GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — It was billed as the Hometown Classic, but as games go, it really won't be remembered as much of a classic.
BYU used tough defense and 56 percent shooting from the field to beat Vermont 86-58 and improve to 9-0 for the season Wednesday night.
What the game will be remembered for is the night a city's favorite son — Jimmer Fredette — returned home to the adoring applause of the standing-room-only crowd of 6,300 at the Glens Falls Civic Center, just a mile or so from where he played his high school ball.
Fredette didn't disappoint anyone, scoring 26 points — including the Cougars' first seven — to send the fans clad in BYU blue and Glens Falls red into a frenzy.
"It was a great atmosphere. It's exactly what I expected," Fredette said.
Fredette handled the pressure of his homecoming and all that was asked of him: an appearance at an assembly at his alma mater, local interviews and the obligations of family and friends that come with playing in your small hometown. He said he was ready at game time, even though he appeared nervous, seemingly shaking on the court before the game.
"I was really cold," he said about the court built over a sheet of hockey ice.
He also acknowledged a touch of nerves.
"Everything together was making me shake," he said. "I was trying to warm myself a little bit."
The warmth of the support from the fans on hand surely helped the nerves dissipate quickly, as did Fredette's opening run — a jumper, a 3-point shot and a layup to start the game.
BYU Coach Dave Rose said his staff designed a few plays to get Fredette off to a solid start. Rose said he hadn't even considered that the magnitude of the homecoming game would affect Fredette.
"I expected him to play really well. That's not always the case in these kind of games," Rose said. "I really thought he played within himself. He just does what he does. He runs our team with the number one goal in mind to help our team."
The Catamounts (6-2) stuck with the Cougars in the opening minutes, coming as close as 13-10 after a layup by senior forward Garrett Kissel. But BYU scored 10 straight, highlighted by Logan Magnusson's 3-pointer off a Fredette assist. The overwhelmingly partisan BYU crowd erupted.
Vermont and BYU traded baskets after that, and the half ended with BYU ahead 38-25.
The Catamounts cut the lead to 10 early in the second half, but when Jackson Emery stole the ball and dunked to extend the lead back to 12, that seemingly broke the Catamounts.
"That was just basically it — the dunk," Vermont coach Mike Lonergan said.
Fredette's 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field led the Cougars. Noah Hartsock added 14 points to go with 13 rebounds, and Brandon Davies scored 12. Vermont was led in scoring by sophomore guard Brendan Bald's 14 points.
The last time Fredette played in the Civic Center was in 2007, when he and his Glens Falls High teammates fell short in the New York state Class A title game. He hit 3-of-24 from the field that night. But if he carried any bad memories from that game, he erased them Wednesday night by creating new ones.
Fredette said he was a little choked up before the game when he was announced and received a minute-long standing ovation, then again at the end when Rose removed him with just over two minutes to play.24 comments on this story
Fredette walked off the court to an appreciative crowd — that also included BYU grad Danny Ainge — on its feet, met Rose in front of the bench for an embrace, then hugged each player and coach on the bench. Before sitting, he raised his hands to the sky, gazing at the crowd on all sides of the arena. He saw some familiar faces.
"To see how much the crowd still loves you and still appreciates you," he said, his voice trailing off. "They were cherishing the moment as much as I was. It was pure joy."
Even in defeat, Lonergan appreciated the evening and the outpouring of affection for Fredette.
"I was glad I was here tonight," he said. "I thought it was unbelievable when he came out of the game. It was pretty cool to be a part of."