DENVER — Going into Saturday's NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga, BYU guard Jimmer Fredette had heard the many prognosticators that picked the Bulldogs to defeat the Cougars.
Curiously, despite the fact BYU was a No. 3 seed, facing a No. 11 seed in the Bulldogs, many considered the Cougars the underdog.
Maybe that was partly based on the way Gonzaga manhandled No. 6 seed St. John's on Thursday and the fact it had won 10 straight games. Not to mention the Zags had a big size advantage over the Cougars.
But when the final horn sounded at the Pepsi Center, BYU had cruised a relatively easy 89-67 victory to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981.
"We were aware of what was going on, and a lot of people picked Gonzaga," Fredette said. "We didn't really worry about it too much. We knew if we could put a good game together, we could get a win. We were really focused on getting prepared. The coaches did a great job of that. They spent hours, during the night, trying to get us prepared, to get a good game plan. Then we went out and performed."
Many doubted BYU because of the suspension of forward Brandon Davies earlier this month.
"It's just a matter of believing in ourselves," Fredette said. "We knew if we played well, we could put a game together and shoot the ball. And we still defended really well in that second half. We were able to rebound the ball really well in the second half. We have tough players on this team, tough-minded guys. A lot of senior leadership to get us ready to play. I think that we're still a very, very good team. I've been telling everybody that all along."
FREDETTE VS. STOCKTON: Sitting near the court Saturday was former Utah Jazz star, and Hall-of-Famer, John Stockton, who is a Gonzaga alum and has a son, freshman David Stockton, on the Bulldog team.
Fredette scored 34 points in front of his sports hero, John Stockton.
"It's cool. Obviously he's a guy that I looked up to as I was growing up," Fredette said. "Just a great player. Just to be able to play in front of him is an honor, I think."
David Stockton was 0-for-3 from the floor and had two rebounds and four assists off the bench for Gonzaga.
LIKE HOME: Much of the crowd of 19,328 at the Pepsi Center was cheering for BYU. Of course, the Cougars enjoyed the surroundings.
"It was great," Fredette said. "We had a great atmosphere, close to home. A lot of people were able to come up. My family was here, a lot of friends."
One sign in the crowd read: "Glens Falls Nation. Go Jimmer!"
"They're very clever with all the signs they have," Fredette said. "So it's a great feeling as a team being able to look up in the stands and see all these signs, see us win and have everybody cheering for you at the end. It's a special moment."
NOTABLE: The series between BYU and Gonzaga is now 1-1 all-time. The Bulldogs beat the Cougars in their first meeting, 46-41, in 1949. ...
BYU scored 45 points in the first half, tied for the second-most allowed by the Bulldogs this season. ...26 comments on this story
The Cougars are now 14-28 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. ...
Jackson Emery, who had three steals, became the Mountain West Conference's all-time steals leader with 247. ...
Fredette has scored in double figures in 41 consecutive games. ...
Fredette became the MWC's all-time 3-point field goals leader with 293. He's hit a 3-pointer in 28 straight games. ...
BYU is 10-1 this season when shooting 50 percent or better and 11-0 when hitting 10 or more 3-pointers. The Cougars shot 52 percent and nailed 14 3-pointers.