combat Utah's long, physical presence, Fredette scored 12 points in just 2 1/2 minutes to break open a close game.
"He took over the game," Utah coach Jim Boylen said.
On the list of Fredette's attention-grabbing games, Saturday's wasn't high. The national player of the year candidate didn't burn down the house with extraordinary outside shooting. He didn't blind anyone with dazzling, twisting shots, either, though it would have been a good time to do so. Jazz players C.J. Miles and Deron Williams were on the front row of the Marriott Center, checking out the show.
It never hurts to put your best foot forward when the bling is in the house.
To Utah's credit, it did all it could to close down the nation's top scorer. Boylen chose 6-foot-7, 215-pound freshman J.J. O'Brien to take one for the team. That's how it usually is when it comes to guarding Fredette. Nobody likes to get humiliated, but it often happens. Last time these teams played, Fredette scored 47.
O'Brien actually did a fine job. For most of the afternoon, Fredette was frustrated. It wasn't just the first line of defense, but the second and third lines that bothered him. If he slid past O'Brien, there were mid-range defenders collapsing. Finally, there were centers Jason Washburn and David Foster down low.
"I think their length really caused some problems," said BYU coach Dave Rose.
So much so that for a long time it looked as though the Utes had a chance. At halftime, BYU led by just one. Boylen's plan was working magnificently. With 10 minutes to go, it was a tied game.
Fredette was getting knocked down, pushed and simply blocked.
In most ways, it wasn't a Fredette kind of day. (Is there a law that says you ALWAYS have to say Jimmer?) Teammate Jackson Emery said it took a bit longer than usual to adjust to the latest of many defenses teams use to contain him. Prior to his outburst, Fredette had just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting. But with 9:17 to go, he double-clutched a mid-range shot, making the basket and drawing a foul. Quickly, he added a pair of free throws. Next he swished one from well beyond the arc.
He followed that up with a steal, resulting in a pair of free throws, and closed it out with a layup that put BYU up by 10.
The whole thing — the flurry, as well as the game — was over in the time it takes to cook an egg.29 comments on this story
"I'm telling you that when you receive the attention for 40 minutes that he does, and for him to continue to force the issue — he is a relentless scorer," Rose said. "I don't know if you can really appreciate that until you've coached, because there are guys who can score, but he is relentless. He just continually puts pressure on the defense to guard him."
That sort of pressure produced a 49-point game last year and games of 47, 42 and 43 this season — which is impressive.
But the truest sign of his uniqueness came on a day when he simply couldn't find a rhythm, yet regained his groove for just long enough.
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