LAS VEGAS — Just when it seemed like the world had seen it all from BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, he did the unthinkable Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Fredette exploded for a career-high 52 points — shattering the career school scoring record (surpassing legend Danny Ainge), and the school single-game scoring record in the same game — to lead the No. 8 Cougars to an emotional 87-76 triumph over their nemesis, New Mexico, in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
In a town known for entertainment, The Jimmer Show reigned supreme.
Top-seeded BYU (30-3) avenged the Lobos' regular-season sweep and advanced to the MWC Tournament finals against San Diego State.
The MWC championship game tips off today (5 p.m. Versus).
"He's a scorer, a great scorer at that," Lobo guard Kendall Williams said of Fredette. "It piled on. It was a great game. He's a great player."
"Obviously, Fredette had one of those career nights," said UNM coach Steve Alford. "Very, very special talent. He put on an incredible performance."
And what did Fredette think of his effort?
"It was just a great night," he said. "I knew I was having a good game. I was just making shots tonight."
The senior from Glens Falls, N.Y., knocked down 22 field goals, just eight fewer than the entire New Mexico team. He was 22-of-37 and 7-of-14 from 3-point territory. Amazingly, Fredette attempted only one free throw, and that came with 4:24 left in the game.
The MWC player of the year, who has already been named national player of the year by several media outlets, scored his 49th point, to eclipse Ainge's mark, and tie the single-game school record of 49, which he already held, and drew a foul.
Then Fredette calmly drained a free throw to reach the 50-point milestone, recording the highest-scoring performance in school history.
Fredette added one more bucket with 56 seconds left to give him 52 points. Rose removed him from the game with 16.1 seconds on the clock, to the deafening roars of BYU fans in attendance.
"To get 52 and to do it without getting to the free throw line, just one time, speaks volumes to how talented he is," Alford said. "I think we had five different guys guard him. We tried running some people at him. I think we've won the other two (games) because we haven't let the role players and a couple other players hurt us."
BYU coach Dave Rose emphasized that it was a tremendous team win.
"Jimmer had one of those real special offensive nights that kind of kept a lot of energy with our team," he said. "But you watch it, it's amazing you can have a team win, as big a team win as this is, with one player scoring 52 points."
Rose pointed out the five steals and five assists by Jackson Emery, and the rebounds and "toughness" of Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo, "filling up the stat sheet like they did, it's a great team win."
"I thought it was a huge team effort just because these guys were rebounding the heck out of the ball getting out in transition," Fredette said. "It was a great team effort and something I'll never forget."
In the first half, the two teams scrapped in a back-and-forth battle that saw Fredette score 33. BYU went into the locker room at intermission with a 47-42 lead.
The Cougars started sluggish in the second half, hitting only one of their first seven shots.
Then UNM star Dairese Gary injured his knee with 18:32 left in the game and was helped off court. He did not return to the game and the Lobos missed their senior leader. New Mexico hung tough with BYU, trailing by only one, 62-61, with eight minutes remaining.
But Fredette responded with a 3-pointer, followed by a jumper. Moments later, Fredette drained another 3-pointer to give the Cougars their biggest lead, 71-63, with 5:30 left.
After UNM's Jamal Fenton hit a pair of free throws, Fredette answered with his record-breaking shot and record-breaking free throw.
Emery nailed six free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory.
Drew Gordon scored a team-high 17 for the Lobos.
BYU vs SDSU
Today, 5 p.m.
TV: Versus Radio: 102.7 FM, 1600 AM
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company