In the BYU Cougars' just-completed 32-win season, some victories stood out more than others. As a final farewell to the 2010-11 basketball campaign, here is my list of the Cougars' Top 10 wins. Not everyone may agree with the compilation, but I hope to have hit the high notes in a remarkable season that put BYU and star Jimmer Fredette front and center on college hoops' national stage.
Trailing by one with 10 seconds to play, BYU gets a go-ahead 3-pointer from Fredette, and Charles Abouo ices the game with two free throws, giving BYU the tournament title at the South Padre Island Invitational. "It's amazing how a couple of points can really change your life," says head coach Dave Rose after the game. The tourney title sets the tone for a stretch of eight consecutive games away from home, during which BYU goes 7-1.
At Energy Solutions Arena, BYU routs an Arizona team that would go on to win the Pac-10 title and play in the Elite Eight. Fredette scored 33 points as BYU overcame Brandon Davies' foul trouble and a Noah Hartsock concussion in leading wire-to-wire, while rattling the high-flying Wildcats.
In Glens Falls, NY, BYU wins Fredette's "homecoming game" by steamrolling the Catamounts in front a standing room-only crowd of 6,300 adoring Fredette fans. The build-up to the game prepared BYU for the media crush that would follow as the Cougars racked up wins and Fredette's national reputation continued to grow.
In Las Vegas, BYU snaps a streak of eight consecutive road losses to the Runnin' Rebels, giving Rose his first away win against UNLV. Fredette scored 39 points, including seven 3-pointers — some from "Jimmer Range," a phrase that starts appearing more regularly.
In Salt Lake City, BYU gets hot at the Huntsman Center, on the night "Jimmermania" was truly born. Fredette scores 32 first-half points, including a half-court shot at the halftime horn, on his way to a 47-point outing. ESPN's SportsCenter showcases Fredette's big night, and the media train was now rolling.
In the first-ever meeting of Top 10 teams at the Marriott Center, BYU defeats a Top 5 team for the first time in 56 years. The Cougars use a strong second half to defeat the No. 4 Aztecs behind 43 points from Fredette, as fans storm the floor for the first time in memory.
At the Mountain West Conference Tournament semifinals in Las Vegas, Fredette scores a school-record 52 points on the same night he passes Danny Ainge as BYU's all-time leading scorer. BYU snaps a string of four consecutive losses to the Lobos as the Cougars advance to the tournament title game.
In the second game without a suspended Brandon Davies, BYU recovers from a loss to New Mexico three days prior, and clinches a regular season conference crown on Senior Day — the final home game for senior captains Jimmer Fredette, Jackson Emery and Logan Magnusson. "This is a really happy day," said head coach Dave Rose afterward, reflecting on a scene that included almost all of a sell-out crowd remaining for nearly an hour after the game to revel in the emotional sendoff.
In front a national network TV audience and a raucous gathering at Viejas Arena, Fredette scores 25 points and adds a season-high nine assists, as 7th-ranked BYU gets balanced scoring to defeat the 6th/4th-ranked Aztecs. Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock and Jackson Emery were all in double figures, helping BYU win what was being called the biggest regular season game in school history. After the victory, many national observers project the Cougars as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In their second game of the NCAA Tournament at Denver's Pepsi Center, the third-seeded Cougars enter the game as underdogs against 11 seed Gonzaga, yet run their future West Coast Conference foes off the floor, behind 34 points from Fredette, and clutch shooting from Emery, Hartsock and Stephen Rogers. With their 32nd and final win, the Cougars advance to their first Sweet 16 since 1981.