PROVO — Utah lengthened its stride in defending Jimmer Fredette.
After allowing the BYU star to go off for 47 points when the teams met Jan. 11 in Salt Lake City, the Utes held him to just 23 this time around.
A timely dozen, though, proved costly as Fredette paced the Cougars to a 72-59 victory Saturday in the Marriott Center. The senior reeled off 12 straight points to break a 48-48 tie with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Fredette had just eight points prior to the decisive run.
"Great players are going to score regardless. You've just got to contain them and just try not to have them go for their outbreaks," said Utah guard Chris Kupets. "He did. So you can't really contain great players like that. He got his shots. He made his shots. That's what he does."
Fredette hit five free throws, three baskets and a 3-pointer during the 2½-minute stretch.
"A couple of possessions, we didn't get to him fast enough," said Utah forward Will Clyburn. "We sent him to the free-throw line."
The Utes, he explained, tried to get to Fredette early and make things difficult by exploiting their size and athleticism. Freshman forward J.J. O'Brien drew the primary assignment on Fredette, who was 7-of-19 from the field.
"I thought his length and athleticism was a factor," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "I thought he was in Jimmer's rear-view mirror a lot, and I thought it helped us."
Boylen thought about putting O'Brien on Fredette in the earlier meeting, but didn't feel like the freshman was ready conditioning-wise. He missed nine games earlier in the season with a broken foot.
"It was a big game," Boylen explained. "I didn't feel I could put that much pressure on him to guard a top-five player in the country at that time."
O'Brien, Clyburn and Shawn Glover spent time defending Fredette and used their 6-foot-7 frames and long wingspans to Utah's advantage. Boylen said the guys did a heckuva job bothering him with their length.
"I think we made him work for his stuff," Boylen said. "If you compare game one to game two — I'm not a mathematician — but it sure looks better, doesn't it?"
Boylen added that things didn't really break open until Fredette penetrated the paint and got to the free-throw line.
Fredette wound up making 7-of-8 foul shots on an otherwise off night.
"Utah did a great job guarding him, but he found people," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "Charles (Abouo) having 22 points is a direct result of how they wanted to guard Jimmer, and Charles was ready to go."
It proved to be a trade-off, of sorts. Boylen, however, thought Abouo's 10 rebounds made more of a difference. It helped BYU win the battle of the boards by a 36-32 margin.
Turnovers also plagued the Utes. They turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 22 points by BYU.
Utah has now lost five straight games, racking up double-digit miscues in each setback. The Utes, who play host to Wyoming on Wednesday, fell to 10-15 overall and 3-8 in Mountain West Conference play.