Jimmer Fredette had a lot of big moments at BYU, including a 52-point night against New Mexico to break Danny Ainge’s 30-year-old school scoring record, a 49-point night at Arizona, and a 47-point night at the Huntsman Center against rival Utah, but the Cougars first win against Gonzaga beats them all.
“We wanted to advance further than that, but to make it for the first time since Danny’s team, it was special for the university. It showed that BYU was for real and that we were someone to reckon with.” — Jimmer Fredette
“It’s probably my favorite game because of the fact that we were able to reach our goal of making it to the Sweet 16,” Fredette told the “Y’s Guys” on Tuesday. “We wanted to advance further than that, but to make it for the first time since Danny’s team, it was special for the university. It showed that BYU was for real and that we were someone to reckon with.”
BYU, the No. 3 seed, charged into the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on the heels of a 32-point night by Fredette and a 74-66 win against No. 14 seed Wofford. Gonzaga, an 11-seed, upset No. 6 seed St. John’s 86-71 for the Bulldogs’ 10th consecutive victory, including the WCC Tournament championship game.
Anticipation was a mile high in Denver for the first meeting between BYU and Gonzaga since 1949. The Cougars boasted an impressive 31-4 record but were still adjusting to life without star center Brandon Davies, who had been suspended from the team two weeks earlier due to an honor code violation.
“Winning that game was so important because of everything that happened at the end of the season with Brandon,” said former BYU coach Dave Rose. “We felt a ton of pressure. We didn’t want to have had such a great season and then fall apart.”
Rose shifted 6-foot-6 freshman Kyle Collinsworth to the center position and placed his snipers, Fredette, Jackson Emery and Noah Hartsock, just outside the 3-point line and opened fire, hitting 14 of 28 attempts.
Fredette connected on seven bombs while BYU, as a team, outscored the Bulldogs 42-6 from outside the arc. Even strong nights from Gonzaga stars Elias Harris (18), Steven Gray (18) and Robert Sacre (17) were no match for BYU’s firepower.
“Jimmer just continued to perform as he had the entire season,” Rose said. “He played every game like he had something to prove, and he went out and did it. He just answered the bell every single night.”
Behind Fredette’s 34 points, the Cougars cruised to an 89-67 victory to advance to face No. 2 seed Florida in the Sweet 16 the following week in New Orleans.
“It was a special night and something I will never forget,” Fredette said. “To be able to do that and play the way we played, with the heart that we played with, and be able to beat a great team like Gonzaga — it was a little foreshadowing of what was to come down the road as we embarked into the WCC.”
The last blast
After 12 seasons as conference rivals, No. 8 Gonzaga (14-3, 3-0) plays BYU (13-6, 3-1) Thursday night for the final time at the Marriott Center as members of the WCC. The Cougars join the Big 12 next season. The Marriott Center is sold out.
“We are going to have to be able to score with them. They are a great team. Drew Timme is still there. He can score. He is going to do a lot of great things,” Fredette said. “For us, I think defensively we are really good. We are long and can play good defense. I just think we need to score with them consistently. We can’t go through a scoring drought. It’s difficult to catch up to a team like that.”
This is the first time in four years that Gonzaga hasn’t come to Provo ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the AP Top 25. The Bulldogs are on the heels of narrow road victories at San Francisco and Santa Clara, and they have won the last two at BYU. However, the blueprint for a victory hasn’t changed since the Cougars cut them down in 2020.
“We need to feed off the energy of the crowd. The ROC and Marriott Center is going to be going nuts,” Fredette said. “If they can feed off that energy, get some easy buckets off of turnovers, make their open shots and not have any scoring lulls, I think they will be in the game and hopefully be able to get a win.”
Raising No. 32
Fredette spent his career raising the roof at the Marriott Center and will one day have his jersey raised up there too. BYU bylaws require 15 years to pass from the end of a player’s eligibility to when a jersey retirement can happen.
The former National Player of the Year could see his No. 32 jersey hanging next to Ainge’s No. 22 — BYU’s other National Player of the Year, as early as 2026.
“That will mean so much to me. BYU is like a second home. I love being in Provo and the people I’ve met there, the relationships, obviously I met my wife (Whitney) there,” Fredette said. “To be able to have the jersey up in the rafters is something where your legacy lasts forever. So, whenever I go back to BYU, I’ll feel comfortable. I’ll feel at home. I’ll feel like I’ll belong. It’s just such a cool feeling so hopefully it happens, and I’m excited about it.”
Going for gold
Fredette plans to take Jimmermania to the 2024 Paris Olympics and compete for the United States in the 3X3 basketball competition.
“I think we have a really, really good shot to do that. I’m happy with how things are going. It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a different sport but it has reenergized me. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Fredette will compete in up to eight events on the FIBA 3X3 World Tour between April and December as Team USA tries to qualify for the Olympics.
“I think we are going to make it as long as we play well this summer and stay healthy,” Fredette said. “If Jimmermania happens again in Paris, I would love it. I would love it.”
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.