DENVER - The game was decided, the clock ticking down and the Brigham Young fans were the ones doing the celebrating.
“Sweet 16! Sweet 16!” they shouted. Then, an even more fitting refrain: “You got Jimmered!”
Yep, Gonzaga sure did.
And next, Jimmer Fredette takes his high-scoring show to the Big Easy.
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The nation’s leading scorer lived up to the hype Saturday, scoring 34 points to lift third-seeded BYU to an 89-67 victory over 11th-seeded Gonzaga and send the Cougars to New Orleans for the regional semifinals.
“He can shoot it from anywhere, as soon as he steps on the floor,” said Gonzaga’s Steven Gray, who joined the growing list of opponents who couldn’t stop Fredette.
BYU (32-4) will make its deepest trip in the NCAA tournament since 1981, the year Danny Ainge went coast to coast against Notre Dame for a last-second game-winner – a play still held in a special place in the school’s rich sports history.
Fredette has a few dozen of his own clips on that highlight reel, with a chance to add more Thursday against Florida, a 73-65 winner over UCLA on the other side of the Southeast Regional.
Against Gonzaga, the hoop must have seemed as wide as the Mississippi for “The Jimmer.”
“Believe it or not I thought we defended him OK,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
Fredette’s 11-for-23 shooting included 7-for-12 accuracy from 3-point range, and after having trouble getting shots over Gonzaga’s tough defense in the first half, he found his rhythm in the second.
He opened the half by pulling up from 5 feet beyond the 3-point arc and swishing a shot. That triggered an 11-2 run that put BYU up, 56-40.
Gonzaga cut its deficit to eight, but with 8 minutes, 58 seconds to go, Fredette made a shot from the same spot as part of a 12-0 run that expanded the lead to 20.
The rest was simply a matter of seeing where No. 32’s scoring line would settle. He came up short of the 52 points he scored earlier this month in the Mountain West Conference tournament against New Mexico, but had enough to bump his average up to 28.8.
What a weekend for BYU, which hasn’t made it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since the Reagan administration.
“It was very important,” said Fredette, who didn’t score until the 11:33 mark.
The Cougars looked their sharpest since leading rebounder Brandon Davies was suspended earlier this month for violating the school’s honor code.
Jackson Emery had two 3-pointers, a layup and a steal to keep BYU close early. He scored 16 points, while Noah Hartsock (13 points) hit three more 3-pointers to go with the pair he made in BYU’s opening 74-66 win against Wofford.
“They played as well as we’ve seen them play since the Brandon situation,” Few said. “When you’ve got a guy who can hit 50, he creates a lot of help situations.”
Still, who’d have thought BYU would have had more trouble with Wofford than Gonzaga?
Elias Harris scored 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting for Gonzaga (25-10), and Gray also scored 18.
But they had no answer for Fredette, who in the buildup to the game drew some comparisons to recent Gonzaga star Adam Morrison.
The Bulldogs opened the game with Demetri Goodson shadowing The Jimmer, and Goodson made it tough for him to find an open shot.
He also got two fouls in the first four minutes and had to go to the bench, which is when things started opening up and Fredette found his shot.
“We wanted to limit his 3s because he has no range; he can shoot from anywhere on the court,” Gonzaga center Robert Sacre said.
The Cougars will join Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference next season, adding a major hurdle to the Bulldogs’ quest for their 12th straight conference title.
Fredette won’t be there, though. He’s a senior.