It was "all Jimmer, all the time" for the BYU basketball Cougars last week, as Jimmer Fredette returned to his hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y., and scored 26 points in BYU's Wednesday win over Vermont, then followed up with a 33-point outing in a beatdown of Arizona on Saturday in Salt Lake City.
While the accolades for the Cougars' preseason All-American are well-deserved and consistently earned, Fredette's backcourt running mate Jackson Emery has been quietly setting the tone for the team by playing through pain.
Emery is dealing with a right leg injury that he says was "right at the point of becoming a stress fracture" when doctors diagnosed the problem and prescribed rest and medication to bring the injury under control.
At the time, rest for BYU's senior shooting guard meant missing all of the practices leading up the Cougars' game at Creighton — a game head coach Dave Rose wasn't sure Emery would play in. He didn't start, but he did play 30 minutes — including the entire second half — and, with 13 points and six rebounds, was as important a player as BYU had on the floor that night.
Since the Creighton game, Rose has been managing Emery's practice minutes, but when game time rolls around, the Lone Peak High School product is always ready to go. His current scoring and shooting numbers are down slightly from last season, but his minutes are up and Emery is on pace for the first 100-steal season in BYU basketball history. Emery's 91 steals in 2009-10 easily surpassed the previous single-season mark of 66 set by Marty Haws in 1989-90.
Playing "Robin" to Fredette's "Batman," Emery flies under the radar just as he flies all over the court. Thanks in part to his relentless style of play, his sore leg remains a concern.
"I've just got to be careful with it, watch it, and make sure I don't overdo it," Emery says.
That's easier said than done for BYU's tireless "King of Chaos."
With his 137th win as BYU's head coach, Dave Rose has tied Frank Arnold for fifth place on BYU's career coaching victory list. His next win will tie former boss Steve Cleveland for fourth, while two more wins will move him into third place alongside pre-World War II bench boss G. Ott Romney.
By the end of the season, Rose will likely have passed Roger Reid for second place (152 wins) and will trail only BYU legend Stan Watts and his 371 career victories.
Rose already owns BYU and Mountain West Conference records for career winning percentage and winning percentage in conference games; he also owns the school record for home win percentage with a staggering Marriott Center mark of 80-4. Rose's teams have been ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll for 17 consecutive weeks — the third-longest streak in the history of BYU basketball.
BYU's football program closes the season against UTEP in Saturday's New Mexico Bowl.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall thinks his team will be sufficiently motivated against the Miners, and it's clear that he and the team remain bothered by how the regular season ended in Salt Lake City.
Mendenhall says "having controlled the Utah game from beginning to end and not winning is playing into" his team's motivational mindset heading to Albuquerque.
Both teams are 6-6 on the season, but BYU deserves its status as a 12-point favorite against the Miners. BYU is rated 57th by USA Today numbers guru Jeff Sagarin, who rates BYU's schedule as the 52nd-toughest nationally.
UTEP has a Sagarin rating of 111, with a schedule rating of 128; by the numbers, the Miners are the worst non-Sun Belt Conference team playing in a postseason game.
BYU finished the season winning four of its last five and five of seven; the Miners lost back-to-back games and five of their last six to end the regular season.
Over the course of their campaigns, the two teams are as statistically close as their records, but current form counts in large amounts. Momentum belongs to BYU, and the Cougars should roll in the New Mexico Bowl.
Greg Wrubell is the radio play-by-play "Voice of the Cougars," and hosts BYU Football and Basketball Coaches' Shows on KSL Newsradio and KSL 5 Television. Wrubell's blog "Cougar Tracks" can be found at byu.ksl.com. "Behind the Mic" is published every Tuesday during the BYU football and basketball seasons. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company