PROVO — A week's worth of frustration and disappointment for No. 3 BYU seemingly disappeared in the final 20 minutes of the Cougars' resounding 102-78 victory over Wyoming on Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Center.
During that stretch, BYU, even without suspended forward Brandon Davies in uniform, was back to playing like BYU again.
Nursing a narrow three-point lead at halftime, the Cougars exploded for 64 second-half points, and shot nearly 68 percent from the field in the half, to claim the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship and clinch the No. 1 seed in next week's MWC Tournament in Las Vegas.
Playing in their final home game, seniors Jimmer Fredette (38 points) and Jackson Emery (18) led the way, while Charles Abouo poured in a career-high 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
When it was over, confetti rained on the court and BYU (28-3, 14-2) cut down the nets to celebrate the title in its final season in the league — just days after a deflating setback to New Mexico on Wednesday.
"We had one thing in mind, that was to win a championship," said Fredette. "That's what we were focused on. We knew it would be a tough game because it's hard to win championships. Teams don't want to back down. They don't want to let you do it."
"I'm happy for these players because championships are hard to win, but they last forever," said coach Dave Rose. "That's something these players will always have."
BYU was also sparked by the presence of Davies, who was suspended for the remainder of the season last Tuesday for violating the school's honor code. Davies did not attend the 82-64 loss to the Lobos, but on Saturday, he sat on the Cougars' bench, wearing a white shirt and tie, and supported his teammates.
"That meant a lot. He's like a brother to us," Fredette said. "We've been through a lot of great times together. He's been there for two years for us and he's a huge part of this team. He still is.
"To have him on the sideline, it feels right to have him there with us, enjoying this moment instead of him not being there. It felt different from the New Mexico game because of that. He's a great kid and we all love him. We wish him the best. I was glad he was there."
At different times, the BYU student section chanted, "We love Brandon!" and "We want Brandon!" After the game, Davies was allowed to participate in the net-cutting ceremony as the crowd cheered for him.
"It was great to have Brandon on the sidelines with us, to enjoy this moment because he deserves it as much as anyone on this team," Emery said. "To have him cut down that net, that was a special moment."
The Cougars will face the winner of Wednesday's play-in game between Wyoming and TCU on Thursday at 1 p.m. (MT) at the Thomas and Mack Center in the MWC Tournament quarterfinals at Las Vegas.
For now, BYU will enjoy a terrific end to a tumultuous week that saw not only the Cougars deal with the loss of Davies (their leading rebounder and third-leading scorer), and the loss to the Lobos, but also the intense media scrutiny surrounding the school's stringent honor code.
"High and lows, obviously, with everything that's been going on," Fredette said when asked to describe the week. "But right now, it's great. We're worried about focusing on continuing to play well.
"We're going to enjoy this for a couple of days, I think, and come back on Monday and be ready to go. It's been a great year that we've had. We've only had three losses ... and we're Mountain West Conference champions. It's great."
"It's been like a roller-coaster," Emery said. "You come off that win against San Diego State (last Saturday) and the beginning of the week, all that happened. But you know, it's great. That's part of life. You have your ups and downs, and you just move on."
Fredette said his team was a little "sluggish" in the first half against the Cowboys. Rose liked his team's effort early on, but added that his players were "tentative."
In the second half, though, BYU dominated Wyoming. Leading by just one, 40-39, with 18:30 remaining in the game, Abouo scored eight straight points, kickstarting a 16-2 run for a 56-41 advantage. The Cougars never looked back.44 comments on this story
"In the second half, we had to focus on getting out on transition and stopping them and getting easy shots," Fredette said. "Once you see that ball go in, our team will roll on from there and that's what happened."
"That was a hard-fought game. When you're trying to win a championship on the last day, you know it's going to be a real challenge. I was proud of our players," Rose said. "These bounce-back games, where you get beat and you have to come back and lay it out there and snap that losing streak, those are important games."