Dave Rose is happy BYU lives again to play tonight after the Cougars defeated TCU for the 16th straight time.
"These first-round games are tough to win," said Rose. "Look around the country, dark jerseys are winning a lot of games in these tournaments."
Final score: BYU 64, TCU 58 in a slow-down crawler.
"We're excited. We'll build on this. It's a big win," said Rose.
It was a big win because the Cougars missed plenty of shots and still won.
Now the Cougars face their nightmare opponent, the Lobos, who defeated Colorado State 67-61 in a come-from-behind victory Thursday.
UNM's basketball team is in the heads of BYU's hoops roster, much like the Cougars' athletic program is in the collective heads of San Diego State's football and basketball teams, administration, media and fans.
BYU needed outstanding rebounding from Charles Abouo (8) , Noah Hartsock (7) and freshman Kyle Collinsworth (8) to overcome a spirited TCU team that outshot the Cougars on Thursday in the MWC's matinee game in the Thomas & Mack Center.
How important was that rebounding? Well, when TCU outshot BYU 44 to 42 percent from the field, the Cougars registered 33 rebounds to just 25 for the Frogs. That was the difference and provided a "make-up" margin for Rose.
After watching the Cougars labor to a win, it is evident that BYU must find a far greater scoring punch if they are to make it to Saturday here.
BYU skated by TCU and didn't roll the Frogs.
Most high school and college coaches I've talked to over the years will tell you the first game of a postseason tournament is the most scary contest of all.
This proved true for BYU, UNM and CSU on Thursday.
Shots drop, or they do not. BYU is a team that will live or die on that matrix here and in the NCAAs.
Abouo said the Cougars were not relieved to win, describing the mood in the locker room. "I wouldn't say it was relief, the guys are hungry to play another game."
And there's the Jimmer factor.
Fredette may have scored 24 points — the most he's ever had against TCU this season — but he missed many open opportunities. And officials "managed" the game in a manner that TCU defenders worked Fredette in a way to neutralize an important part of his game: life at the line.
Early in this game, Fredette drove and got bumped off his line, moved half a foot off his attack route with no call. He went to the line six times and made all six; but two were technical free throws, two other free-throw attempts were off an intentional foul tackle at the end of the game. The third Fredette trips to the line came off a common foul. One call. It is an interesting situation for the league's most heavily defended dribbler and penetrator.
If that's a baseline for the MWC tourney, it will be a factor for BYU. Twice in the TCU game, Fredette went to officials, open-handed in Danny Ainge style. Once after he got called for a charge and another time when he missed a 3-pointer and thought he got hacked.
I'm not qualified to say if he should have gone to the line more. But it is a discussion topic.
It doesn't look good to complain. I don't like Fredette doing it on the court. But if you are Jimmer and miss shots, the drives and getting calls or lacking them loom as a big part of your game.
It is a factor best offset by great shooting by Fredette and Company.
"I was real impressed with Jimmer in how he relied on the rest of his teammates. Sometimes you get in a situation like that and you feel like you have to do it all yourself," said Rose.
"The most important thing for Jimmer is to help his team find a way to win. The key we've been talking about all year long, the story is he can score. A lot of guys can score, but he's on a team that has won 29 games."
Can the Cougars defeat New Mexico?
Undoable so far this season.
This is a tough matchup for BYU, a team that is 0-4 and counting against the Lobos. Steve Alford has BYU's number. It is an edge that favors the Lobos if UNM sharpshooters are on. In the two previous meetings, they were red hot and BYU was not.
Can it be that simple?
TCU battled, lost it, but almost evened it all out in the end by scoring 7 points in 21 seconds.
Shooting does that. Fredette went almost 25 minutes without scoring in the TCU game in droughts of 11 minutes 14 seconds in the first half and and 13 minutes 10 seconds in the second half.
Plus, BYU will have its hands full with A.J. Hardeman and Drew Gordon inside the paint. Dealing with those guys inside gives Phillip McDonald, Tony Snell, Kendall Williams and Dariese Gary wiggle room to fire away outside where TCU made an impressive 9-of-19.
If I had to bet, here where that ritual is a rite of passage, I'd put the money on the Lobos and their perch inside the heads of the Cougars.