The Pepsi Center turned into a graveyard for some of the NCAA's top-seeded teams on Thursday, but No. 3 BYU found a way to step over the cracks that swallowed up No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 Vanderbilt and No. 6 St. John's.
Jimmer Fredette got his 32 points, but BYU needed monster 3-point shots from sixth man Logan Magnusson and clutch defense from Jackson Emery to skip over feisty No. 14 seed Wofford. It was a solid but unspectacular 74-66 victory for the Cougars.
"What I really liked was our fight," said BYU coach Dave Rose.
"We are excited to live another day," said Fredette.
"Anything I can do to help," said Magnusson.
Yes, the Pepsi Center hosted wins by Nos. 11, 12 and 13 seeds Thursday and before the game, Wofford's coach told his 14th-seeded Terriers there was a feeling circling in the building and he wanted them to feel it.
"Magic was in the building," said Wofford's Mike Young.
Just like Morehead State, which took down Rick Pitino's Louisville team, and Richmond booting Vandy, Young wanted to hang on the coattails.
For about a half, his Terriers did just that. They barked and nipped at BYU, like those tiny dogs you feel like punting.
BYU came back from a 23-19 deficit in the first half to lead 33-29 at the half.
It was ugly for the Cougars. Fredette started the game like he had cotton mouth and he was pressing. Emery couldn't find his outside shot. Charles Abouo got in foul trouble before many fans were seated. BYU turned the ball over and looked silly, with many missed short shots around the basket. Generally speaking, BYU's cadre of shooters had elbow lock.
And Wofford found its confidence, just like Morehead State and Richmond had done earlier in the day.
BYU entered the Pepsi Center just after officials kicked everybody out to start the second session of the day. The crowd took a lot of energy with it. BYU and Wofford came out and warmed up to 18,000 empty seats. It was a mausoleum.
"It was strange. We aren't used to that," said freshman Kyle Collinsworth, who, like Emery and Charles Abouo, started missing shots right after tipoff.
Wofford recovered quicker than BYU. Got the lead.
But BYU's superior talent, depth and 3-point shooting rode the back of Fredette and things turned on a dime after intermission.
Emery locked down Wofford's Jamar Diggs, and Noah Hartsock and Magnusson smothered Noah Dahlman, who got 22 points. But Wofford, one of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams, went 4-of-19 from beyond the arc — just 21 percent.
BYU made two more from distance, credit sixth man Magnusson. It proved huge.
This was the type of game experts said BYU would have, that they'd struggle and Wofford would have a chance. That lasted until the redline mark — those minutes just after halftime when 5,000 feet and thin air give those not used to it the Rocky Mountain lead-leg.
Wofford's players said the thin Denver air didn't bother them. But they looked like it. They stopped making shots. A team that's used to shooting 48 percent from the field shot just 36 percent in the second half.
This was not a good game for the Cougars, but it was a great win over a conference champion because it advanced them to Saturday.
This was another game where BYU shooters, who are not named Jimmer, were sorely needed, and when they struggled, so did the Cougars.
It was another game many experts pointed to Brandon Davies' absence as a killer factor for Dave Rose.
But it was another game where a guy like Magnusson, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound guy off the bench, made the Davies' factor less of a counter.
This is what BYU basketball is from on now in the NCAAs: Finding playmakers to complement Fredette.BYU is a team that needs shooters to extend their life in the Big Dance. They don't get it, Jimmer isn't going to carry them very far.
On Thursday, that was Magnusson.
"Logan brought us so much energy," said Rose. "In the first half, I thought he just brought us emotion and passion to the game. In the second half, he actually produced with a couple 3s and quite a few rebounds. I think he had 10 and 7 on the night.
"Anytime you can get a player to come off the bench and not only bring energy, bring passion, but contribute on the stat sheet, it really helps your team in a lot of ways. "Because we rely quite a bit on the starting five, our sixth man," Rose said. "When you get good quality play out of your seventh, eighth, ninth guy, it really helps."
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