TUCSON — Basketball fans in Arizona, who were unfamiliar with Jimmer Fredette prior to Monday night, are quite familiar with the BYU junior guard now.
Behind Fredette's 49 points, the highest single-game total in BYU history, the Cougars routed Arizona 99-69. The 30-point blowout was the Wildcats' worst loss at the McKale Center in the arena's 37-year history. The Cougars are now 13-1, while Arizona drops to 6-6.
"It's an amazing feeling. It's not like any other," Fredette said of his historic game.
The former BYU single-game scoring record belonged to Bob Skousen, who dumped 47 on UCLA back in 1961. It's only the fourth time ever that a Cougar has scored more than 40 points. Fredette's 49 points is also the most ever scored at the McKale Center.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence right now and he's shooting really well," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "He thinks everything he throws up there is going to go in."
On Monday night, most of it did. Fredette hit 16-of-23 shots and made an incredible 9-of-13 from 3-point range. He also dished out a game-high nine assists and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
"One of the big keys is my teammates are doing a great job of setting screens. Also, when I get in the middle and they collapse, I'm kicking it out to (my teammates) and they're making shots. That's a big thing for us because that means they can't just key on me," Fredette said.
Even before the second half started, Fredette had Arizona's crowd and Wildcat defenders shaking their heads in awe, as he posted 24-points in the first half and guided the Cougars out to a 23-point lead.
"I'm not an NBA manager, but I would put Fredette up against a lot of guards in the country," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "When he does miss a shot, he goes and gets it."
Five minutes into the game, Fredette hit back-to-back threes that capped a 15-0 BYU run that put the Cougars up 22-5.
"At that point I was looking at the basket and it was looking pretty big. I just had a good stroke tonight, and that's kind of when I thought it could be a pretty good night," Fredette said.
After another trey by Fredette minutes later, and a short jumper by Tyler Haws, the Cougars were up 39-16. The Cougars hit 11 of their first 15 shots and seven of their first eight 3-point attempts. Jackson Emery, who scored 13 and hit three treys, and Haws, who scored 12 and hit two treys, picked up any slack that Fredette might have had Monday night.
"We want to make a statement at the beginning of the game that we're going to come out and play hard and we're going to come out and play strong," Emery said.
Fredette added, "It's a good thing to be able to get that cushion, and then continue to put it on them."
Actually, the Wildcats didn't go down without a fight, even if it was a short-lived effort. With an 8-0 run to start the second half, with three quick inside hoops by forward Derrick Williams, Arizona cut BYU's lead down to seven at 51-44.
But a jumper by Fredette, two free throws by Fredette, and a layup and one by Fredette, and the Cougars were suddenly back ahead 58-44.
"We kept our composure at times when they made runs on us ... they're going to make runs at us, but we had to keep scoring the ball," Rose said.
And score the ball the Cougars did. With another 3-pointer by Fredette, and then another trey by Emery, and another 2-and-1 by Fredette, the Cougars' lead was 74-50 and the Wildcat faithful started heading for the parking lot.
"I thought we were on attack for the majority of the 40 minutes, and I thought that was the difference in the game. We stayed on attack offensively and defensively," Rose said.
The Cougars shot 57 percent from the floor and 56 percent on 3-pointers. Of BYU's 37 baskets, 22 came with an assist. The Cougars also committed only 11 turnovers and outrebounded Arizona 34-28. The win is BYU's eighth straight, and marks the 10th time this season that the Cougars have scored more than 80 points. They've scored more than 90 in three of the past four games.
"We're sharing the ball in transition. Jackson's shooting with confidence. Tyler is shooting with confidence. And the last two weeks Jimmer has been just terrific ... and on missed shots we're actually getting a chance to go out on break and we're not taking it out of the hoop all the time," Rose said.
Prior to Monday's game, Miller was surprised the Cougars are not ranked. He's even more surprised now.
"The fact that they're not ranked gives almost no credibility to the rankings. I look at them and they're definitely a top 25 team, and I believe they will be competing for a high seed in the tournament," Miller said.
Fredette and the rest of Cougars plan to just keep taking care of business, and feel national recognition will come if they keep playing like they are right now.
"I watch the ticker every night, and if I saw this score on the ticker, I'd kind of wonder what happened," Rose said.