PROVO — BYU exorcised some demons with an 87-76 win over New Mexico Friday night in the Mountain West Conference Tournament semifinals.
Not only did Jimmer Fredette pour in a school-record and career-high 52 points, and lead the Cougars to the MWC Tournament championship game, but BYU beat the Lobos for the first time in more than two years.
UNM, the Cougars' long-time MWC and Western Athletic Conference rival, had defeated BYU four consecutive times — and had won five of the previous six meetings — including an 82-64 victory last week in the Marriott Center, one day after the suspension of forward Brandon Davies.
"You know, it was just a great night," Fredette said. "It was a fun matchup to be against them. They've had our number for the past four games. Sometimes teams do that. We were just looking forward to playing them again. We knew we could play better than what we did in Provo. Our minds weren't quite right and everything. But we felt that if we gave a good effort, we could have a chance to win. That's kind of what happened. So it's a very satisfying win."
Friday's game was tied eight times and the lead changed hands 14 times.
It marked the final meeting between the longtime rivals as members of the MWC, as the Cougars move on to the West Coast Conference next season.
Now BYU is playing for the MWC Tournament title, something the Cougars haven't won since 2001.
"We are going to need a team effort," said guard Jackson Emery. "We know that after a night like this, the next team that plays us is not going to want to let Jimmer go off. We want to take some of that pressure off of Jimmer so he can just play and not worry about having to score 50-plus points, but just play and whatever comes comes."
SCORING LEADER: Fredette became BYU's all-time scoring leader on Friday, surpassing Danny Ainge. He now has 2,471 career points, compared to 2,467 for Ainge. What's more, Fredette has six 40-point games in his illustrious career.
Fredette also broke his own MWC Tournament scoring record of 45.
Meanwhile, Emery set a MWC single-season steals record Friday. He entered the contest with 88 steals on the year, needing three to break the mark that he set last season. He finished with five steals and has 93 steals for the year.
BYU MAKES SCHOLARSHIP OFFER: During their time in Las Vegas this week, the BYU coaching staff offered a point guard from North Carolina a scholarship.
Point guard Stilman White, a 6-foot-1 senior from Hoggard High in Wilmington, N.C., received the offer this week while attending the MWC Tournament.
White, who averaged 20 points a game, also has offers from Utah State and UNC Wilmington. North Carolina is also showing interest, as he was a guest of that school to watch last week's UNC-Duke game.
Interestingly, White is a Utah fan, but the Utes have not offered him a scholarship.